Former Illini Roark helps Nats clinch NL East

Tanner RoarkAny question as to former Illini Tanner Roark’s ability to pitch under pressure has now been put to rest.  Roark’s win for Washington Wednesday night clinched the NL East for the Nats with an 87-63 record.  He did it in style too, pitching seven shutout innings and not allowing a single walk.

MLB.com’s wrap-up of Roark’s win on Wednesday

Roark is now 14-10 with a 2.85 ERA.  His 14 wins is tied for the team lead.  There has been some question to Roark’s role once the Nats get to the postseason.  My guess is that the Nationals will go with what got them this far and he’ll continue to start.  ESPN has an interesting take on the question. 

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In other news, two current Illini were listed as ranked prospects in their respective summer leagues.  Kevin Duchene tops out at #19 for his work in the Cape Cod League and Tyler Jay checks in at #8 with Team USA.

Congrats to both! 


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Illini Baseball team takes practice at Illinois Field this week

This week, the Illinois baseball team have been practicing out at Illinois Field.  On Thursday afternoon, I took off work early and observed the guys in action. 

While I was there, I snapped a few shots. 

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I was especially interested to see this person.  This is newly installed assistant Coach Spencer Allen.  He has big shoes to fill but I can already tell I’ll like his style.  He’s got energy and will bring some excitement to this team. 

 

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Looks to me like catcher Jason Goldstein is giving David Kerian some tips on bunting. 

 

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Gate?  Who needs a gate?  Champaign native Grey Schultz leaps the fence with ease after chasing an errant ball. 

 

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Maybe it’s me but Charlie Naso looks like he trimmed up over the summer. 

 

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Fearless Leader.

 

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Kevin Duchene got some time on the mound…

 

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…and Kerian got practice fielding bunts. 

 

More photos from Thursday’s practice at the Illinois Baseball Report photo gallery.  I’m starting a new gallery for the 2014-2015 season.  You can see my entire Illinois Baseball Report photo gallery which goes back to 2005 here

Also, in case you missed it, the Illinois Baseball roster has now been updated on the Fighting Illini website.


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Former Illini catcher Davis joins Gators coaching staff

Lars DavisUniversity of Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan announced the appointment of Lars Davis as volunteer assistant coach of the Gators baseball team.  Davis is of course, a former Illini catcher and was named Big Ten Player of the Year back in 2007. 

A native of Canada, Lars Davis (shown right at the 2007 Big Ten Tournament) was drafted in the 3rd round in 2007 by the Colorado Rockies.  Since then, he’s played for the Rockies, Phillies and Diamondbacks organizations. 

Lars has to be pretty excited about this opportunity.  Florida is a recognized baseball powerhouse and is consistently ranked highly nationwide.  At the end of this past season, they were ranked 25th in the nation. 

Good luck, Lars!


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Fall semester is here and so is a new banner

It’s the fall semester now at the University of Illinois. As is the tradition with the Illinois Baseball Report this time of year, I’ve replaced the banner photo with up to date photos (and players!).  I do put some thought into who goes up top but it’s certainly not a scientific formula.  I tend to rotate players when I can and try to get a mix of hitters and pitchers. 

For reference, here’s the photo you all saw for the last year:

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The new banner photo has the current Illini from left to right:

First, starter Drasen Johnson who had a solid 2014 with a 2.91 ERA.  Here’s hoping for better offensive support for him in 2015. 

Reid Roper who is my only repeat from last year.  Given his performance with the Rochester Honkers this summer, I’m expecting big things from him in the spring.

Tyler Jay had a fantastic summer with Team USA and came home with plenty of hardware for his mantle. 

Casey Fletcher really showed off what he could do with his bat towards the end of the 2014 season for the Illini.  I’m looking for more of the same. 

Finally, I’m looking for Rob McDonnell to have a breakout year for the Illini.  He went 7-3 with a 3.29 ERA for the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods League.  Like Roper, that may translate to a great spring. 

