____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Victor Oladipo reached for the rim in slam-dunk competitions at halftime. Jordan Hulls reached the highest point of the Great Wall.However the IU men’s basketball players did it, reaching was what their experience was all about.Hulls and Oladipo played basketball, toured China and spent time with eight other Division I players from across the country May 17-31 with the REACH evangelist organization.The REACH-compiled team, which also featured former Hoosier Malik Story, played seven games against a Lithuanian team and two games against a Brazilian squad in addition to sightseeing at the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, the Forbidden City and other historic Chinese landmarks.“Not very many people even go over to China, see the Great Wall, see all those things,” Hulls said. “It was a very humbling experience for sure to get to travel around eight or 10 different cities in China and get to play basketball in front of thousands of fans. People love their basketball over there.”First-time overseas traveler Oladipo agreed with his teammate.“It means a lot to me,” Oladipo said. “A lot of people where I’m from don’t really get the opportunity to travel across the world and be able to play against competition like that. “It was special for me, and I’m glad that I was a part of it.”The players said they benefited on the court, citing improved leadership skills as their biggest gain in helping REACH USA go 6-2-1 in their games.Hulls, who played mostly point guard for REACH USA, said he had to adjust to the situation.“I definitely learned some different leadership skills,” Hulls said. “Getting a group of 10 guys from different colleges, it’s hard to just go out and play together and share the ball and all those kinds of things. “I just learned you’ve got to take what you can get and try and direct guys in the right way on the court even if they sometimes don’t want to do whatever the coach says or whatever the case may be just because, like I said, 10 guys just coming together is kind of hard to play like that.”Style of play was another adjustment. Hulls and Oladipo saw plenty of movement and screens from their Lithuanian opponents in particular.“Playing overseas is a bit different,” Oladipo said. “They did move a lot, they back-door a lot, they screen a lot, so it definitely helped me on defense, getting over screens. It definitely helped me with my conditioning and just making sure my head is on a swivel.”Hulls added the Lithuanians were not only quick but shot-happy from beyond the 3-point arc.“The Lithuanians, they can really shoot the ball,” Hulls said. “All they did was pretty much run around in circles, run you off screens and shoot threes. I think one game we had like 27 threes combined as teams or something like that, something crazy. But they’re a really good team.”While seeing new places, acclimating to new styles of play and building new relationships were focal points of the trip, both Hoosiers appreciated traveling with each other.“Having someone there that I know definitely helped,” Hulls said. “I knew Malik Story just from when he was here a little bit. Having Victor over there, he’s a fun guy to be around. He can talk to anybody. He’s always fun. He mingled with all the people over there.”Oladipo concurred.“It made it a lot easier having someone to talk to, someone I knew, and it was a great experience for both of us,” Oladipo said. “We built a lot of chemistry, and we became closer out there.”
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____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>It might seem odd to think about school a week into June and a national championship event just a week away.However, a few NCAA-bound IU track and field athletes received some good news Thursday regarding exactly that.Six members of IU’s program garnered Capital One First Team Academic All-District honors from the College Sports Information Directors of America association, which selects honorees from collegiate track and field and cross-country teams.Five Hoosier women, three of whom qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships from June 8-11 in Des Moines, Iowa, nabbed spots on the women’s first team.Senior pole vaulter Vera Neuenswander, who redshirted last year to complete a student-teaching requirement, earned the distinction with a 4.0 grade-point average in graduate counseling studies. Neuenswander qualified for the NCAA meet by clearing 3.85- and 4.00-meter heights in the East Preliminary meet May 26 in Bloomington.Seniors Sarah Pease and Faith Sherrill were the other two NCAA-bound women to represent IU on the Academic All-District team, and juniors Chelsea Blanchard and Breanne Ehrman were honored as well.Sophomore runner Andy Bayer claimed a spot on the men’s team, notching a 3.56 GPA in his biology studies.All about specifics for SherrillShot put thrower Faith Sherrill advanced to the NCAA meet with relative ease, winning the East Preliminary meet May 27 with a long throw of 17.51 meters.Now, her real preparation begins.“I usually do well at regionals,” Sherrill said after her preliminary round. “It’s the national part that I need to prepare for.”IU throws coach Jermaine Jones said Sherrill now needs to focus on smaller details leading up to the NCAA meet, namely attacking at the front of her throws.“She tends to get her right foot down too soon, which causes her to fall back off the throw in the front,” Jones said during the prelims. "Get across the ring, and attack the front of the throw. Basically, when she pushes off, she’s going to gain at least a half a meter by sticking the ball further out over the toe board.”Jones also said Sherrill could come away with a more fluid throw and thus better her chances at the NCAA meet by making those adjustments.“As a rotational thrower, especially a strong girl like she is, if she can just keep the throw fluid, that’s going to help her too; because at the end of the day she is very strong, and she can simply set up that power position,” Jones said. “She can give it a ride.”Turner fine up frontJunior De’Sean Turner doesn’t try to make a statement running the durations of his 3,000-meter steeplechase events from the front. He’s just comfortable there.“Honestly, it’s what I do every race or just try to do,” Turner said May 27 after winning the third men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase heat at the East Preliminary meet.However, Turner did admit other runners pushing him for the race lead caught him off guard a few times.“It wasn’t anything bad,” Turner said. “I guess I was just making moves when they made moves, so just responding to everything everyone was doing around me.”While placing in the top-four would have been enough to qualify for the NCAA meet, IU coach Ron Helmer understood why Turner felt better at the front.“In the steeple, with the barriers coming up you when you’re in the front, it’s like the NASCAR drivers in clean air,” Helmer said at the prelims. “You get the first shot at it. You get to accelerate into the barrier without picking your way between a couple of guys, and I think it just makes you a cleaner, more efficient hurdler.”Turner headlined a trio of national qualifiers in the men’s steeplechase that included juniors Andrew Poore and Andy Weatherford. Pease placed third in her women’s heat and also advanced. Poore qualified in the men’s 5,000-meter event the next day.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>IU will have a strong representation in the steeplechase events at the NCAA Outdoor Championships from June 8-11 in Des Moines, Iowa.Four Hoosier athletes placed in the top-four of their respective 3,000-meter steeplechase heats Friday at the NCAA East Preliminary meet at Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex.Junior De'Sean Turner never trailed in winning the third men's heat, clocking in at 8:39.40, the third-best time in IU history."I usually run from the front, so I just decided I was going to do that," Turner said. "Whoever went around me, I'd get back in the lead. They were pushing, so I was able to go faster."I'm pretty happy with it. I ran pretty fast. It's going to be a good group going from the East region."That group includes two of Turner's teammates. Junior Andrew Poore finished second in the first men's heat, and fellow junior Andy Weatherford clocked in fourth in the following race, both good enough to advance to Des Moines."I was just trying to take it as easy as possible, and then I figured at a certain point I had to do something to kind of break it up because I wanted to make sure I didn't have to work too hard at the end," said Poore, who also will compete Saturday in the men's 5,000-meter event.Weatherford, whose heat ran at an increased pace with defending NCAA steeplechase champion Matt Hughes of Louisville at the front, posted the seventh-best run in school history.IU coach Ron Helmer expected all his runners to make the NCAAs but applauded their effort Friday."When you expect it to happen and then it does, it takes the suspense and the surprise out of it, but I was really very happy with the way they raced," Helmer said. "It's great to be going to the national championship, but just getting there isn't the goal. The goal is to get there ready to run well, and I think they're all ready to do that."On the women's side, senior Sarah Pease finished third in her steeplechase heat at a time of 10:09.14. Pease took fourth in the event at last year's NCAA Outdoor Championships en route to All-America honors."She's behind where she was a year ago, but not that much right now," Helmer said of Pease. "In a race where the leader got away from her, and nobody likes that, I thought she regrouped really well and identified the person she needed to be racing to help her just carry herself on into the end."10:08 typically gives you a shot of being in the final. If she goes back and does that again, she's in the final. When she's in the final, then hopefully you get a score and you're an All-American again."The four steeplechase runners join shot put throwers Faith Sherrill and Monique Riddick and pole vaulters Vera Neuenswander and Kelsie Ahbe as Hoosiers who thus far have advanced to the NCAAs.