The battle of the top teams: Can Illinois make a stand against Indiana?

Drasen Johnson

Support your local starting pitcher:  Drasen Johnson is 4-4 with a 2.30 ERA

You could say it was Illinois’ biggest series of the year but even that is an understatement.  In some ways, this weekend’s three game set against Indiana is one the highlights of the conference.  Imagine the two best teams facing off against each other and that’s pretty much what you have.  Indiana is who is tops in the Big Ten and just recently hit the national college baseball rankings at #24.  Illinois is second in the Big Ten with a 9-3 mark and with some luck, could pass the Hoosiers in the conference standings. 

Indeed, it will be a series to watch.

Illinois fans looking for some historical reasons to be optimistic… the Fighting Illini lead the series history against Indiana 111-73-1 and we’ve been very lucky against them at home (62-28).  For good measure, we won our last game against Indiana last year. 

Coach Hartleb is going with what works.  According to the FightingIllini.com weekend preview, he’s throwing the same three pitchers that have gotten him this far.  Drasen Johnson (4-4, 2.30) will work Friday’s game.  John Kravetz (4-1, 3.00) is on the hill on Saturday and Ryan Castellanos (4-2, 4.43) will start on Sunday. 

 

 


Illinois Field
 
Champaign, Illinois

Fri. April 25

6:00 pm CT

Sat. April 26

3:00 pm CT

Sun. April 27

1:00 am CT

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Indiana University Hoosiers

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26-11 (11-1 Big Ten)

2014 stats

I don’t need to tell any college baseball fan just how good the Hoosiers are.  Since their College World Series appearance last year, they’ve been favorites to win the conference in 2014.  They haven’t proved anyone wrong by getting off to a 11-1 start in the Big Ten season (their one loss was to Michigan in case you are interested).  If their conference record doesn’t impress you, maybe their RPI ranking of #4 in the nation will. 

But the one thing about the game of baseball is that anything can happen provided that there is the will.  If there is a key series for Illinois this year, so far, this one is it. 

Following this weekend’s games

I encourage every Illinois baseball fan to make it out to the games this weekend (and bring a friend!).  If you can’t though, you can follow the games via GameTracker or its new Mobile Live version.  WDWS will be broadcasting at AM1400 with Dave Loane and Co. behind the mike.  As always, here’s the Twitter feed for @IllinoisBaseball

Bleacher Bum BBQ!

It’s time for Illinois Baseball’s annual Bleacher Bum BBQ!  Before Sunday’s game you can enjoy the fun, food and maybe a win, too!  This year, the first 500 fans at Sunday’s game will enjoy barbecue provided by Hickory River restaurant.  Free mini-helmets will be given away for the first 1000 fans as well. 

Come out and enjoy the festivities!!

See you at the ballpark!


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Ryne Roper honored by Big Ten

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Each week when the Big Ten awards announcement is released, I eagerly read it in anticipation of another Illinois player getting their due.  Some weeks, it’s apparent that our guys won’t be named but some like this week, the powers-that-be at the conference office see it our way.  Indeed, this week one of our players was named.  Ryne Roper was honored as Big Ten Freshman of the Week and it is certainly well deserved.

Thirdbaseman Ryne Roper really did his part in last weekend’s sweep of Penn State.  He went five for twelve while scoring three runs and driving home three.  Most importantly, Ryno has really started to hit lately.  While his overall batting average is .252, he’s hitting .340 in Big Ten play. 

Official Big Ten Baseball weekly announcement

Congrats Ryne!

 

The Lee and Euline Eilbracht Memorial Scholarship Fund

The U of I Division of Intercollegiate Athletics has announced the Lee and Euline Eilbracht Memorial Scholarship Fund.  Named for the winningest coach in Illinois baseball history and his wife, the fund was established to “assist in the education of University of Illinois baseball student-athletes”. 

Those who know Illinois baseball history, are familiar with Lee Eilbracht. He is a legend of the game as a player, a coach and a representative of the sport of college baseball.  Those who are interested in contributing to the Lee and Euline Eilbracht Memorial Scholarship Fund can find more information here at FightingIllini.com.

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Finally, FightingIllini.com has game previews on the midweek games for this week.  The Illinois-Eastern game is just starting as I write this. 

