With eight returning players who batted at least .300 last season, the IU baseball team entered 2009 certain that hitting would be its biggest strength.
But it was superb pitching against Iowa this weekend by freshman Blake Monar, junior Eric Arnett and junior Matt Bashore that allowed the Hoosiers to sweep the conference series in Iowa City, Iowa.
“They were outstanding,” IU coach Tracy Smith said. “To get two complete games (by Monar and Arnett) and for Bashore to take it into the ninth, it is a heck of a job by all three of those guys. They really carried the burden for us this weekend.”
Smith’s team is 16-17 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are tied with Minnesota for first place in the conference.
On Friday, Monar’s complete game effort on the mound led the Hoosiers to a 6-2 victory against the Hawkeyes. The Rockport, Ind., native moved to 4-2 on the season after giving up only two earned runs and throwing nine strikeouts.
The first IU run came in the second inning after junior second baseman singled to center to drive sophomore outfielder Kipp Schutz home from second base. The run tied the game at 1-1.
Schutz contributed again in the sixth inning, as his single to center field scored junior catcher Josh Phegley and sophomore first baseman Jerrud Sabourin.
A two-RBI triple by Sabourin in the ninth inning cemented the first win of the series for IU.
Arnett’s good start to the season continued Saturday in a 5-1 win.
Arnett improved to 7-1 (3-0 in the Big Ten) after pitching the full nine innings, giving up only one earned run and two hits while striking out 11 Hawkeye batters.
Phegley began the Hoosier attack in the fourth inning with a one-run home run, tying the game at 1-1. Later that inning with Rogers and Schutz on base, junior outfielder Evan Crawford singled to drive both players home.
In the eighth inning, freshman DH Alex Dickerson knocked a double down the right-field line, scoring Phegley. Rogers hit into a fielder’s choice, reaching first base and bringing home Dickerson two batters later.
The final game of the series Sunday proved to be crucial for the confidence of Bashore, who started the season 1-3 after being selected first-team All-Big Ten in 2008.
The left-hander helped lead the Hoosiers to an 8-4 win after giving up only two earned runs and six hits in eight and one-third innings pitched. Bashore also struck out 10 batters.
“We made them beat us instead of beating ourselves this weekend,” Bashore said. “I have just been doing a better job of getting the ball down and working the corners. I have executed pitches better and have been getting the results.”
Trailing 1-0 in the third inning, freshman third baseman Vince Gonzalez singled to bring home Crawford. Later that inning, Gonzalez scored after a Phegley pop fly was dropped by the Iowa second baseman. With senior outfielder Chris Hervey on second base, Dickerson hit an RBI single to make the score 3-1.
In the fifth inning, Hervey scored from third base after a wild pitch by Iowa senior Nick Erdman.
The Hoosiers scored four more runs after the sixth inning to clinch the series sweep.
For Schutz, the wins this weekend against Iowa were crucial for future success.
“We got a few hits in timely situations, and our pitchers went out and threw well for us,” he said. “We just went out this weekend and played ball. Our confidence is at a high right now.”