Hoosiers Open Big Ten Tournament Against Purdue
May 20, 2009
Indiana at Big Ten Tournament
Columbus, Ohio Huntington Park
Indiana finished in third place in the Big Ten with a 16-7 conference record after taking two of three from Michigan State in Bloomington over the weekend. The Hoosiers finished the regular season with a 28-25 overall record as well thanks to strong play down the stretch. IU won 10 of its last 14 contests and earned a split or better in seven out of eight Big Ten series in 2009. Indiana will open against Purdue, the only team that won a conference series from the Hoosiers this season. The Boilermakers took two of three from the Hoosiers in West Lafayette three weeks ago. IU will send National Pitcher of the Year Semifinalist Eric Arnett to the mound in the opening round. The junior is 11-1 on the season and IU has not lost in one of his starts since March 7. Indiana is 1-1 against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament all-time. IU would face Minnesota with a victory, while PU would take on Ohio State.
THE LAST TIME...
The 2008 season was a significant upward turn for the Hoosiers, as Indiana made its first Big Ten Tournament appearance since 2004 by rallying for a sixth-place finish in the regular season. IU then eliminated Ohio State, Illinois and Penn State at the conference tournament before falling in the semifinals to Purdue. With a 31-30 record on the season, IU had its finest season in Smith's tenure.
EA IS IN THE GAME
Arnett, who was given a weekend to rest his arm against Michigan State, is 11-1 on the season and 7-0 in the Big Ten. He became the second hurler in school history to post at least 11 wins in a season and his seven conference victories set a new school record.
Arnett now has a 2.78 overall ERA and 93 strikeouts in his 94 innings of work. His 93 Ks on the year are fourth in school history and are just 16 away from first place on the single-season list.
Arnett did not have a typical offseason, as he tried out for the basketball team and earned a roster spot. He served as a key post player during practice for the first 2 1/2 months of the season. Due to scholarship limitations, he could not play in a game, but practiced with the team until early January.
But Indiana's success in those close games is one of the big reasons that the Hoosiers posted a .696 winning percentage in conference. IU went 6-1 in one-run games and 8-2 in contests decided by two runs or fewer. And at the center of that was Eric Arnett, who posted a masterful 5-0 record in one-run games, four of which saw him throw complete games for the Hoosiers.
IT MAY SOUND CLICHÉ
Indiana's vaunted offense was strong in the non-conference portion of the schedule, but it has been the pitching and defense that has carried Indiana to a third-place finish in the Big Ten.
Pitching has certainly been the Hoosiers' strong point in Big Ten affairs, as IU leads all Big Ten teams with a 3.79 ERA, over half a run better than second-place Michigan State's 4.34. The principal reason for IU's dominance in conference pitching has been that its top two starters - Matt Bashore and Eric Arnett - are one and two in the Big Ten in ERA among starters when looking at conference games. Bashore has posted an impressive 2.36 ERA in the conference, while Arnett's 2.90 is solid as well. Reliever Chris Squires' 2.81 ERA in Big Ten action has also contributed.
The defensive improvement has also been key, as IU has a .967 fielding percentage in conference but just a .953 mark in non-conference affairs.
BACK TO BASHICS
Prior to the beginning of conference play, Bashore had a 7.24 ERA and the Hoosiers were 0-6 in his starts. He had been allowing the opposition to post a .331 average against him and was walking opposing batsmen at a rate of 4.3 per nine innings.
Bashore's last four outings have been incredibly impressive. He lost a tough-luck outing against Purdue during that span, but still has a 3-1 record with a 2.03 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 31 innings. More impressive in that is that he has surrendered just one extra base hit (a double against Northwestern) and has issued just eight walks for a K-to-BB ratio of 4.38.
In his regular-season finale he posted his most dominant outing of the season, allowing just three hits and one walk in eight innings of shutout ball. He struck out 10 in the contest and only allowed one MSU runner to advance to second base. He was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for the outing.
SPLIT OR BETTER
It is also the longest stretch that Indiana has gone without a series loss since the conference went to series play. Indiana earned a split or better in all seven series in 1996, the only team to go a season without losing a Big Ten series. The 1996 team, which featured IU skipper Tracy Smith as an assistant coach, won the Big Ten Tournament for IU's only NCAA appearance.
TWO TO TANGO
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