High Five! Coach Hartleb gets extension till 2020

Coach HartlebThe wait is finally over.  Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb will be back as head coach with the Illinois baseball team for the 2015-16 season. 

Pending UI Board of Trustees approval, Hartleb received a five-year extension which will keep him on the team through the 2020 season.  Fighting Illini Director of Athletics Mike Thomas announced the decision on Wednesday:

“I’m excited about where Dan and his staff have our baseball program, which is on top of the Big Ten and among the nation’s best.  Dan is committed to developing our student-athletes into fine young men, on and off the field, and sets a great example with his tireless work in the community. We all look forward to the future of Fighting Illini Baseball under Dan’s leadership.”

Smart move and probably one of the least stressful matters that Mike Thomas has had to deal with as of late. 

I’m sure I’m not the only Fighting Illini baseball fan that breathed a sigh of relief when I heard this.  To say that Hartleb had a banner season in 2015 would be a definite understatement.  Under his care, Illinois won a school-record 50 games and advanced to the Super Regionals for the first time.  For his effort, Hartleb was named Big Ten Coach of the Year. 

Since his stock was so high, the idea that Dan Hartleb might take to greener pastures did cross my mind especially since much of the 2015 talent on Illinois’ team had graduated or been drafted.  Fortunately, for Illinois baseball fans, Dan Hartleb is here to stay, at least for another five years. 


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Chris Robinson is picking up the bat again for Team Canada

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Chris Robinson speaking at the 2014 Hot Stove Banquet

Long time Illini baseball fans will remember Chris Robinson.  He was the star catcher for Illinois from 2003-2005 and was drafted at a then-high 3rd round by the Tigers.  Between minor league stints with the Tigers and Cubs, Robbie would take his turn playing for Team Canada and was consistently a outstanding performer for them. 

Well, he’s back at it again. 

 

Robinson has come out of retirement to play for Team Canada for this year’s Pan-Am Games.  As the story goes, Canada’s director of Baseball national teams was looking for a replacement catcher and well, Robbie, 31 years old with two children, was convinced to join the team once again. 

Alexis Brudnicki of the Canadian Baseball Network has the full story.  

Good luck to Chris this summer!  For those who want in-depth details on Team Canada’s progress and more info on how Robbie is doing, I encourage you to check out Alexis on Twitter @baseballexis.


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FightingIllini.com unveils new web design

If you go to FightingIllini.com today, don’t be surprised to see some changes.  The entire website went through an overhaul with a site redesign.   

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Change is hard, even for an IT person like myself.  Sometimes it  takes some getting used to where information is on a website especially one that you visit on a regular basis.  I’m keeping that in mind as I navigate the new design. 

Overall, I like the new design.  I haven’t completely explored the entire Illini baseball site but there are components that I like and some that I can live with.  As an IT person on campus, I knew this design was coming and what style it was going to emulate so I wasn’t completely taken by surprise.  The new design emphasizes social media and high level of graphics and media without giving up accessibility standards. 

The new site continues to be mobile friendly, of course.  I’m sure a good percentage of their traffic has been coming from mobile users for a few years now.

Never fear, you can still access the Illinois baseball schedule, players’ stats and roster just like you could in the past. 

What are your thoughts?  Love it?  Hate it?


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Jay, Hartleb complement Illini Team of the Year award

It’s only appropriate that after a record breaking season that the Illinois baseball team end the season with another sweep.  This time though, they swept the end-of-year Illini athletic awards. 

Dike Eddleman Athlete of the Year

Along with track and field’s Stephanie Richartz who won top female Illini athlete, reliever Tyler Jay received the 2014-15 Dike Eddleman Award for the top male athlete.  Baseball fans know all about Jay.  He was the all the talk among the media.  His 1.08 ERA was third in the nation was helped by a 27 inning scoreless streak.  He set a school record with 14 saves.  All that helped to a Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Award plus a third round pick by the Minnesota Twins, the highest that any Illini has ever been chosen

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Illinois Coach of the Year 

Coach Dan Hartleb accomplished so much this year.  He won his 300th win.  He won 50 games in one season and the Big Ten championship with an incredible 21-1 record. He took the Illini as far as the Super Regionals… on his home turf. 

Hartleb had some stiff competition too.  It’s been a banner year for Illini sports with track and field, golf, gymnastics and tennis having great seasons.  However, no one had taken their team so far in one year than Coach Hartleb did.  With that, he took the Big Ten Coach of Year award and some memories he won’t soon forget. 

Fighting Illini Team of the Year

All that adds up the crowning achievement… Illinois baseball was named the Fighting Illini Team of the Year.  The accolades for the Big Ten Champs are just too long to list but here’s a short list.  They took the Big Ten Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Coach of the Year,  Their nine players drafted in 2015 nearly doubled the existing record.  A 27 game winning streak kept fans coming to the park.  With a 50-10-1 overall record and a 21-1 conference record, the team won their first NCAA Regional Championship and earned a Super Regional bid. 

