Hoosiers Return To Big Ten Tournament
May 21, 2008
No. 6 Indiana vs. No. 3 Penn State
THE FIRST PITCH
The Hoosiers return to the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2003 after sweeping Michigan State to earn the No. 6 seed in the postseason. The Hoosiers will begin their quest for a league title on Wednesday against the only team that swept them this year - the third seeded Penn State Nittany Lions. The Hoosiers traveled to Happy Valley for four with PSU but came up empty on the weekend to fall to 4-12 in the Big Ten on April 20. Since then, the Hoosiers have gone 13-6 with an 11-5 record in Big Ten play down the stretch to charge toward the postseason. PSU is scheduled to throw Mike Wanamaker, who allowed the Hoosiers just seven hits and one run in an 8-1 victory on April 19. The Hoosiers are slated to throw RHP Eric Arnett, who was stellar in the opener against Michigan State last weekend. He pitched two innings out of the bullpen against Penn State, allowing two hits.
IU IN THE BIG TEN TOURNAMENT
THREE EARN CONFERENCE LAURELS
Indiana was second to only first-place Michigan (six selections) with its three honorees on the first team. Purdue (two), Illinois (two) and Minnesota (two) were the only other teams to place more than one student-athlete on the first team. Phegley was one of four unanimous first team selections, joining Player of the Year Nate Recknagel (Michigan), Pitcher of the Year Zach Putnam (Michigan) and outfielder Kyle Hudson (Illinois).
With runners on first and third and none out in the first, Tufts got his first DP - a 4-6-3 - to allow his only run in the game. He later forced double plays every inning from the fourth through the eighth, and helped out by finishing off a 3-6-1 to end the fifth. The six DPs were the most by a Big Ten team this season. They are also the most by a Hoosier team since IU turned six in a 13-inning game against Kent State in 1995 and the most in a nine-inning game on record.
In the series finale against Michigan State, Tufts was outstanding in helping the Hoosiers finish off their first Big Ten series sweep since 1999 with eight innings against the Spartans on Sunday. Tufts scattered nine hits for his fifth win of the season, needing just 87 pitches to go eight innings in the contest.
Tufts is currently fourth in the conference with his 77 innings pitched. Over his last four outings he has lowered his ERA by nearly a run and a half and he is now 5-5 on the season.
But the Hoosiers have already quadrupled last year's total, as the trio of home runs IU hit against Michigan State gave them 37 for the season so far. That total is the most in the Tracy Smith era and the most since the 2004 team hit 57. After failing to hit three homers in a game since 2004, IU hit three home runs twice in a span of three games with three against Purdue and Louisville.
With his recent power surge, Josh Phegley has reached double digits, as his 13 bombs are the most since current Texas Ranger Kevin Mahar had 14 in 2004. Kipp Schutz now has six on the season, while Jerrud Sabourin has five. Amazingly, 31 of IU's 37 homers have come from underclassmen.
The Hoosiers have an aggregate .471 slugging percentage (second in the conference) on the season, up over 100 points from last year's .335 (last in the Big Ten). IU's 37 longballs are third in the conference.
BEHIND THE DISH
Phegley leads the team in nearly every offensive category, and is in the top five in the conference in nearly every category as well. In addition to leading the Big Ten in batting average and RBI, he is second in home runs, slugging, on-base percentage, hits and total bases.
As of Monday, he was ranked among the leaders in the nation in batting average, clocking in third in the country. Among catchers, only Florida State phenom Buster Posey, who leads the country at .471, has a higher average, and no other underclassman is higher than 18th in the nation.
With his impressive batting average and improved power has come a tremendous upswing in Phegley's RBI total. He has twice had 10-plus RBI in a four-game Big Ten series, including 11 against the Boilermakers. With that, he set a school and conference record with 45 RBI in Big Ten games. His 71 overall RBI tie him for third on the school's all-time list with Alex Smith (1985) and are the most since Mike Smith had 92 when he won college baseball's only triple crown in 1992.
Looking deeper at Phegley's numbers, he has been incredibly consistent in his ability to hit in any situation. The catcher has hit best with no strikes (.542), but he also has an impressive .388 average and .553 slugging percentage with two strikes. Phegley is 9-for-20 in 1-2 counts and has hit three of his 13 home runs with two strikes.
Phegley was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on April 15. The sophomore went 9-for-15 with two home runs, 10 RBI and seven runs scored. Phegley, who shared the honor with Michigan's Zach Putnam, picked up his first honor from the conference.
Earlier this year, Phegley posted a 5-for-5 performance in which he hit for the cycle against Valparaiso. That was the first of his three five-hit games this season, each one matching the school record. Only seven other conference players have had a five-hit game.
The Terre Haute native has a summer in the Cape Cod League partly to thank for his improvements at the plate. Last summer, he was named a Cape League All-Star for the Wareham Gatemen, where he is planning to return following the 2008 campaign.