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Faith Sherrill only had to place in the top-12 of the women's shot put to advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championships.The senior still saw Friday's qualifying round in the NCAA East Preliminary meet as a motivation tool for the big show.Apparently it worked. Sherrill, the top-ranked shot put thrower in the East heading into the meet, won with a 17.51-meter toss to advance to the NCAA meet in Des Moines, Iowa, beginning June 8."It shows me that under pressure, I'm able to do what I'm supposed to do," Sherrill said. "With this meet being top-12 or you're not making it to nationals, it just gave me that motivation to know that I can do things under pressure."It motivated me to know that in two weeks, I can be ready to go out there and try for a national championship."Her third and qualifications-best 17.51-meter throw in the final round of preliminary qualifications bested the top toss of second-place thrower Samira Burkhardt of Virginia Tech by 0.48 meter.Sherrill's teammate, junior Monique Riddick, completed a bookend pair of IU throwers in the regional final by placing 12th with a 16.24-meter toss and advancing as well.Despite only needing to crack the top-12 to make the NCAAs, Sherrill said it still meant a lot to beat everyone in her region, especially at home."I haven't lost a meet besides the national championship indoor," she said. "It keeps me motivated. I only had one loss this year, so being at home, you always want to protect your territory, and I did, so that's what I'm excited about."Sherrill's throwing coach, Jermaine Jones, took a different approach to the top result."Now we're starting to look at the big picture right away," Jones said. "It's not the best throw. The best throw came out of the West. ... I said it before, and I'll say it again. I think she's talented enough to do it."Jones' reasoning? A warmup throw Sherrill tossed before the meet began."She had a warmup throw that I'm almost sure if it counted would be 18.40," Jones said. "I saw it, she saw it and the other competitors that ended up going to nationals, they saw it too. The throw didn't count for anything because it was a warmup throw, but they saw it."She's going to have to do it in two weeks. I'm not skeptical. I think I've got the best shot putter in the business, but it's time to show why I keep saying that now."
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>The Indianapolis 500 has long been billed by observers as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”That title has come into question in recent times with declining attendance at the race as well as at events leading up to the race during the month of May.However, the happenings thus far in the 100th anniversary of the inaugural running of the Indianapolis 500 suggest the race is on its way back to its traditional status as the world’s biggest motorsports event.For one, the fans appear to be coming back for the historic event, which will begin Sunday at noon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.Jeff Belskus, CEO of the speedway, informed The Indianapolis Star on Tuesday that ticket sales for Sunday’s race are in considerably higher demand, adding the track was earning nearly a double-digit percent increase from last year’s running and that it was the first time in three years the Indianapolis 500 has experienced an increase in ticket sales.Belskus sighted the economy as well as the celebration of the race’s now 100-year-old history — Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911 — as the biggest reason for the upswing for race-day tickets.The 500’s qualifications weekend provided fans with plenty of attention as well.For the first time in six years, the coveted pole position will not feature a driver of either Team Penske or Target Chip Ganassi Racing — the two powerhouse organizations in the Izod IndyCar Series and winners of seven of the last 10 runnings of the Indianapolis 500.The spoiler? Alex Tagliani, who sold his self-assembled team to owner Sam Schmidt before the 2011 IndyCar Series season began so he could focus solely on driving. Teammate Townsend Bell also qualified in a one-off effort for Schmidt’s team; he’ll roll off from the fourth starting position.Tagliani, who claimed the pole with a four-lap qualifying average of 227.472 miles per hour, expressed gratitude that Schmidt had taken the reins of what appears to be a capable, competitive racing team at Indianapolis.“We have a leader in Sam who has shown trust in us very quickly, and that’s why the chemistry just continues,” Tagliani said after winning the pole. “Just now we want to win for our leader because there’s a lot more pride when there’s someone on top that controls us and gives us a direction.”Tagliani’s pole-winning run outpaced five former Indianapolis 500 winners, including defending champ Dario Franchitti and 2008 winner Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, three-time winner Helio Castroneves of Team Penske and one-offs Buddy Rice and Dan Wheldon, who won the race in 2004 and 2005, respectively.Dixon and Franchitti fell victim to an unusual gaffe in Ganassi’s qualifying effort Saturday. Both drivers were provided with a small amount of fuel for their final runs at the pole, and Dixon ran out after qualifying second while Franchitti couldn’t even finish his run, slotting ninth as a result.“It’s kind of frustrating in some ways that we only got given one attempt today, and I think Dario last year was like, ‘we only need to do one attempt,’” Dixon said Saturday. “I’m sure if it was, you asked him right now, he probably would have liked another attempt. Yeah, it happened, and that was it.”Rice, who won a rain-shortened event, will make his first Indianapolis 500 start since 2008.“There’s been a lot of opportunities and a lot of different things going on, but it just never happened,” Rice said after qualifying. “But I’m grateful to be back. I’m glad I’m here for the centennial, and I’ve been given another shot at winning another one.”Two of the record-tying four female starters also caused a stir heading into race week.Second-year driver Simona de Silvestro garnered a strong ovation Saturday as she secured her spot in the starting field with a courageous four-lap run after her accident two days earlier in which burned her hands. De Silvestro will start 23rd.Danica Patrick, who almost didn’t get the chance to qualify because of rain during Sunday’s Bump Day qualifications, could be heading into her final Indianapolis 500 as a full-timer in open-wheel racing. ESPN.com’s Terry Blount reported the first woman to lead the race was working on a deal to move to NASCAR for a full season in 2012.Despite the reported and widely speculated full-time switch in racing disciplines, Patrick said to win the Indianapolis 500, especially on such a historic occasion, was the biggest goal of her racing career.“This is a special event in and of itself,” Patrick said Friday, May 20. “Indy is my favorite race in the world, every everything.“I just love this event. So I don’t know where the future is going to take me, but I know those things.”Staff picks to win the Indy 500Drew Allen: Scott Dixon. I’ve been tempted all week to go with a driver of a smaller outfit, like polesitter Alex Tagliani or one-offs Townsend Bell, Dan Wheldon or Buddy Rice, all of whom were strong in qualifying. However, the race is a whole different animal. Combine speed with 500 miles and as many as eight pit stops, and you have a Ganassi car in Victory Lane again.Micah McVicker: Alex Tagliani. My logic: He’s had one of the fastest cars in all practice sessions. He overcame the strong winds to earn the pole. Lastly, he said all the right things in his Saturday morning media session about wanting to end the Ganassi/Penske domination of Indy 500 victories.Michael Norman: Scott Dixon. The 2008 Indianapolis 500 champion is no stranger to success at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Since 2006, Dixon has placed in the top-6 of the 500-mile race each year, including a second-place finish in 2007. Dixon seems very confident in his car and team’s ability this year, which leaves the rest of the work to him. In a race where anything can happen, look for the driver of the No. 9 Target car to have a milk mustache Sunday evening.