In short, their pitching, hitting and fielding all clicked.  They played as a team and it showed and they were rewarded for it.

Congratulations to all in the program!!


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Summer leagues are in full swing! Which teams are the Illini playing?

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Mark Skonieczny is batting .341 for the Lake Erie Monarchs this summer

Now that the Illinois baseball season is over, the baseball players get to go home and have fun all summer, right?  Not necessarily.  They’re probably having fun but they are all honing their skills at collegiate baseball leagues around the country. 

Where are they?  Straight from the Fighting Illini program, here is the list of players along with the teams and leagues they are playing with this year. 

 

Player 2015 Team League
Nick Blackburn Wisconsin Rapids Northwoods
Anthony Drago Lombard Chicago
Jason Goldstein Madison Northwoods
Ryan Haff Lombard Chicago
Doug Hayes Waterloo Northwoods
Matt James Waterloo Northwoods
Zack Kolakowski Hutchinson Monarchs Kansas
Andrew Mamlic Lombard Chicago
Pat McInerney Kenosha Northwoods
Ryan Nagle Waterloo Northwoods
Charlie Naso Waterloo Northwoods
JD Nielsen Kenosha Northwoods
Ryne Roper Rochester Northwoods
Dan Rowbottom Springfield Sliders Prospect
Cody Sedlock Bourne Braves Cape Cod
Quinten Sefcik Terre Haute Rex Prospect
Mark Skonieczny Lake Erie Great Lakes
Adam Walton Rochester Northwoods

 

Here are links to the summer collegiate leagues

Cape Cod Baseball League | Chicago Suburban Baseball League | Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League | Kansas Collegiate Baseball League | Northwoods League | Prospect League

As usual, the Illini is maintaining a good relationship with the Northwoods League.  Ten Illini are playing in that league to the north which is one of the biggest leagues of its kind.  The Waterloo Bucks alone have four Illinois players.

A couple Illini have traveled far to play this summer.  Pitcher Cody Sedlock is in Bourne, Massachusetts to play for the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod Baseball League.  Zack Kolakowski went the other direction.  He’s playing shortstop for the Hutchison Monarchs in the Kansas Collegiate Baseball League. 

Good luck to all this summer!!


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Coach Spencer Allen hired away by Wildcats

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Big news on the coaching front this week.  Coach Spencer Allen after one year as assistant coach with Illinois, has accepted a head coach position at Big Ten rival  Northwestern.  It’s a big move up for Coach Allen.  All Illini fans I’ve talked to say they will miss him but think it is fantastic opportunity for him. 

Illinois grew so much in the last year.  There were a lot of factors that went into that and Coach Allen had a lot to do with that.  Illinois’ offense thrived under him and Illini players all related to his on-the-field excitement. 

Allen will have big shoes to fill.  Wildcat Coach Paul Stevens retired after 31 years and is the winningest coach in NU history.  No doubt, the Wildcats saw that Allen gained a lot of experience in the Fighting Illini’s run for the College World Series.  They’ll be getting a quality coach in Spencer Allen. 

Good luck, Spencer!! 

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In addition to the record nine draft picks, the 2015 Illinois team can add one more player to the list who will be going to the pros.  John Kravetz was signed as a free agent by the Toronto Blue Jays on the day after the draft was over.

As for those players who were drafted, keep an eye on the MLB Signing and Bonus Tracker to see when our guys get signed.  

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And while Tyler Jay is off to bigger and better things, he still has a couple items to wrap up here.  Such as winning the National College Baseball Hall of Fame’s National Pitcher of the Year Award.  Right now, he is a finalist with two others.  One of the other finalists is Carson Fulmer of Vanderbilt who pitched (and won) on Saturday night’s game of the Super Regional in Champaign.

Good luck, Tyler!


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Tyler Jay leads the way as nine Illini chosen in MLB Draft

Even after the 2015 Illinois baseball season is over, the team is breaking records.  Now that the MLB Draft is over, a total of nine Illini players have been chosen.  This breaks the school’s record of six from 1985.  Not only that, Illinois is top drafted team in the Big Ten and has the third highest total in the nation. 

Of course, the big news is the Minnesota Twins’ early pick of Tyler Jay on Monday night after his start in the Super Regional.  Jay was chosen sixth overall by the Twins.  Historically, he is the highest drafted Illini in the MLB draft and only the second Illini to be drafted in the first round (John Ericks was drafted 22nd overall in 1988).

Tuesday, two more early Illini draft picks.  starter Kevin Duchene was chosen by the Oakland A’s and slugger David Kerian got picked by the Washington Nationals.

