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Friday, Feb. 23
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Hoosiers gain 1st Big Ten series win

Junior pitcher Matt Bashore throws to a Chicago State batter on Tuesday at Sembower Field. The Hoosiers won 2 out of 3 in a series against the Illinois over the weekend.

On a cold and rainy day last week, IU coach Tracy Smith paced back and forth on the diamond as his players looked on, eagerly awaiting the game-3 start of their first Big Ten series against Minnesota.

The opposing dugout was empty. The umpire’s hands fought the wind as he announced the cancelation of the March 29 game.

“We handled Minnesota pretty well on Saturday,” junior catcher Josh Phegley said. “But the fact that they didn’t even seem like they wanted to play the next day showed us that we could play in the Big Ten.”

Whether Minnesota was scared off or not, the cancellation gave IU a much-needed push to its 2-1 series win against Illinois. Heading into Champaign, Ill., the Hoosiers had reeled off an uncharacteristic three games for their longest winning streak of the season. They have now won five of six games since Minnesota chose a heated bus instead of the muddy confines of Sembower Field.

IU junior pitcher Eric Arnett said his team had no qualms about its ability.

“We always knew we could play within the Big Ten,” Arnett said. “The losing streak got us down, but the Minnesota split got our confidence up.”

Any early season streak would have been unexpected. With nothing but its mentality in the way, IU struggled through the premature stages of a supposed breakthrough year. The Hoosiers played unevenly, winning one game only to be blown out in the next.

They finally found consistency as Phegley and freshman DH Alex Dickerson each delivered two home runs in the series. Their hitting secured wins in IU’s first two games against Illinois and extended a five-game winning streak.

Phegley was 3-for-4 with two home runs and five RBI and accounted for more than half of their runs for an already astronomical 14-4 game 1 total. Dickerson followed with heroics of his own, blasting a 10th-inning home run for a 2-1 game 2 win.

Quiet as it’s kept, Smith anticipated such a performance from Phegley.

“We were waiting for him to put us on his back,” he said. “When he’s doing well, we’re usually doing well.”

Arnett (6-1) became the first Hoosier ever to go 10 straight innings on the mound. He won a game 2 pitcher’s duel with Illinois’ Ben Reeser in striking out six and allowing only one earned run. Freshman Blake Monar (3-2) also managed to recover from a tough outing in his last start. He got a game 1 win after pitching seven innings, striking out seven batters and allowing three earned runs.

Although Dickerson homered again in game 3, IU lost 5-4 in its last contest of the series.

Phegley said IU used to play with a tightness that hampered them late in games.
“We’re playing looser,” he said. “The pitching has really come around, and we all know that we’re going to put up runs every game.”

Sporting a sincere tone, Smith said the series showed the team’s potential.

“We’re playing better baseball,” he said. “We’re doing a good job of getting outs, and we’re making teams earn everything they get against us.”

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