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>There’s just something about home for the IU track and field teams.That’s where they’ll be as they begin their trek toward the NCAA Outdoor Championships.Fresh off fourth- and third-place finishes for the men and women, respectively, in the Big Ten Outdoor Championships two weeks ago, the Hoosiers will deploy 28 athletes on either squad at their own facility — Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex — in the NCAA East Preliminary Round from Thursday through Saturday.Junior De’Sean Turner, who led IU to a Big Ten title in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase in Iowa City, Iowa, said the familiar confines could provide more than a comforting feeling as the athletes enter national competition.“Any time you get to run in front of the home crowd and everything, it’s just a thrill,” Turner said. “It’s a lot better than being elsewhere, somewhere else around the country, and hopefully high school teammates, coaches and friends and a lot more family will be able to come check us out.”The Indianapolis native made it to last year’s NCAA meet in Eugene, Ore., but felt he left something on the track with a 12th-place finish.“After nationals I was pretty disappointed,” Turner said. “It wasn’t the race I wanted to run. It wasn’t what I expected. During the race and after, I was pretty disgruntled because during the race, I was worried about everything else around me. “I wasn’t running my own race like I had been all year. So I think this year, just running the way I want to run and just doing what I’m used to doing, I think it’ll make things a lot easier, a lot less stressful.”A one-two-four finish in the Big Ten meet with fellow IU juniors Andrew Poore and Andy Weatherford rounding out the effort had Turner thinking this year’s NCAA run might be different.The men weren’t the only Hoosiers controlling the steeplechase in Iowa City, however. Senior Sarah Pease claimed the conference crown in the women’s 3,000-meter event to lead three of the race’s top four finishers just as Turner and the men had done. Juniors Caitlin Engel and Breanne Ehrman crossed the line third and fourth, respectively.“On the girls’ side, we were pretty proud, and we were also pretty impressed,” Turner said. “We knew that they had it in them. Breanne has been performing well all year. Sarah, she’s a seasoned veteran. She knows when to hit it. Caitlin, I don’t want to say she’s a surprise because we knew she’s good, but just being competitive and showing up at the Big Ten meet, especially when we need it, is just really impressive.”The home advantage could present itself in the steeplechase races as well as in other events in which IU athletes will compete.Junior Kind Butler is undefeated in competition in Bloomington, senior Faith Sherrill enters the weekend as the East region’s top-rated thrower in the shot put and Poore and fellow junior Ben Hubers are set to run the men’s 5,000-meter event after both came away with the fastest times not to place at last year’s NCAA meet.Junior Chelsea Blanchard, who enters the women’s 5,000-meter race ranked ninth in the East, said the multitude of Hoosier athletes not only would be great as host to the East preliminaries, but also for the program.“It really makes you proud to be a Hoosier,” Blanchard said. “Practice hasn’t even changed. We have all the same people that we’ve had all season, so it’s nice to really just keep that consistency. In all our workouts, you have plenty of people to train with. I can’t imagine not having them all here right now or me being a part of it. It’s just really a great thing.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Alex Tagliani wanted to end the Penske and Ganassi domination of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis 500.Tagliani, who drives for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, took a significant step toward that Saturday, posting a four-lap average speed of 227.472 miles per hour to claim the pole position for the 95th Indianapolis 500 next Sunday.The first Canadian to start the race from the coveted position inside the front row, Tagliani bested Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon’s average of 227.340 miles per hour and claimed a $100,000 prize for his Pole Day-ending run in the “Fast Nine” shootout, the final qualifying round.“I’m happy for this team and for Sam and for all the guys,” Tagliani said. “I think more than the money and all of that, I think it’s the timing is great for what we’ve done this week.”Car owner Schmidt, a former driver who was paralyzed in 2000 during an INDYCAR event at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla., admitted winning the pole was one of the high points of his career.“I’ve definitely had some roller coasters in my life,” Schmidt said. “Just where does that rate? It’s for sure near the top. This is one huge step forward.”Spanish driver Oriol Servia will join Tagliani and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Dixon on the outside of row one.Rain threatens PatrickMother Nature found a way to make her presence felt throughout the weekend, and INDYCAR’s most popular driver felt it most of all.On a rainy Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Danica Patrick waited in line to qualify until heavy rain threatened to eliminate her from the 100th-anniversary Indianapolis 500.“It kind of seemed like I just kept going up against things,” Patrick said. After waiting an hour through the rain delay, Patrick, driving the No. 7 GoDaddy car, posted a speed of 224.861, classifying her in the 26th starting position. While waiting for the rain to subside, Patrick said she began to question whether or not she would even get a chance to qualify.“The rain came back with only me to go, and it kind of just seemed like maybe it was just not meant to be this year, but that’s just the roller coaster that you ride here,” Patrick said. “It makes you value the good days more and makes you want to try like hell to never have these days again.”Patrick said her emotions ranged between happy to qualify and mad because she believed she had a much faster car. “I am mad,” Patrick said. “I really thought we had a fast car, fast enough to be in the top-9 even. For it to go the way it did, I’m relieved to be in the race but I’m frustrated.”Rain had halted qualifying both days.Andretti emotionIt turns out Patrick wasn’t the one on her team left on the outside looking in.Andretti Autosport, which entered Patrick, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mike Conway and John Andretti into this year’s race, managed to qualify just three of its entries, and one made the field at a teammate’s expense.With just a minute remaining in the Bump Day qualifying session Sunday, Marco Andretti hit the track in a last-ditch effort to make the 33-car lineup. The 24-year-old Andretti turned a four-lap average of 224.074 miles per hour to qualify 28th, but he bumped his teammate Hunter-Reay from the field.Team owner Michael Andretti felt for Hunter-Reay, saying this has been his worst Indianapolis 500 as an owner.Conway, who broke his leg in a last-lap crash in last year’s race, failed to make the field as well.Tough Pole Day for titansIt was a surprisingly difficult day for the perennial powerhouses at Indianapolis.Team Penske, the winningest organization in Indianapolis 500 history, had just one representative in the Fast Nine shootout in Will Power, and one of the team’s entries, Ryan Briscoe, didn’t even make the field on the first day of qualifications, earning the 27th spot Sunday. Three-time race winner and Penske driver Helio Castroneves managed just 16th on Pole Day.Penske’s woes were shared by fellow IndyCar power, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, whose two cars both ran out of fuel on their Fast Nine runs.Defending race winner Dario Franchitti’s final run figured to again put him on the front row from where he won last year’s running, but his No. 10 Target machine ran out of fuel on his final lap.Franchitti did not address the media after his qualifying run, instead climbing from his car and walking straight to his mobile home without removing his helmet. However, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner later offered a musing via his Ganassi organization.“We were pretty close on setup with the Target car, but not good enough for the pole today,” Franchitti said in the statement. “We were definitely good enough for third place. We obviously ran out of fuel at the end of the third lap and that was it. “It’s disappointing for us, but I’m happy for Sam Schmidt, Allen McDonald, Alex Tagliani and their whole team.”Dixon briefly held pole before Tagliani bumped him; the New Zealander’s No. 9 car ran out of fuel as Dixon was pulling back onto pit lane.Simona beats the burnsFifteen other cars qualified for the race Saturday. Among them was second-year Swiss driver Simona de Silvestro, who just two days prior had been involved in an accident that flipped her car upside down, shattered it upon impact with the wall in the short chute heading into turn four, and burst into flames that burned de Silvestro’s hands. It was unclear at that point whether de Silvestro would be cleared to qualify Saturday.Yet the HVM Racing driver received the OK from the track’s medical center Pole Day morning and turned a four-lap average speed of 224.392 miles per hour near the day’s end, slotting her in the 24th starting spot.“A day ago, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get back in the car,” de Silvestro said. “I was really freaked out about it. But I think I made the right decision to get back in, and the doctors have taken really good care of me. “After the crash, I was like, ‘I don’t need this. This is too crazy. It’s way too dangerous.’ You know, after a while you’re back to being a race car driver and thinking, ‘Nah, I can do this.’ And you suck it up.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Alex Tagliani wanted to end the Penske and Ganassi domination of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis 500.Tagliani, who drives for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, took a significant step toward that Saturday, posting a four-lap average speed of 227.472 miles per hour to claim the pole position for the 95th Indianapolis 500 next Sunday.The first Canadian to start the race from the coveted position inside the front row, Tagliani bested Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon’s average of 227.340 miles per hour and claimed a $100,000 prize for his Pole Day-ending run in the “Fast Nine” shootout, the final qualifying round.“I’m happy for this team and for Sam and for all the guys,” Tagliani said. “I think more than the money and all of that, I think it’s the timing is great for what we’ve done this week.”Car owner Schmidt, a former driver who was paralyzed in 2000 during an INDYCAR event at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla., admitted winning the pole was one of the high points of his career.“I’ve definitely had some roller coasters in my life,” Schmidt said. “Just where does that rate? It’s for sure near the top. This is one huge step forward.”Spanish driver Oriol Servia will join Tagliani and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Dixon on the outside of row one.Rain threatens PatrickMother Nature found a way to make her presence felt throughout the weekend, and INDYCAR’s most popular driver felt it most of all.On a rainy Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Danica Patrick waited in line to qualify until heavy rain threatened to eliminate her from the 100th-anniversary Indianapolis 500.“It kind of seemed like I just kept going up against things,” Patrick said. After waiting an hour through the rain delay, Patrick, driving the No. 7 GoDaddy car, posted a speed of 224.861, classifying her in the 26th starting position. While waiting for the rain to subside, Patrick said she began to question whether or not she would even get a chance to qualify.“The rain came back with only me to go, and it kind of just seemed like maybe it was just not meant to be this year, but that’s just the roller coaster that you ride here,” Patrick said. “It makes you value the good days more and makes you want to try like hell to never have these days again.”Patrick said her emotions ranged between happy to qualify and mad because she believed she had a much faster car. “I am mad,” Patrick said. “I really thought we had a fast car, fast enough to be in the top-9 even. For it to go the way it did, I’m relieved to be in the race but I’m frustrated.”Rain had halted qualifying both days.Andretti emotionIt turns out Patrick wasn’t the one on her team left on the outside looking in.Andretti Autosport, which entered Patrick, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mike Conway and John Andretti into this year’s race, managed to qualify just three of its entries, and one made the field at a teammate’s expense.With just a minute remaining in the Bump Day qualifying session Sunday, Marco Andretti hit the track in a last-ditch effort to make the 33-car lineup. The 24-year-old Andretti turned a four-lap average of 224.074 miles per hour to qualify 28th, but he bumped his teammate Hunter-Reay from the field.Team owner Michael Andretti felt for Hunter-Reay, saying this has been his worst Indianapolis 500 as an owner.Conway, who broke his leg in a last-lap crash in last year’s race, failed to make the field as well.Tough Pole Day for titansIt was a surprisingly difficult day for the perennial powerhouses at Indianapolis.Team Penske, the winningest organization in Indianapolis 500 history, had just one representative in the Fast Nine shootout in Will Power, and one of the team’s entries, Ryan Briscoe, didn’t even make the field on the first day of qualifications, earning the 27th spot Sunday. Three-time race winner and Penske driver Helio Castroneves managed just 16th on Pole Day.Penske’s woes were shared by fellow IndyCar power, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, whose two cars both ran out of fuel on their Fast Nine runs.Defending race winner Dario Franchitti’s final run figured to again put him on the front row from where he won last year’s running, but his No. 10 Target machine ran out of fuel on his final lap.Franchitti did not address the media after his qualifying run, instead climbing from his car and walking straight to his mobile home without removing his helmet. However, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner later offered a musing via his Ganassi organization.“We were pretty close on setup with the Target car, but not good enough for the pole today,” Franchitti said in the statement. “We were definitely good enough for third place. We obviously ran out of fuel at the end of the third lap and that was it. “It’s disappointing for us, but I’m happy for Sam Schmidt, Allen McDonald, Alex Tagliani and their whole team.”Dixon briefly held pole before Tagliani bumped him; the New Zealander’s No. 9 car ran out of fuel as Dixon was pulling back onto pit lane.Simona beats the burnsFifteen other cars qualified for the race Saturday. Among them was second-year Swiss driver Simona de Silvestro, who just two days prior had been involved in an accident that flipped her car upside down, shattered it upon impact with the wall in the short chute heading into turn four, and burst into flames that burned de Silvestro’s hands.It was unclear at that point whether de Silvestro would be cleared to qualify Saturday.Yet the HVM Racing driver received the OK from the track’s medical center Pole Day morning and turned a four-lap average speed of 224.392 miles per hour near the day’s end, slotting her in the 24th starting spot.“A day ago, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get back in the car,” de Silvestro said. “I was really freaked out about it. But I think I made the right decision to get back in, and the doctors have taken really good care of me. “After the crash, I was like, ‘I don’t need this. This is too crazy. It’s way too dangerous.’ You know, after a while you’re back to being a race car driver and thinking, ‘Nah, I can do this.’ And you suck it up.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Dylan Swift brought life into what had been a lifeless final home game Tuesday.Two shutout innings of work on the mound? Striking out a Second Team All-American? Swift?“It’s not my fault I haven’t been pitching,” Swift said. “I’ve got the best returning relief ERA three years in a row now.”The senior’s pitching, catching and field work at second base preceded a late offensive surge to avoid being shut out in an 8-4 midweek loss to Louisville at Sembower Field.Trailing 8-0 after having walked eight batters and allowing two unearned runs, IU sent Swift, who had previously pitched 11 1/3 innings in his career, to the bump in the top of the seventh inning.The Princeton, Ind. native was all smiles in striking out the frame’s final two batters, including Louisville’s Ryan Wright, who earned Second Team All-America honors in 2010.“He didn’t look that good to me,” Swift joked. Swift followed up his first inning on the mound with a three-up, three-down eighth stanza, and after he moved to second base in the ninth, he made a diving grab for a crucial out.Though stopping short of penciling Swift in the rotation, IU coach Tracy Smith said there was more to his player’s jack-of-all-trades performance than a sideshow in a meaningless game. “It may look like a joke, but we’re honestly looking at what are we going to use down the stretch,” Smith said. “Some of these guys have continued to struggle in just they’ve lost their confidence. They’ve lost something.“We need guys that are going to compete and be confident and have some fun out there and get after somebody. I thought Dylan did a very good job of that.”That effort proved infectious. The Hoosiers scored two runs on four hits and a passed ball in the bottom of the eighth, and freshman Ty Downing and junior Brian Ritz each hit a solo home run in the ninth before the Cardinals closed out the contest.“It didn’t look good at all, especially in about the fourth,” junior Alex Dickerson, whose single in the eighth set up the Hoosiers’ second run, said. “You’ve just got to kind of stick with it. You loosen up a little bit and actually put up four runs. We actually kind of had a shot there.” The game was essentially inconsequential in terms of the Hoosiers’ postseason chances; the team would have remained in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Big Ten and its provisional spot in the conference tournament with a win or a loss.“I knew it was going to be a challenge today,” Smith said. “I didn’t think we would come out and walk a bunch of people, but I wasn’t too concerned whether we would go out here and win 15-0 or lose 15-0. It has absolutely nothing to do with Thursday’s first game.”That first game Thursday opens IU’s final Big Ten series of the season against Illinois in Champaign, Ill. The Fighting Illini (22-25, 12-9) are tied with Minnesota for second in the conference. At 11-10, the Hoosiers still have a chance at the Big Ten regular-season crown; they have a tiebreak over conference leader Michigan State by virtue of a sweep last weekend, and the Spartans are hanging onto that perch with a 13-8 mark.Smith said he wasn’t too concerned about the loss to Louisville because his players’ minds were in the right place. Perhaps he had Swift in mind.