By the end of today, a total of nine Illini were chosen.  Only Oklahoma (11) and UC-Santa Barbara (10) had more players drafted.   

 

Meet the the Illini Draft Class of 2015!

 

Tyler Jay

Left-handed Pitcher – Junior
First round – 6th pick overall
Minnesota Twins

 

 

Kevin Duchene

Left-handed Pitcher – Junior
Fifth round – 158th pick overall
Oakland Athletics

 

David Kerian

Firstbaseman – Senior
Ninth round – 284th pick overall
Washington Nationals

 

 

Jason Goldstein

Catcher – Junior
Seventeenth round – 522nd pick overall
Los Angeles Dodgers

 

 

Adam Walton

Shortstop – Redshirt Sophomore
Twentieth round – 613th pick overall
Baltimore Orioles

 

 

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Nick Blackburn

Right-handed Pitcher – Junior
Twenty-second round – 659th pick overall
New York Mets

 

 

Rob McDonnell

Left-handed Pitcher – Redshirt Senior
Twenty-fifth round – 762nd pick overall
Los Angeles Dodgers

 

 

Drasen Johnson

Right-handed Pitcher – Redshirt Senior
Twenty-sixth round – 767th pick overall
Colorado Rockies

 

Ryan Nagle

Outfielder – Junior
Twenty-seventh round – 817th pick overall
Pittsburgh Pirates

You can read Fighting Illini’s report on the draft here.  In the next few weeks, negotiations will be had and I’m sure some decisions will need to be made. 

Congratulations and good luck to all nine players! 


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Vanderbilt derails Illinois’ magical season in Super Regional

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Kevin Duchene salutes the fans after today’s loss

In today’s Super Regional elimination game against Vanderbilt at Illinois Field, Illinois (50-10-1) could not take advantage of scoring opportunities and lost a heartbreaker to the Commodores 4-2.  With the loss, Illinois’ magical record-breaking season is over.  

On the same day that he was eventually drafted #6 overall by the Minnesota Twins, Tyler Jay made his second start of the season.  He struck out six in six and a third innings but eventually got the loss.  Homeruns by Vanderbilt’s Zander Wiel and Dansby Swanson who went #1 in the MLB Draft today, did the Illini in. 

 

Game #61 / June 8, 2015    
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Six strikeouts but a tough loss for Tyler Jay

Despite the loss, Tyler Jay (5-2) pitched a solid game so I think it’s fair to say that Coach Hartleb’s gamble worked.  Jay spread out 10 hits and Vandy scored four runs but he also struck out six batters and walked none.  In comparison to Saturday’s 13-run game, four runs was something our offense can work with.

When Jay ran out of gas, Illini reliever Nick Blackburn came in and really shut down the Commodore offense.  He got the Illini out of a jam in the seventh and pitched a scoreless eighth inning. 

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Pat McInerney drives in a run in the 3rd inning

Ryan Nagle continued his hitting spree with three hits for the day.  For the two games, he had five hits total. Pat McInerney had two hits including an rbi single in the 3rd which drove home Casey Fletcher. 

In essence, the game just got away from the Illini.  It was back and forth for a while with Illinois having a slight edge until the offense stopped up.  They had a great opportunity in the key eighth inning when they loaded up the bases with just one out.  Unfortunately, they couldn’t capitalize. 

 

 

Random Ramblings

Photos of Game two of the Super Regional are here at the IBR photo gallery.  Illini fans, beware there are a few photos of Vandy players celebrating towards the end.  Fair warning. 

It shouldn’t be any surprise that Tyler Jay was drafted today.  He was picked up #6 overall by the Minnesota Twins.  He already has a little practice pitching from their mound.  The Illini played at Target Field during the Big Ten Tournament this year. 

MLB pitcher and Vanderbilt alum David Price was at the game today.  He had a few words to say about the pick of Jay…

Yeah, good luck with that, David!  Congratulations to Tyler Jay!!

It’s getting late but I would like to thank the 2015 Illinois Baseball players, coaches, staff and parents for a fantastic season I will never, ever forget. 

Thanks, Illini!!


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Game 2 of Super Regional postponed till Monday

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Illini players play the waiting game in the bullpen area

The fans showed up and the players warmed up for Sunday’s Super Regional game between Illinois and Vanderbilt.  As the 5:05pm starting time inched closer and the normal pre-game announcements and rituals we usually go through didn’t happen, I wondered if something was up.  Sure enough, we heard through the PA that the game was being delayed for 15 minutes… then for a half hour.  Then as many fans were heading for the gates, the ultimate announcement came that Sunday’s game was postponed. 