Over those 14 games, Rogers is hitting .386 with two home runs, four doubles and 19 RBI. In the Sunday finale against NU, he matched a career high and set an Indiana high with his four hits in the contest. In the four-game set against Michigan State, Rogers hit .400 with a pair of doubles, three RBI and three runs. His recent hot string puts him at .328 with 28 RBI in his debut season for Indiana.
Sabourin went 8-for-17 against Michigan State with a double and a home run and the freshman led the squad with nine RBI. He also had a fine weekend against Michigan where he went 10-for-15 with a double and a triple.
Over the last four conference weekends - where the Hoosiers went 11-5 - Sabourin was scorching at the plate, hitting .500 with three homers and 21 RBI, just one behind RBI machine Josh Phegley on the Hoosiers. The recent upswing has raised the freshman's conference average to .408, second on the squad.
Sabourin first heated up in his home state, as he tore up the opposition at the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic in Fresno, Calif. Sabourin hit .417 - third on the Hoosiers - and had the first five extra-base hits of his career in the Classic to post a team-leading .708 slugging percentage.
After hitting an RBI double in the Classic opener against Gonzaga that tied the game 4-4 in the seventh, Sabourin scored a run and had a pair of walks against New Mexico State. Over the final four games of the Classic, he was 9-for-18 with five RBI and three runs scored. He capped it off with his first career homer - a shot to right center vs. Portland.
Sabourin, who transfered to IU in the winter from Arizona, is now second on the team with his .386 average. The freshman has heated up with the glove as well, as he sits atop the Big Ten leaderboard in putouts this season.
MEANS EARNS PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONOR
In addition to Means' two honors, sophomore Josh Phegley has garnered one Player of the Week nod. Combining that with sophomore Matt Bashore's three Pitcher of the Week laurels, the Hoosiers have collected more weekly hardware than any other IU team since the weekly awards' inception in 1990.
Means had multiple-hit games in each of the four contests at Michigan State in leading the Hoosiers to a road sweep of the Spartans over the weekend. The junior hit .563 with a .938 slugging percentage and a .632 on-base percentage on the weekend.
The leadoff hitter scored nine runs in the series, including a career-high four in Friday's opener. He capped the weekend off with three hits and three runs in the series finale to push the Hoosiers into the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2003. Means had three triples on the weekend, including two in Saturday's game, to finish the season as the conference leader with eight three-baggers on the year.
The centerfielder was also a standout defensively, making nine putouts and taking part in a pair of double plays. He finished off the first game on Friday by grabbing a liner to center and touching the bag at second for a rare 8-unassisted double play, and in game two he gunned down Kyle Day on a brilliant throw to the plate for an 8-2 DP to end the third inning and squash a Michigan State rally.
Means has followed up on his 2007 All-Big Ten season by being one of the top leadoff men in the conference. The outfielder's 65 runs are first and his 30 steals are third in the conference, while his eight triples top the Big Ten and are the most by a Hoosier since Mike Smith had eight in 1991.
BASHORE COLLECTS THIRD WEEKLY HONOR
Bashore became the first IU pitcher since Bob Scafa in 1993 to garner the honor three times in a season. Bashore and Fetter are the only Big Ten players this season to be honored three times and are the first since Northwestern's Dan Brauer in 2006 to pick up three POW laurels.
Bashore was brilliant in the Hoosiers' 2-1 win over Northwestern on May 10, allowing only three hits and one unearned run in a complete-game victory for IU. After allowing a leadoff single in the first, Bashore ceded only a spinning infield single and a bloop down the right field line in the win.
Bashore also won the award on March 17, following eight innings of spectacular work against Portland, and on April 28, after a complete-game, 2-1 victory for the Hoosiers over Fetter and the Wolverines. It was the third straight week that a Hoosier was honored, as Bashore's awards sandwiched a Player of the Week nod to Andrew Means for his performance against Purdue.
The Tipp City, Ohio, native has struck out a Big Ten-leading 83 men this season, tied for seventh-most in school history and the most for an IU hurler since 1999. He is 7-3 on the year with a 3.16 ERA, which is the third-best mark in the conference. He has posted complete-game victories in each of his last four games for IU.
Over his last three starts, Bashore is 4-0 with a 3.54 ERA and four complete-game victories and 26 strikeouts in 28 innings of work.
PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME
Since the Iowa series began on April 11, Cox has a .325 average with three doubles, a home run, 10 RBI and 14 runs, mostly out of the eight and nine slots in the order. But far more important has been his improvement defensively, as the Georgetown, Ind., native has a sparkling .977 fielding percentage with just three errors on 89 assists and 41 putouts over that time. He and Tyler Rogers - who have combined to form the middle infield for the majority of that time - have committed just seven errors over the last 29 contests. Cox has helped to turn 21 double plays over those 29 games, while Rogers has been a part of 15.
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