“We’ve just got to have fun, and we’re going to go out and sweep Illinois this weekend,” Swift said. “We’re confident, we’re cocky and we know we’re going to do it.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Not all IU recruits were smiling in Bloomington this weekend.In fact, the headlining act of the adidas May Classic AAU basketball tournament left extremely disappointed.Indiana Elite Team Indiana, the 17-and-under squad that includes 2012 IU recruits Hanner Perea, Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, Ron Patterson and Peter Jurkin, lost its first game of tournament play Sunday, bowing out 78-64 to Baylor LNO in the second round of the 17-and-under bracket.The loss sent Team Indiana home without a championship in each of its five AAU tournaments this spring.Patterson, who was missing for Saturday’s round-robin games because of his high-school prom, left immediately after the final buzzer and later wrote “I need a new aau team asap...” on his Twitter account.Some Hoosier commitments went home happier, however. Eric Gordon All-Stars’ 16-and-under team, which featured 2013 commitments Devin Davis and Collin Hartman, won their division title Sunday. 2014 recruits James Blackmon Jr. and Trey Lyles took the floor for Spiece Indy Heat’s 15-and-under squad.Other prospects in attendance who have communicated with IU included 2012 four-star guard Gary Harris of Dorian’s Pride and 2012 four-star forward Mitch McGary, who played with the SYF Players outfit.HOLLOWELL FEELING RUSTY BUT GOODAfter sitting out the early spring schedule with a wrist injury, Jeremy Hollowell got back on the court this weekend with his new AAU squad.Hollowell, who joined Indiana Elite to play with his fellow members of the Hoosiers’ 2012 recruiting class, initially struggled with his timing on the court but still managed to score 11 points Saturday in Team Indiana’s first game.“A little sore, a little rusty, but it doesn’t hurt too bad,” Hollowell said. “I’m good to play, but just rusty. I’ve got to get a feel, got to get going, got to get a feel back.”Hollowell, who also was dealing with knee issues, said both he and the team were coming along smoothly in terms of chemistry.“Real good getting the feel for each other, how we play,” he said. “Kind of had a problem with injuries and stuff, a lot of people not being there every weekend, but once we get everybody together, I think we’ll have a real good team.” HARRIS NOT RUSHING TO MAKE DECISIONGary Harris said the same things Saturday as he has been saying all throughout his recruitment process.The four-star 2012 guard and IU target said after his Dorian’s Pride team’s first round-robin game that he currently has no preference for any schools above others and has no timetable for a decision.“I haven’t narrowed anything down yet,” Harris said. “I’m not sure yet. I’m just going to talk to my parents about it.“There’s no certain time limit. I’m just trying to take this tournament and each tournament at a time. When we have some free time, we’ll think about what’s best for me.”Harris sprained his ankle a week ago at the Spiece Run ‘n Slam Classic in Fort Wayne, but he said he felt good getting back at it in Bloomington.“I felt good when I was out there playing,” he said. “I’m a little sore right now, but I’m fine.”BLACKMON, LYLES ENJOY TOURNEY’S IU FEELThe two members of IU’s 2014 recruiting class got their first taste of the future this weekend.Guard James Blackmon Jr. and forward Trey Lyles both expressed excitement to be playing at IU in front of IU fans.“Real fun to play in front of all these IU people with all the IU shirts and stuff,” Blackmon said Saturday after Spiece’s overtime win in its first game. “That’s just more exciting for me to come play here.”Lyles felt the same way. “It’s motivation to come out here and play for your future team’s fans to show them what you have and what you’re going to be bringing to the table,” Lyles said.Lyles also said it was that type of motivating atmosphere with the coaching staff and players that led him to commit to IU so early in his high school career.“Just going to the games and watching how they reacted with the players, what they did wrong or what they did right, it was a good motivational thing,” he said. “They’re always motivated, they’re always coaching, and it’s just a good atmosphere to be around. It’s a very positive atmosphere.”Blackmon said he feels the two 2014 recruits have a great opportunity to develop chemistry with one another well in advance of coming to IU.“We’re real good friends now,” Blackmon said. “Just getting to know each other from the first year (of playing together), now it’s the second year, and we’re just going to keep going until we get to college.”MCGARY ADJUSTING WELL TO NEW SCHOOL, SITUATIONFour-star 2012 forward Mitch McGary feels he has improved in multiple areas over the last year.The Indiana native transferred last year to Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., and has blossomed onto the national scene in the past year, drawing interest from several top college basketball programs nationally in addition to IU.“Moving out to Brewster has been the best for me, and it’s got my level of game up even more than it was in my old public school,” McGary said Friday after his SYF Players team’s first game. “It was good for me, both on and off the court. It made me more responsible. It was pretty much a year of college a year early.”McGary said he had not spoken with IU recently but that he still will keep the Hoosiers as an option.“I haven’t talked to Tom Crean in a while, but they still have shown interest, so I’m still going to keep them on the list,” he said.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>The IU baseball team entered last weekend hanging on for dear life.The Hoosiers continued to hang on — for 15 innings over two days — to get the result they needed.Fighting to keep its postseason hopes alive, IU won three games, including a 13-12 marathon victory in 15 frames Saturday and Sunday, to claim a crucial series sweep of Big Ten-leading Michigan State at Sembower Field.IU (30-21, 11-10) put that win together with an 8-6 triumph Friday and a 7-4 win Sunday in the third contest.The Hoosier batters went toe-to-toe with a Spartans team that entered the weekend leading the conference in hitting. IU recorded 43 weekend hits to Michigan State’s 41.“I’ve said it all along and I haven’t changed. This is a good baseball team,” IU coach Tracy Smith said Friday of the Hoosiers. “It’s a good hitting team. We just haven’t been firing on all cylinders.”Two familiar culprits — junior outfielder Alex Dickerson and sophomore second baseman Micah Johnson — powered the effort that kept the Hoosiers alive in the Big Ten hunt.Johnson had a three-run home run, a three-run triple and a walkoff single over the first two games, and Dickerson notched two home runs in the 15-inning epic.“I think we’re really clicking right now,” Johnson said Friday. “We had a few miscues here and there, but our offense really showed up.” The second game of the series exemplified that. Knotted at 12-12 through 12 innings Saturday at a non-lighted Sembower Field, officials postponed the game to noon the next day.After three more innings of play Sunday, Johnson stepped to the plate with two runners on base and came through with a walkoff single to give IU the series win it needed. The Hoosiers trailed by as many as six runs as late as the middle of the sixth inning in that contest, but IU batters heated back up in the bottom of the frame and went on to score eight runs in the next two innings.Johnson’s three-run home run, followed by Dickerson’s second home run of the day, drove the rally that brought the Hoosiers from an 8-2 deficit to an 11-8 lead. Michigan State’s three-run response in the ninth set up the extra-inning thriller.Much like its subsequent contest, Friday’s game saw IU produce at the plate; a six-run third inning put the Hoosiers in a lead they would not relinquish despite a late surge by Michigan State.Senior first baseman Jerrud Sabourin’s 4-for-4 near-cycle led the IU batting in that game along with Johnson and Dickerson.“I was feeling pretty good,” Sabourin said Friday. “A little bit of that’s luck, you know, swing at the right area at the right time, swing at the right pitches, but I hit it well today, and I’m going to try to keep going on that.”Once the third game went into the books after a 92-minute rain delay, IU secured itself a vault over Ohio State, over whom the Hoosiers owned a head-to-head tiebreak, for fifth place in the conference. That provisionally places the team in the six-member Big Ten tournament with one regular-season series to play next weekend at Illinois.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>The IU baseball team entered the weekend with its postseason hopes hanging in the balance.The Hoosiers sure seemed like they recognized it.Playing with efficiency that had been lacking during a seven-game losing streak, IU (27-20, 8-10) kept itself in the race for the Big Ten tournament with its fourth conference series win of the season against Northwestern.