Go Illini!!


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Happy days in Happy Valley!

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Will Krug now batting .329 with 15 stolen bases

On Sunday, Illinois completed a sweep at Penn State (17-19, 5-6 Big Ten) behind the pitching of Ryan Castellanos.  Penn State had the lead in each of the three games this weekend and two of the games were truly comeback efforts with Nit leads in the later innings. 

With the three game sweep, Illinois improves to 21-14 overall and 9-3 in the Big Ten conference.  That’s good for sole occupation for second place in the Big Ten behind powerful Indiana (11-1).

 
 
Game #33 / April 18, 2014    
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On Friday, Drasen Johnson did his usual great job.  He did give up nine hits in six plus innings but spread them out and only gave up one walk.  After getting into a bit of a jam, Coach Hartleb called on Tyler Jay who promptly got him out of it.  By the end, Johnson had only given up one run in 6 1/3 innings and Jay pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. 

Jay got the win due to a four-run rally in the 8th in which all nine Fighting Illini came to bat. That was highlighted by a Ryne Roper two-run base hit.  Brother Reid Roper came in for the save in the ninth and while he made things interesting hitting two bases and loading the bases, he got the job done.  That’s Roper’s second save of 2014. 

Box Score

Wrapup

 
Game #34 / April 19, 2014    
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On Saturday, it was another comeback win for the Illini and they did it with another four-run rally, this time in the seventh.  Down 3-2, Adam Walton singled home Ryne Roper and Casey Fletcher to key the seventh inning rally.  One at-bat later, David Kerian drove home Walton along with Will Krug with another base hit. 

Krug added two more with a two run single in the 8th. 

Starter John Kravetz notched his fourth win of the season allowing nine hits and just one walk in 6 2/3 innings and striking out six.  J.D. Nielsen got a key out in the seventh while Ronnie Muck and Charlie Naso pitched one perfect inning each. 

Box Score

Wrapup

 
 
Game #35 / April 20, 2014    
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The Illini wrapped it up on Sunday with another win and while it wasn’t a comebacker, Penn State made it close.  Down 7-3, the Nittany Lions scored three in the late innings to make it a little uncomfortable for Illinois.  Ryan Castellanos who pitched a solid game ( three runs in six innings) got the win and improves to 4-2 for the year.  Tyler IMG_5376Jay earned his fifth save of 2014 despite giving up two runs in the ninth. 

Offensively, every player did his part, literally.  All nine starters either had an rbi, a run scored or both.  David Kerian contributed two doubles and Ryne Roper and Michael Hurwitz both had two hits. 

And yes, Adam Walton (left) has continued his hit streak through the weekend.  Now batting in the second spot in the lineup, Walton collected two hits on Friday, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.  His hit streak has been extended to 17 games and he his now hitting .306 for the year.  

Box Score

Wrapup

Next up

Two re-scheduled midweek games on the schedule…

A game against the Eastern Illinois Panthers at Illinois will be played at Illinois Field on Tuesday at 6pm.  Then on Wednesday, Illinois goes down to Busch Stadium to take on the Missouri Tigers.  Game time is 6:30pm. 

Go Illini!


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Illinois test their luck against Penn State this weekend

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Catcher Jason Goldstein takes a team leading .377 batting average into this weekend

This weekend, the Illini baseball team travel to State College to reverse their recent downward trend against Penn State (17-16, 5-3 Big Ten).  After winning ten of eleven games, Illinois (18-14, 6-3) has now lost three straight including a 6-2 loss on Tuesday against Illinois State.

Pitching matchups have been announced for the weekend.  Coach Hartleb isn’t deviating from his mound personnel but he is moving John Kravetz (3-1, 3.05) to the Saturday slot and Ryan Castellanos (3-2, 4.41) to Sunday.  Drasen Johnson (4-4, 2.40) seems to have the Friday spot down pretty solid. 

Adam Walton has continued to hit through the dry spell.  He has a 14 game hit streak going.  After starting the season 0 for 20, he is now hitting a nifty .314. 

