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BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana missed its first shot at outright Big Ten baseball championship glory.
For the sake of its NCAA Tournament seeding prospects, it can't afford to miss a second.
The Hoosiers' hopes for a top-eight national seed depend on a strong finish. Thursday night's 2-1, 10-inning loss to Minnesota won't ruin that. They have, after all, won nine of their last 10 games and are ranked No. 9 nationally. But they don't want to lose a three-game series at home to a mediocre Gopher team, especially with the Big Ten tourney looming next week.
Thus, winning tonight's Game 2 is crucial.
IU couldn't capitalize on a strong performance from ace pitcher Joey DeNato, who limited Minnesota (27-20) to one run in nine innings while striking out seven. The Hoosiers had runners on the second in the final two innings, but couldn't get the decisive hit.
They are 19-3 in conference play, two games ahead of Nebraska with two to go. They are 36-13 overall.
Indiana basketball is on an academic hot streak.
The Hoosiers recorded a fourth straight perfect Academic Progress Rate score of 1,000. That's the best in the Big Ten and a huge improvement from when coach Tom Crean arrived in Bloomington six years ago.
APR measures eligibility and retention of student-athletes.
Because of issues during the tenures of former coaches Mike Davis and Kelvin Sampson, IU's APR score in 2009 was 866, well below the NCAA minimum of 925 and the national average of 933. The Hoosiers ranked 325th out of 341 Division I basketball programs. As a result, the program had a two-scholarship reduction and received a public notice from the NCAA.
Since then they have ranked among the nation's best. They have had 27 academic All-Big Ten players, with 21 earning degrees at IU, including five with master's degrees.
“Academic success is a critical component to thriving as a true student athlete at Indiana University,” Crean said in a university release. “Our staff and (IU director of academic services) Marni Mooney deserves the bulk of the credit for keeping our guys on task daily.
“When you measure our APR, record of graduating players and the academic awards and honors our players have received recently, we believe we are as strong in this area as anyone in the country.”
The latest APR scores run from the 2009-10 school year through the 2012-13 year.
“The poor academic performance for which we were being cited for occurred under two coaches prior," Athletic Director Fred Glass said in the release. "Tom Crean's leadership and commitment to academics allowed us to put our issues fully in the past in exemplary fashion.”
In addition, men's cross-country, men's golf and women's tennis also recorded 1,000 scores. Football had a score of 972.
Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber is one of 15 semifinalists for the Johnny Bench Award, presented annually to the nation's best catcher. Schwarber is hitting .347 with 10 home runs and 34 runs batted in. He's committed just three errors and thrown out 12 of 35 runners attempting to steal.
The only other Big Ten semifinalist is Purdue's Sean McHugh. He's hitting .302 with four homers and 27 RBIs.
Former IU forward Noah Vonleh put up some big measurements at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. According to DraftExpress.com, Vonleh was measured at 6-foot-8 without shoes and 247 pounds, 7 pounds more than his Hoosier playing weight. His 7-foot-4 ¼ wingspan was the second longest among the 60 participants behind 7-foot-1 Isaiah Austin (7-foot-4 ½ wingspan). His hands measured at 11 ¾ inches, the second best ever recorded behind Greg Smith's 12-inch hands.