“You’ve got to win series,” coach Tracy Smith said. “We’ve played six series, and we’ve won four and lost two in destructive fashion. But again, if you just take care of business and keep trying to win the series, I think at least you give yourself a chance; so, it was very important for us to take care of that.”The Hoosiers won two of the weekend’s three contests at Sembower Field, claiming a 5-0 shutout victory Friday, May 6, an 8-2 win Sunday, May 8 and jump in to the coveted sixth position in the Big Ten standings — the final spot of eligibility for the conference tournament. The Wildcats took the Saturday, May 7 game at a 9-6 tally.IU managed to correct defensive issues that plagued it while losing seven straight games dating back to April 23. The Hoosiers surrendered no unearned runs against Northwestern after allowing 15 such scores during the skid.Sophomore second baseman Micah Johnson said the team wanted to get back to exercising the fielding prowess it had shown for much of the season.“We got away from what we do,” Johnson said. “For a while we were leading the Big Ten in fielding percentage, and we were winning at that point, but last weekend and the past two weekends, we kind of got away from that. This weekend we were really focused on minimizing the big innings.“It was just fun. We got back to having fun. For a while, I think for everybody, it just wasn’t fun.” Sunday’s win perhaps most strongly exemplified how things turned around for IU.Leading that affair 3-2 with runners on second and third bases in the bottom of the seventh inning, Northwestern made the decision to intentionally walk Johnson with heavy-hitting junior Alex Dickerson on deck.“That was the biggest compliment I’ve ever had,” said Johnson, who hit .700 on the weekend.Dickerson made the Wildcats pay, hitting a single to bat in two runs. Johnson also scored on that play after Northwestern erred on a wild throw, opening a 7-2 lead. Two at-bats later, senior Wes Wilson's double brought Dickerson home to cap a five-run seventh frame for the Hoosiers.“You always try to make people pay,” Dickerson said. “You try to make people pay for just letting people on during that situation. “It was a good situation to get another guy on, and he ends up scoring, so it’s good for me.”While IU continued to struggle in situational hitting at times – the Hoosiers left 20 men on base over the weekend after stranding 57 runners during the losing streak – the hits translated to runs each game. IU never recorded fewer than nine hits against the Wildcats and then batted in the seventh inning on Sunday and a three-run clincher Friday.IU also enjoyed some charity within the conference; Iowa’s walkoff win Sunday against Penn State vaulted the Hoosiers into the last qualifying standing for the Big Ten tournament with two series remaining.Smith said it’s up to the players whether they ultimately make it there.“You won’t hear me talk much about these guys the rest of the way because talk is cheap,” Smith said. “They will finish it how they want to finish it, regardless of what I say about them.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Dylan Swift and Wes Wilson both know what it’s like to start behind home plate on a Big Ten contender.They both know what it’s like to sit behind someone else in a reserve role.Now they know what it’s like to do both with each other.As the senior catchers look back on their time in Bloomington and their growth together as members of the IU baseball team, they believe the Hoosiers will receive solid production from the catcher position no matter who dons the gear in a given game.“We say it all the time, we’re the best catching staff in the Big Ten,” Swift said. “We’ve made each other better, and there’s no hatred, there’s no ill will or ill feelings because we honestly just want to win.”In fact, Wilson — who has been the regular starter at catcher this season — said the exact opposite of ill will has been true of the two players.“I think it’s been important for Dylan and I to maintain our sanity and our friendship,” Wilson said. “We’ve learned to work together, not against one another, not sabotaging the other person, but really doing what we can control. I think that’s been big, and he’s one of my better friends on the team now four years into it.”Baseball coach Tracy Smith, the final authority who decides which player catches, saw it no differently.“I genuinely think these guys like each other, they root for each other,” Smith said. “It’s not a situation where one is hoping the other guy fails so he gets his chance. I think they genuinely pull for each other; so from a coaching perspective, that is very, very good to see.”Of course, both players came to IU having been used to playing extensively.Swift was a four-year team captain and a four-year all-conference honoree at Princeton Community High School in Princeton, Ind. Wilson was named an all-city player both his junior and senior seasons at Bryan Station High School in Lexington, Ky.Though Swift’s and Wilson’s routes to Bloomington were different — Swift came straight to IU in the fall of 2007 while Wilson spent the fall at Mississippi State before transferring in the spring — they both found themselves in the unfamiliar position of sitting behind an incumbent catcher. That incumbent was Josh Phegley, who earned All-America honors in 2008 and was selected 38th overall by the Chicago White Sox in the 2009 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft after helping the Hoosiers win a Big Ten championship that year. Swift and Wilson appeared in just 59 games and made only 14 starts as freshmen and sophomores.Swift said that initial season of competing with Wilson for the No. 2 spot behind Phegley drove both freshmen to gain the coaching staff’s attention.“We just decided, ‘You know what? We’re going to make each other better,’” Swift said.After sporadic appearances during their first two seasons, competition opened up again before the 2010 season, this time for the starting job.After a preseason battle and season-opening shuffle that year between Swift, Wilson and then-sophomore Josh Lyon, Swift emerged as the No. 1 catcher and proceeded to start the entire Big Ten schedule and finish with a .270 batting average and 23 RBI. “I think I deserved it and earned it last year,” Swift said.Wilson started just seven times that season.Entering their final year with the Hoosiers, however, neither Swift nor Wilson had a guarantee one of them would be starting in 2011. Freshman Ty Downing entered the mix coming off a senior campaign at Greenwood High School in Bowling Green, Ky., in which he hit a .437 average, seven home runs and 51 RBI.In fact, Downing started much of the early season, opening 11 contests before being slowed by injury.That opened the door for Swift and Wilson once more. This time though, Wilson came out on top and proceeded to have a breakout collegiate season, batting .311 and ranking second on the team in both home runs and RBIs in 40 starts to date.Swift has maintained a positive outlook on this final season despite playing in just 15 games.“We just want to be on a winning team,” Swift said. “When I leave here, I want to be on a championship team again, and if I’m not playing, I don’t want to say that’s fine, but I can live with that because I just want to be a winner. I think Wes feels the exact same way.”No matter who has started, Swift and Wilson each have felt as much a part of the game as the other.“Dylan and I, of course, have been battling for four years, whether it was for the No. 2 spot behind Josh Phegley a couple of years ago, or whether the last two years it was for the starting spot,” Wilson said. “We’re always there. I was supporting him last year. He was supporting me this year.”Swift concurred.“Me and Wes, we’re a very close catching staff,” Swift said. “We’re like one guy. Whoever’s playing, we’re living through that.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>The IU baseball team isn’t panicking much about its four-game losing streak.The story hasn’t really changed much all season.In advance of a weekend series with Big Ten-leading Purdue in West Lafayette, IU coach Tracy Smith said his team’s recent skid might have more to do with the nature of baseball than with any shortcomings by the Hoosiers (25-16, 6-6).“Right now, we’re just not getting it done,” Smith said. “I can’t believe that we’re going to go the entire season going 1-for-11 or 12 every single game. It’s going to change. Hits will fall, and we’re just in a little bit of a rough stretch right here.”Indeed, IU has had a tough time finding the timely hit both in being swept by Minnesota last weekend and in falling 10-3 to Miami (Ohio) on Tuesday. The Hoosiers have been outscored 30-8 and have suffered a 46-28 disparity in hits during their last four losses.“We’re not getting the hits when we need them,” senior catcher Wes Wilson said. “(Tuesday) we hit the ball well, had some hard-hit balls that just didn’t get through, and that’s going to happen when you’re in slumps like these as a team.”Inconsistency at the plate has been an issue for IU all season, but the team has also cited the need for batting and fielding to complement each other more effectively.Wilson pointed to such an exchange against Miami when the RedHawks scored three runs on a two-out single in the fourth inning, just after the Hoosiers had scored three runs in the third.