 


Medlar Field at Lubrano Park
 
State College, Pennsylvania

Fri. April 18

5:30 pm CT

Sat. April 19

1:00 pm CT

Sun. April 20

11:00 am CT

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Penn State University Nittany Lions

psb

17-16 (5-3 Big Ten)

2014 stats

Penn State started out the conference season with a 4-0 record but since then have lost three of four games.  We can thank the Buckeyes for that.  They took the Nits for two games last weekend. 

With a similar win loss record, the Nittany Lions look comparable to the Illini.  They have solid hitting though not much power even compared to Illinois.  They’ve been out-homered 15 to 3 so far this year.  However with some exceptions, they do have good pitching and very good speed.

Look out for OF Steve Snyder who is hitting .374 for the year. 

Following this weekend’s games

You can follow the games at Happy Valley via GameTracker or its new Mobile Live version.  Sunday’s game will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network’s BTN2Go.  WDWS will be broadcasting at AM1400 with Dave Loane and Co. behind the mike.  As always, here’s the Twitter feed for @IllinoisBaseball

 

Go Illini!


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Illinois drops last game to Michigan 4-2

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A fine performance but no decision for John Kravetz today

Illinois didn’t take advantage of a solid pitching performance by starter John Kravetz and dropped the last game of their three game series to Michigan 4-2.  The winds were still blowing out to left center but both starters managed to keep the ball in the park and keep the score down.  Kravetz (3-1), who got a no decision for the game, did well allowing six hits and one walk in six innings, keeping the Wolverines to just two runs.  Ronnie Muck (0-3) gave up a run in the eighth and the ninth innings each and was tagged with the loss. 

In the bottom of the sixth, Reid Roper kept hopes alive by driving home David Kerian which tied the game at 2-2.  Kerian showed some hustle by stealing second prior to that.  Base running was something the Illini were having a little trouble with today.  Three key runners were caught stealing.  Not only that, four runners were picked off.  Coach Hartleb alluded to that in his post game statement:

"We were not very smart and did not play good baseball today.  We made fundamental mistakes. We were very poor on the base paths and didn’t use the field at the plate. We are at the point in the season where we need guys to produce, but we aren’t getting that done offensively."

 

This is the first time in almost a month (March 15) that the Illini have lost two games in a row.  They are now 6-3 in conference play. 

 
 
Game #31 / April 13, 2014    
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Adam Walton extended his hit streak to 13 games in today’s loss

Will Krug had a three hits in today’s game.  He’s had multiple hits in all three games this weekend and went 8 for 14 for the weekend… Casey Fletcher and Reid Roper joined Krug in the offensive action with two hits each today… Roper had a pretty decent weekend himself going 6 for 11… Adam Walton’s hitting streak keeps plugging along.  He went 1 for 4 on Sunday.  His streak is now at thirteen games, I believe.   

My photos from Sunday’s game. 

Box Score

Wrapup

Next up

On Tuesday at 6pm, Illinois hopes to make up their previously scheduled game against Illinois State.  The game will be played at Duffy Bass Field in Normal, Illinois. 

Go Illini!


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Illini get spanked by Michigan 17-9

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Will Krug’s 3 for 5 performance wasn’t enough to overcome Michigan’s 17 runs

Before today, Illinois hurlers hadn’t given up a run for 25 innings.  As I approached Illinois Field, I knew that win or lose, that streak wasn’t going to last.  The winds were blowing straight out to centerfield.  As Rod, the friendly gate person said before the game, “We’re going to have a football score today.”  Indeed we did. 

The Michigan Wolverines defeated Illinois 17-9.  I’ll give the Illini credit.  While they never had the lead, they at least made it interesting.  Michigan got off to 5-0 start by the first inning and were ahead as much as 10-3 in the fourth but Illinois kept at it.  As late as the 7th inning, Michigan’s lead dwindled to 11-9 and with the blustery day anything could have happen.  Unfortunately, that was all the offense the Fighting Illini could muster by then.  Michigan kept at it though and added six more by game’s end. 

The loss breaks the Illini’s six game win streak and gives them a 6-2 Big Ten mark. 