 

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Rumor has it from management that individual practice for Illini Baseball has already started this past week.  They may start practice on Illinois Field as early as next week.  Keep an eye on the Fighting Illini web site or on this site for a scheduled date for the intrasquad Orange and Blue World Series this fall. 


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Tyler Jay makes MLB.com prospects list

Tyler JayIllini reliever Tyler Jay was listed as one of Team USA’s top prospects by MLB.com’s Jim Callis yesterday. 

Says Callis:

“Undrafted in 2012 as an Illinois high school senior who topped out at 90 mph, he now has a fastball that peaks at 97 and sits at 93-95 mph, even when he works on consecutive days. Jay isn’t physical at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, but he’s very athletic and has a very quick arm.”

Callis’ praises are well deserved.  Jay didn’t allow a single earned run in 16 2/3 innings in Team USA action this summer.  He did strike out 21 batters though.  For the summer, Team USA went 18-8-2 with Tyler’s help.

Looking forward to seeing some more of that in the spring, Tyler!


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Reid Roper awarded Honker of the Year

IMG_4282This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone following Reid Roper’s summer up in Rochester but it has recently been announced that he has been named “Honker of the Year” by his summer league team the Rochester Honkers.

Not only did Roper become the Honkers’ all-time leader in hits, walks, rbis and games, he also topped the entire Northwoods League record in at-bats with a total of 783 career at-bats.

He topped off his final year with Rochester with a walk-off homerun in his final game against St. Cloud. 

Rochester team website had some glowing words about our Illini representative: “A legendary career makes him one of the most deserving Honker of the Year winners ever”.

Congratulations, Reid!!

Other news around the summer leagues

B1G Baseball reports that Kevin Duchene put in a pretty impressive performance over the weekend for his Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape Cod League.  Kevin pitched a “Duchene-esque” game allowing just one hit and striking out 12 against the Orleans Firebirds in the East Division semi-finals.  With the win, the Red Sox go on to the finals. 

Duchene is 4-3 with a 2.88 ERA this summer. 

Robby McDonnell has had quite a year for the Northwoods League’s Madison Mallards. His seven wins ranks tied for second among all pitchers.  He’s 7-3 with a nifty 3.29 ERA.

The Northwoods League is now in heat of its playoffs, by the way. 


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New Assistant Coach Spencer Allen gives his first interview

Not wasting any time, newly hired assistant coach Spencer Allen was already giving interviews on the first day here on the University of Illinois campus.  Courtesy of Illini Productions HD, here is Coach Allen’s first interview. 

There’s nothing too surprising in the content.  As expected, Coach Allen does place an emphasis on recruiting as well as working with “position players and hitters” which makes sense as assistant coach Drew Dickinson is obviously our player’s guru for sage pitching advice. 

Recruiting-wise, Coach Allen is looking forward to using his recruiting experience to reap the benefits from baseball-rich Chicago area. 

Again, welcome Coach Allen!


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Reid Roper breaking summer league records up in Rochester

reid roperIt seems Illini infielder infielder/pitcher Reid Roper has been making headlines all season helping his summer league team Rochester Honkers win ballgames (here are just a couple from the Northwoods League website and the Post-Bulletin). 

Now, Roper is in the news because he is breaking another record.  According to the Post-Bulletin, Roper holds the all-time hits record for the Honkers. On Monday night, he collected his 180th hit in a Rochester uniform which surpassed Mike Maslowski’s record which stood for 18 years. 

Play was stopped after Roper hit his single on Monday night and he received the ball that was hit.  Unfortunately for Roper and the rest of the Honkers, Rochester lost the game to St. Cloud Rox 5-4.

Roper would have preferred the win, of course:

"The loss detracts (from the hits record) a little bit; obviously you want the team to do well and get the win…It’s definitely special to me; the hits record is looked upon as a high achievement, I think.”

Reid Roper already holds the team record for career at-bats, games played and walks. 