“I think that’s something that kind of breaks your back early on,” Wilson said. “Whether or not you do admit it right then, it has a little effect on their momentum, and it takes away some of yours. We just weren’t able to recover from that (Tuesday), and Minnesota was kind of the same type of stuff.“Something doesn’t go our way, and right back on the other hand, it goes their way, and they build on that and capitalize on every mistake we made.”Senior catcher Dylan Swift agreed the laundry list of things that have gone wrong has put the team in a funk.“I guess kind of like the old saying, ‘When it rains, it pours,’” Swift said. “I think we’ve played fairly solidly, and I guess when our pitching’s there, our hitting’s not there, and when our hitting is there, our pitching’s not there.”IU will get the chance to put both elements together against the in-state rival Boilermakers (27-13, 7-5), who share a tie for first in the Big Ten.Whether that happens is up to the outcome of a strength-on-strength matchup. Purdue leads the conference in total hitting and ties for tops in home runs, while the Hoosiers rank in the top three in pitching and fielding.“For us, nothing changes,” Smith said. “We’ve got to throw strikes, and our defense has to be solid. We’ve got to eliminate some of our put-away. When we’re in our put-away counts, we’ve got to stop giving up the (0-and-2) and the (1-and-2) base hits.“They’re a very, very good hitting team. Their pitchers have always given them a chance to go, but I don’t think we’re going to drastically try to change anything other than keep pitching it well, keep picking up the baseball, and then hopefully this weekend, we get some key hits when we need them.”Swift said a little hate alongside focus wouldn’t hurt.“We hate them, they hate us,” he said. “We don’t like playing them, they don’t like playing us just because we can’t stand looking at them. It’s just that intense.“We want to win all three, but we’ve got to win the series just to stay in the race, because I think they’re going to be at the top of the conference towards the end of the year too because they’re a very good team.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>A 6-3 record in Big Ten play has been good enough for a share of first place in the conference thus far in 2011.However, it hasn’t been good enough for the IU baseball team.“We need to be better than 6-3 in my opinion, and I think everybody’s opinion, too,” senior catcher Dylan Swift said.Despite that sentiment, the Hoosiers (25-12, 6-3) find themselves tied with Michigan State at the top of the Big Ten, as IU attempts to claim a fourth-straight conference series win this weekend against Minnesota at Sembower Field.IU has won two of three games in each of its first three Big Ten series while ranking no lower than fourth in the conference in total batting, total pitching and total fielding. The Hoosiers have also garnered two votes in the latest USA Today/ESPN Top-25 Coaches’ Poll.Yet the team isn’t satisfied.“We go out to win every single game,” Swift said. “Honestly, we want to separate ourselves. We’ve said from the beginning we want to stomp throats. We want to make teams not even close to us because we’re that good.“There’s just a confidence about our team, and I don’t think 6-3 is how good we are in the conference either.”Swift added that IU hadn’t really given away Big Ten losses to this point. Other than a 6-1 home loss to Ohio State on April 8, the Hoosiers haven’t lost by more than one run in conference play.Senior first baseman Jerrud Sabourin, IU’s new all-time hits leader, agreed with Swift.“We can’t get into a rhythm of just going out there and just going through the motions,” Sabourin said. “We’ve got to keep pushing ourselves to get better. Even though we’re winning right now, I think everyone on the team feels like we should have won even more games. We should be undefeated in Big Ten right now.”Speaking of teams expected to have won more games, Minnesota, who the Big Ten coaches voted their preseason conference champion pick, sits tied with Iowa at the bottom of the Big Ten with a 3-6 record and an 11-15 mark overall.Even so, IU coach Tracy Smith stopped short of saying the Golden Gophers, who nonetheless remain tied for the Big Ten’s top fielding team with a .972 percentage, are struggling.“I will not use the term ‘struggling’ in my description of them,” Smith said. “I know they were picked to win (the Big Ten). They’re a good baseball team, and if you’ve looked at what they’ve done, they’ll turn it on and figure it out.”While the Hoosiers aren’t content with where they currently stand, Smith said his team can maintain its position in the race for the top seed in the Big Ten tournament by doing what it has been doing.“Just win series,” Smith said. “That’s what you’ve got to do to stay in the hunt.“It’s important for us to come out and have a good, solid home series with a good baseball team, which we’re going to get in Minnesota.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>IU baseball coach Tracy Smith called off a gem in the making Wednesday.Fortunately for Smith, that decision ultimately didn’t hurt his team.Junior pitcher Drew Leininger threw a one-hit shutout through six innings and retired his last 18 at-bats — 10 of them strikeouts — in leading the Hoosiers (25-12) to a 5-1 midweek victory against Morehead State at Sembower Field.After the lefty opened the game with a single and a walk, none of the Eagles (5-29) could figure out Leininger.“I felt like I was really just letting lose,” Leininger said. “I was really driving off my back leg and just throwing the ball. I was getting my fastball down, and then with that, the changeup was giving them all kinds of problems.”Leininger’s performance continued a streak of brilliant starting pitching for IU. Since last Friday, Hoosier starters have surrendered just four earned runs in 35 innings of work.Even with Leininger cruising, Smith decided to pull him in the seventh and bring in sophomore Jonny Hoffman.Leininger’s streak would not continue. Hoffman allowed a single and then hit Morehead State’s Andrew Deeds to put two men on base with no outs, setting up an RBI single two at-bats later to end the shutout.“I was upset that we pulled him because he would have had 15 or 16 strikeouts, I think, and we were rolling,” senior catcher Dylan Swift said. “They had absolutely a chance on him. ... That’s nothing against them; that’s all on Drew.“Drew’s delivery, I can’t say enough about that.”Smith said he wanted to save Leininger’s arm for use in the team’s next weekend series but acknowledged the slim 3-0 lead at the time.“We keep saying ... we want to use some guys, but we never stretch leads out,” Smith said. “It must just be one of those years where we’re not going to, and at the same time, we’re still trying to play and get ourselves in the top 25, so it’s like we want to win every baseball game.“Once (Leininger) got to a certain pitch count, we’d still like to have him available on the weekend, whether he is or not.”Leininger agreed and said the long-term implications of a full outing outweigh the short-term benefits.“I was thinking big picture,” Leininger said. “I’ve got a chance to help the team on the weekend. It’s tough. I was rolling like that, and you want to stay in and finish it, but big picture.”While the decision provided a scare, the Hoosiers’ batters responded.Swift hit a two-RBI double in the bottom of the eighth as insurance before sophomore pitcher Casey Smith closed the game the next inning with IU’s 12th strikeout.Swift’s double came with two outs, the fourth such hit for the Hoosiers’ offense on the day.“Two-out hitting is kind of where we’ve been struggling a little bit throughout the year and even last year,” Swift said. “Two-out hitting is really what ... separates a team from another team. If you hit with two outs, you’re going to win a lot.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>The IU baseball team enters a busy week on a roll.Fresh off their third straight conference series win last weekend after taking two of three games from Iowa in Iowa City, the Hoosiers (23-12, 6-3) carry a new all-time hits leader and a Co-Big Ten Freshman of the Week today to Louisville.While the weekend victory against the Hawkeyes vaulted IU into a tie with Michigan State for first in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers’ 6-0 shutout win Sunday drew accolades and rewrote school history.With a 3-for-5 effort at the plate Sunday, senior first baseman Jerrud Sabourin surpassed former Hoosier Alex Smith as IU’s career hits king. Sabourin now has 306 career hits, which shatters a record that stood for 25 years.The San Diego native helped pad the Hoosiers’ lead while repositioning his name in the record books. His 306th hit batted in a run, and the first baseman also scored two runs.Sabourin was one of three IU batters Sunday to contribute three hits to the Hoosiers’ collective .375 average. However, the accolades came from the mound as well as the batter’s box.Freshman pitcher Joey DeNato earned Co-Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors after tossing eight shutout innings with 11 strikeouts.DeNato joined teammates Ty Downing and Dustin DeMuth as recipients of the conference’s weekly freshman honor this season; he shared the award with Ohio State first baseman Josh Dezse.IU will now attempt to maintain its standing — and perhaps build on the recent successes of its players — this week with two midweek games and another three-game weekend bout against a struggling Minnesota team.The first of those contests comes today with a two-hour trip south to face Louisville, who has the Big East’s top pitching staff and second-best home run hitter Stewart Ijames.IU freshman pitcher Brian Korte will get his third straight midweek start today, and junior Drew Leininger will take the mound Wednesday when the Hoosiers return to Bloomington to face Morehead State.One thing IU coach Tracy Smith made clear regarding these midweek games is that staff days are no longer in play. The Hoosiers attempted a staff day April 5 against Miami (Ohio) and allowed six runs — four of them earned — and walked four RedHawk batters while going through seven pitchers.