 
 
Game #30 / April 12, 2014    
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David Kerian’s three-run homer in the third gave the Illini some hope

Obviously, there was plenty of offense on both sides today.  Michigan had 23 hits to go with their 17 runs.  That’s going to do a number on Illinois’ team ERA which they have been so deservedly proud of.  Going into this weekend, they had a 2.80 ERA but it’s gone up to 3.15 now. 

That said, the Illinois hitters didn’t give up and put some big numbers on the board.  David Kerian got things going in the third inning with a three-run homerun.   For the game, he was 3 for 5 with 4 rbis.  Will Krug went 3 for 5 and drove home two runs in the fourth inning.  Michael Hurwitz proved he can do more than walk when he doubled home two in that same inning. 

Ryne Roper also collected three hits (a career high for him) and scored twice.  Adam Walton extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a hit in the fourth inning. 

The pitching lines aren’t pretty.  The first five pitchers that entered the game were scored upon.  Only Charlie Naso who was called on to mop things up in the ninth came through unscathed. 

I took some photos today.  You can see them here.   

Box Score

Wrapup

Next up

The rubber game against Michigan is Sunday at 1pm at Illinois Field.  Last week’s Big Ten Pitcher of the Week John Kravetz is scheduled to pitch for the good guys. 

and just to end on a more positive note….

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Go Illini!


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Drasen Johnson shuts down Michigan 1-0

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Drasen Johnson makes do with one run

For the first time since 1969, Illinois Baseball has won two consecutive 1-0 shutouts.  Last night’s win against Michigan was behind the performance of Drasen Johnson who has gotten used to little support from the Illini offense.  Fortunately, one run was all he needed to defeat the Wolverines.  Johnson pitched seven innings of shutout ball extending the streak of scoreless innings by Illinois pitchers to 25. 

Illinois’ win was their sixth in a row.  That puts them at 6-1 in conference play and 18-11 overall. 

 
 
 
Game #29 / April 11, 2014    
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It was the fourth when the Illini showed their only only offense of the game.  Ryne Roper singled home Michael Hurwitz.  It was a key run in more ways than one.  Will Krug led that inning with a double and got picked off and Hurwitz then singled.  The way both pitchers were going, that pickoff might have been a big play.  Fortunately, Roper got the big rbi hit which made the difference in the game. 

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Adam Walton’s hit streak is now at 11

Shortstop Adam Walton went 1 for 3 which extends his hitting streak to 11 games.  That’s now best on the team for the year.  He’s now hitting .298.  Pretty good for someone who started out hitting 0-20 this year.

A few photos from the game are here. 

Box Score

Wrapup

Next up

Saturday’s game against Michigan begins at 3pm at Illinois Field.  Ryan Castellanos is on the hill. 

Go Illini!


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Illinois Baseball to host Wolverines this weekend

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Shortstop Adam Walton brings a 10-game hitting streak into this weekend

After two Big Ten weekends, Illinois Baseball is off to a 5-1 conference start (17-11 overall).  That by the way, is the best Big Ten start under Coach Dan Hartleb’s reign.  Illinois hopes to continue their good luck against slightly stiffer competition at home this weekend.  They will be hosting the Michigan Wolverines who sport a 14-18-1 overall record and 4-5 conference mark.

After last weekend’s sweep of the Wildcats, Coach Hartleb probably is figuring he’d better leave things well enough alone as far as the pitching rotation.  As well he should.  Last weekend, Illinois pitching got the job done giving up just two runs in the three games.  So according to the FightingIllini.com weekend preview, we’ll be seeing the same three hurlers.  It will be Drasen Johnson (3-4, 2.74) on Friday night, Ryan Castellanos (3-1, 3.18) on Saturday afternoon and Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, John Kravetz (3-1, 3.06) on the mound on Sunday. 

 


Illinois Field
 
Champaign, Illinois

Fri. April 11

6:00 pm CT

Sat. April 12

3:00 pm CT

Sun. April 13

1:00 pm CT

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University of Michigan Wolverines

michigan

14-18-1 (4-5 Big Ten)

2014 stats

Michigan’s 14-18-1 record may be a little deceiving.  Unlike some of the other teams Illinois has faced, the Wolverines have faced some tough opponents.  During the non-conference season, they took on teams like Houston and UCLA.  Granted they lost all of those games but facing a team that’s currently ranked in the polls counts for something.  Also consider that their first Big Ten opponent was Indiana who currently resides in first place in the Big Ten with an 8-1 conference record. 