As a result, Game Two of the Illinois-Vanderbilt Super Regional has been postponed till Monday.  The time is yet to be announced 3pm CT.  When Illinois wins and a third game is necessary, it will be played on Tuesday. 

Eventually, a few folks have engaged Illini Senior Associate AD Mike Waddell in a little mini-drama on Twitter regarding the postponement that quite honestly, isn’t really worth reading.  The important thing is that both teams agreed to the postponement and more importantly, everyone is safe.  I’ve been on campus since I left Illinois Field and the storm here has been FIERCE.  By now, the storm has subsided a bit but it is still raining hard. 

Tomorrow’s forecast looks a little sunnier.  There should be rain in the morning but that should clear up by the afternoon. 

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Enough of nasty things like weather and postponements and twitter dramas… on to more important things like Illinois baseball’s Tyler Jay.  The Champaign Room wonders if he might get drafted while he is on the mound for the Illini.  Depending on when the game time is, it is certainly a possibility.  Check out TCR’s draft wrap up for Jay.  Vanderbilt has three top prospects in Dansby Swanson, Carson Fulmer and Walker Buehler who are all projected to go high in MLB’s draft as well.   

Finally, I spoke to Will Krug’s mother on his recent hitting surge in the past few weeks.  She told me that “he’s having too much fun” and that he “doesn’t want the season to end”.  I guess there’s no better incentive to play well!

Keep an eye on @IllinoisBaseball for Monday’s game time. 


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Backs against the wall, Hartleb pulls out his ace for Super Regional

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Tyler Jay gets his chance at a start vs. Vandy

With their backs against the wall, Illinois baseball will attempt to to tie their series with Vanderbilt in the NCAA Super Regional.  They were stunned in Saturday night’s opener getting walloped 13-0 by the Commodores. 

But Coach Hartleb has an aces up his sleeve.  Tonight’s game at 5pm (note the time due to the weather) will feature Illinois reliever Tyler Jay’s second start of the year.  Jay has 28 relief appearances and one start with 0.60 ERA.  His one start was back in February. 

With a win, Illinois will face Vanderbilt again on Monday.  With a loss, their 2015 season is over.

Game #61 / June 7, 2015    
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A rare off night for Duchene in his last Illinois Field start

A 13-0 game doesn’t leave a lot of room for highlights even for a homer fan like myself.  Saturday’s game just hurt to watch.  Kevin Duchene who has been on his game all year, just didn’t have it against Vanderbilt.  Now granted, he does have a tendency to give up a run in the first inning or so then shut down the offense.  That wasn’t the case on Saturday.  He gave up three runs in the first complete with a pitcher’s mound visit by Coach Drew Dickinson.  After giving up seven runs and four earned, Duchene was taken out in the fifth.  By far his earliest exit in this great season of his.

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Two hits for Ryan Nagle on Saturday

At the same time, the Illini offense was being shut down by premiere starter Carson Fulmer of Vanderbilt.  He kept the good guys down to just four hits, all singles.    Ryan Nagle had two of those hits.  Fulmer with his twitchy gestures on the mound and nasty delivery, walked five, struck out five but most importantly, won the game for Vanderbilt and improved his record to 13-2. 

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Two pitching efforts worth mentioning:  Cody Sedlock managed to pitch the only 1-2-3 inning of the night in the 6th.  Andrew Mamlic (above) also pitched a scoreless inning.   After giving up a leadoff hit in the eighth inning, he retired the Commodores.

 

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Insult to injury: Saturday’s game wasn’t without a little controversy.  With Vandy up 5-0,  their runner scored due to obstruction according to the umpire.  This occurred during a pickle between catcher Jason Goldstein and Adam Walton.  The tag was made but the man in blue called the runner safe due to obstruction.  This got Coach Hartleb out of the dugout and the Illini fans in an uproar. 

 

 

Random Ramblings

More photos are here at the IBR photo gallery.

As a friend of mine said, any way you look at Saturday’s 13-0 game, we’re still just down one game to none.  Now that Coach Hartleb has pulled out his ace in his sleeve in Tyler Jay, it could be anyone’s game.  Assuming we win tonight, we have a workhorse starter in Drasen Johnson for Monday.  That leaves John Kravetz or Nick Blackburn available for relief work today should we need it. 

I honestly have to hand it to the Vandy fans.  They are hard core supporters of their team.  A lot of them have come a long way to support their players.  They have creative chants and cheers something I always like to see no matter the team or sport. 

They also have to listen to this guy at every game.

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Known as the “whistle guy”, the rumor is that he is famous for his 3 high-pitched whistles… which he does all game.  I admire his dedication but if you sit next to him, I recommend earplugs. 

Finally, I’ll leave you with this.

This gives Sunday’s game a whole different perspective. 

Let’s go get ‘em, Illini!!


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