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Two series into the Big Ten season, IU baseball coach Tracy Smith has settled on most of his team’s lineup. One spot that remains unsettled, though, is the Sunday starting pitcher. Smith has shuffled among multiple pitchers, mainly freshmen, in the third weekend slot and said he wants to get different players there as the conference slate continues this weekend with a road series against Iowa. The Hoosiers (21-11, 4-2) might still deploy freshman Matt Dearden, who has started the third games in each of IU’s last two weekend series. Dearden has gone 2-1 in decisions, one win coming in his first career start against Michigan, and has posted a 5.32 ERA in 23.2 innings pitched. However, Smith said the job might not be closed for good. Brian Korte, another freshman to have seen time this season as the third weekend starter, still intrigues the coach as an option on the mound on Sundays. “The kid’s competitive, and quite honestly, he’s going to push some of our current weekend guys,” Smith said. “So guys need to be on top of their games this weekend or we’re going to throw the guy out there that gives us the best chance to win. We feel really good about what (Korte) is doing on the mound right now.” The lefty from North Bend, Ohio, is 1-1 after making five starts, the first of which was a complete 9-2 win March 14 against Pittsburgh in Winter Haven, Fla. He also started the finale of IU’s home-and-home affair with Evansville on March 27. Korte said he felt good about his chances at the coveted weekend spot following his most recent start Wednesday against Indiana State; he pitched six shutout innings but also had an eight-inning no-hit streak that lasted two games snapped. “We have a great staff,” he said. “It’s nice when you can take somebody out and get someone else right back in it that’s as good as you. Definitely it’s competitive, but it’s good for our team.” Korte’s closest observer Wednesday, senior catcher Wes Wilson, was impressed with the pitcher’s six shutout innings. “He was locating,” Wilson said. “He was missing a lot of barrels, locating the outer half of the plate and working in (when) he needed to.” While players still might rotate in and out of the third weekend pitcher slot, Dearden appears the likely starter Sunday against Iowa. He will face Trevor Willis, who has hit a Big Ten-leading five triples and four .300-plus batters who have appeared in more than 20 games. The Hawkeyes (12-18, 2-4) also deploy an aggressive third weekend starter themselves. Matt Dermody, who stands 3-3 with a 5.36 ERA, ranks second in the conference in strikeouts with 43 on the season. The weather forecast in Iowa City might hinder; projections include lows in the 40s and rain. “That’s not going to be fun, but I think that we’ll be fine,” Wilson said. “We’ve played in enough games like that this year, so we’re ready to get going and kick some Hawkeye tail.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Two series into the Big Ten season, IU baseball coach Tracy Smith has settled on most of his team’s lineup.One spot that remains unsettled, though, is the Sunday starting pitcher.Smith has shuffled among multiple pitchers, mainly freshmen, in the third weekend slot and said he wants to get different players there as the conference slate continues this weekend with a road series against Iowa.The Hoosiers (21-11, 4-2) might still deploy freshman Matt Dearden, who has started the third games in each of IU’s last two weekend series. Dearden has gone 2-1 in decisions, one win coming in his first career start against Michigan, and has posted a 5.32 ERA in 23.2 innings pitched.However, Smith said the job might not be closed for good.Brian Korte, another freshman to have seen time this season as the third weekend starter, still intrigues the coach as an option on the mound on Sundays.“The kid’s competitive, and quite honestly, he’s going to push some of our current weekend guys,” Smith said. “So guys need to be on top of their games this weekend or we’re going to throw the guy out there that gives us the best chance to win. We feel really good about what (Korte) is doing on the mound right now.”The lefty from North Bend, Ohio, is 1-1 after making five starts, the first of which was a complete 9-2 win March 14 against Pittsburgh in Winter Haven, Fla. He also started the finale of IU’s home-and-home affair with Evansville on March 27.Korte said he felt good about his chances at the coveted weekend spot following his most recent start Wednesday against Indiana State; he pitched six shutout innings but also had an eight-inning no-hit streak that lasted two games snapped.“We have a great staff,” he said. “It’s nice when you can take somebody out and get someone else right back in it that’s as good as you. Definitely it’s competitive, but it’s good for our team.”Korte’s closest observer Wednesday, senior catcher Wes Wilson, was impressed with the pitcher’s six shutout innings.“He was locating,” Wilson said. “He was missing a lot of barrels, locating the outer half of the plate and working in (when) he needed to.”While players still might rotate in and out of the third weekend pitcher slot, Dearden appears the likely starter Sunday against Iowa.He will face Trevor Willis, who has hit a Big Ten-leading five triples and four .300-plus batters who have appeared in more than 20 games.The Hawkeyes (12-18, 2-4) also deploy an aggressive third weekend starter themselves. Matt Dermody, who stands 3-3 with a 5.36 ERA, ranks second in the conference in strikeouts with 43 on the season.The weather forecast in Iowa City might hinder; projections include lows in the 40s and rain.“That’s not going to be fun, but I think that we’ll be fine,” Wilson said. “We’ve played in enough games like that this year, so we’re ready to get going and kick some Hawkeye tail.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>The IU baseball team got a bit of a scare from one of its in-state rivals Wednesday.However, two familiar faces answered the bell for the Hoosiers.After IU gave up three runs in the top of the seventh inning, sophomore second baseman Micah Johnson and senior outfielder T.C. Knipp batted in three to cement a 6-3 win against Indiana State at Sembower Field.The inning not only completed a perfect day at the plate for Johnson, who finished 3-for-3 with a run and the winning RBI, it also marked the second straight game in which Knipp had a crucial multi-RBI hit late to propel the Hoosiers (21-11) to a victory.IU coach Tracy Smith said the team’s continued clutch hitting was huge.“I’d like to see us save some of that clutch hitting,” Smith said. “(Indiana State is) a good baseball team. They’re playing very well right now. Anything can happen in a one-run, so I was really pleased to see us extend it to three.”The game appeared to be in hand with a 3-0 IU lead until the seventh inning.Freshman pitcher Brian Korte threw six shutout innings and allowed no hits through five frames, extending his streak to nine dating back to last week’s game at Miami (Ohio). However, the lefty walked in a run and allowed a two-RBI single in the seventh inning.Johnson’s stage was set by senior catcher Wes Wilson’s leadoff double and junior outfielder Alex Dickerson’s single, which put runners on first and third. Johnson then batted in Wilson to reclaim the lead.Johnson said he didn’t try to do too much before earning what proved to be the game-clinching hit.“I was just looking for a fastball. I’ve been struggling the past week, so I’ve been really working on quieting my swing down,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to do too much. I’m just looking for a single.”Following two strikeouts, Knipp hit a single that drove in both Dickerson and Johnson to secure the game’s final tally.Knipp acknowledged his growing trend of success in the clutch.“I just try to stay relaxed, just stay with my approach,” he said. “I feel like if I try and do something I’m not capable of, I’m not going to have the success, so just staying within myself is what I try and do when I’m up there in those situations.”However, the Hoosiers might have been able to secure the game earlier if not for baserunning miscues.Johnson was tagged out on an attempt at third in the first inning, and freshman third baseman Dustin DeMuth was caught on an attempted double in the third and then ruled out on a slide into home in the fourth.Smith was upset with the call at home but put the blame for the failed first-inning steal attempt on himself.“I thought they were going to throw into second,” he said. “That was on me, but yeah, there were a couple of other ones there. We’ve got to tighten that up, or the weekend games can come down to that.”