So is Michigan all that good?  Well, they’re probably better than their .439 winning percentage but I think their beatable.  Tough schedule or no, they still have a .240 batting average which ranks 9th in the conference.  Illinois pitchers just need to continue what they’ve been doing all conference season and our hitters need to back them up like last weekend. 

Following this weekend’s games

If you’re coming out to Illinois Field, you can follow the games via GameTracker or its new Mobile Live version.  WDWS will be broadcasting at AM1400 with Dave Loane and Co. behind the mike.  Here’s the Twitter feed for @IllinoisBaseball

 

Alma Mater returns from the disabled list

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It’s not really baseball related but the big news this Wednesday was the return of the University of Illinois landmark, the Alma Mater.  After almost two years being reconditioned, she is now back in her rightful spot.  Hard to believe that until now, current second semester sophomores have not yet seen what is considered the physical symbol of our campus. 

Over my lunch hour, I strolled by Wright and Green and snapped a few photos of the fully restored Alma Mater being restored to her place.  You can see the photos here

See you at the ballpark!


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Kravetz takes Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors

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With the three game sweep of the Wildcats this weekend, I had a feeling the Big Ten was going to throw an award the Illini’s way this week.  Sure enough, John Kravetz was named Pitcher of the Week.  He becomes the second Illini to receive the award.  Kevin Duchene was dubbed Pitcher of the Week in March. 

It’s a deserved award.  Kravetz nailed the door shut on the Illini sweep of Northwestern with eight shutout innings (a career high for John).  He struck out seven batters and walked none in Illinois’ 1-0 win over the Wildcats.

Official Big Ten announcement

Tonight’s game postponed

If you hadn’t already heard, tonight’s game against Eastern Illinois University in Mattoon has been canceled due to unplayable field conditions.  When I first read this, I wondered why.  It was nice and sunny here in Urbana.  Fifteen minutes later, though, we had a sun shower.  I guess that’s why I’m not in charge.

It has still not determined whether the game will be rescheduled. 

Willie Argo gets a promotion 

orangebluesun09 002Those of us fortunate to watch Willie Argo play for Illinois knew that he was destined to play in the pros.  His dreams to play in the bigs just got that much closer as he recently got promoted to AA ball and is now playing for the Tampa affiliate Montgomery  Biscuits.  He’s already making some noise too.  So far in four games, he already has a homerun and a triple

Keep it going, Willie!

Finally, don’t forget, Michigan is in town this weekend!!


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Illini sweep the Wildcats behind Kravetz’ strong Sunday performance

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Eight shutout innings for John Kravetz

For the second time this weekend, the Illini shut out Northwestern.  On Sunday, John Kravetz pitched a career high scoreless eight innings for his third win of season.   The Illinois offense managed just one run today but that’s all they would need behind Kravetz’ pitching.  David Kerian singled in the fourth inning and a wild pitch later, Jason Goldstein drove him home with an rbi hit. 

In addition to Kravetz’ performance (8 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K), Ronnie Muck earned his first save of 2014 by pitching a scoreless ninth inning and completing the shutout. 

The series sweep against the Wildcats gives Illinois a nice 5-1 Big Ten record plus a respectful 17-11 overall record.

 
 
 
Game #28 / April 6, 2014    
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Some stats to savor from the weekend:

Illini pitching gave up just two runs in the three-game set with Northwestern over 30 innings.  They now have a 2.80 team ERA.

It wasn’t just the pitching either.  Overall, the Illini outscored the Wildcats 20-2. 

The Illini walked 19 times this weekend.  Believe it or not, not all of them belong to Michael Hurwitz. 

In contrast, Illinois pitchers only gave up two walks against Northwestern in the three game set. 

Most importantly, Illinois has won their last five games and nine of their last ten games.  Their 5-1 Big Ten record is currently second behind Indiana in the conference. 

Box Score

Wrapup

Next up

On Tuesday, the Illini have an away midweek game at Eastern Illinois.  Game time is 6pm at Peterson Park in Mattoon, Illinois. 

Go Illini!


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