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Introducing new assistant coach Spencer Allen!

With the departure of assistant coach Eric Snider, the Illinois Baseball program didn’t waste time in finding a replacement to fill the coaching ranks.  They’ve landed Spencer Allen who comes most recently from Creighton University’s coaching staff.  Allen also has ties to the Big Ten having coached with Purdue a couple years.  Coach Allen has the official title of Assistant Coach for the Illinois baseball team.

Allen can claim considerable success in his recent stint with Creighton.  Overall, the Bluejays went 62-35-1 with Allen as Assistant Coach.  In 2013, they placed third in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 13-8 conference record.  The following,  they took the BIG EAST by surprise winning the conference in their initial year in the conference with a 32-17-1 record. 

 

Spencer Allen’s Timeline

  • 2001:  Graduated with a B.A. in History, Iowa State
  • 2008: Received an M.S. in Sports Management California University of Pennsylvania
  • 2005-06: Assistant Coach, Creighton
  • 2008-09: Assistant Coach, Purdue
  • 2010-12:  Assistant Coach, Washington State
  • 2013-14: Associate Coach, Creighton
  • 2014-??  Assistant Coach, Illinois

 

Illini baseball fans know that former Illinois coach Snider was a formidable recruiter.  While no one expects Coach Allen to fill Snider’s shoes immediately, he does bring some scouting skills to the table.  He acted as an area scout for the Detroit Tigers and helped them recruit talent for their organization.

Coach Hartleb says:

"I am extremely excited about the addition of Spencer Allen to our coaching staff.  Spencer has a proven track record of being one of the top recruiters in the Midwest. He has great experience and is well-respected by his peers as a recruiter and an on-the-field coach. Spencer will continue to help us bring in quality players that allow us to compete at the national level. Spencer brings a great work ethic with high energy and impeccable integrity."

Coach Allen says:

"I am very excited to be a part of the Illinois baseball program, this coaching staff and the athletic department.  I am very familiar with this program and the success it has had recently and in its rich history. I look forward to meeting with the players and getting things going once I get on campus."

Spencer Allen hails from Olympia, Washington and attended Iowa State University where he was named an All-Big 12 Academic selection and served as team captain in his final year. 

You can read Coach Spencer Allen’s bio on the Fighting Illini’s website.  Welcome aboard, Coach Allen!


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Coach Snider is packing his bags and heading to Louisville

Eric SniderThe news that Coach Eric Snider has been hired by the Louisville Cardinals as an assistant coach is very bittersweet indeed. 

Coach Snider has been with the Illini since 1999 and has been head coach Dan Hartleb’s right-hand man since he took over.  He’s a smart baseball man and quite known for recruiting talents.  He can lay claim to 27 recruits who have gone on to professional baseball. 

 

Coach Eric Snider’s Timeline

  • 1992-1993 Champaign Colts Manager
  • 1992-1995 Austin Peay State Assistant Coach
  • 1995-1998 Waterloo Bucks GM/Head Coach
  • 1999-2008 Illinois Assistant Coach
  • 2008-2014 Illinois Associate Head Coach

 

It will be an exciting move for Snider and I’m begrudgingly happy for him.  The fact that Louisville wants him on their team, says a lot about the man.  The Cardinals are consistently in the ranked in the top twenty in the nation. 

What does Illini head coach Dan Hartleb say?

"Eric is an outstanding recruiter and has done a great job throughout the country, in particular in the Midwest. He has a great eye for talent and will continue to bring in quality players to the University of Louisville. He has a great offensive mind and does an excellent job relating to players. He teaches the necessary skills and mechanics to be a successful hitter at the highest levels of baseball. Eric will be a great asset for the University of Louisville."

From where I stand, Coach Snider has always had a good rapport with Illini players, parents and fans. For me, it will not be the same without him in his usual spot as the third base coach. 

Thanks and good luck Coach Snider!  And remember, it’s Loo-ah-vul. 


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