Illinois Baseball begin conference season in East Lansing

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Adam Walton leads the team in steals and is tied for the team lead in runs scored

The Illinois baseball team have had great ride up until now.  They are 18-5-1 and are ranked as high as #17 in the polls.  Throw that all out the window now because the Big Ten season starts Saturday.  Conference game are a whole new ball of wax.  Tensions are higher, wins are more meaningful and the game of baseball in the Big Ten is taken up a notch of two.

This Saturday, the Illini will begin their conference season against the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing.  According to the Fighting Illini weekend preview, the pitching probables are Kevin Duchene (3-1, 0.67 ERA) on Saturday, Drasen Johnson (3-1, 1.85) and John Kravetz (1-0, 2.82) on Monday.   Kravetz, with 20 wins, will once again attempt to break free of the six-way tie for eighth place in career wins for an Illini.

 

McLane Baseball Stadium at Kobs Field
East Lansing, Michigan

Sat. March 28

12:00 pm CT

Sun. March 29

12:00 pm CT

Mon. March 30

12:00 am CT

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Michigan State Spartans

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W-L: 11-11 Big Ten 1-2

 

The Spartans of Michigan State have played pretty even keel with their opponents so far in 2015.  They are 11-11 while slightly outscoring their opponents 93-89.  They’ve outhit them .255 to .241 while their ERA lags a bit 3.79 to 3.59.  All told, they’ve played tough though their starting three have hard luck with a combined record of 2-9.

This will be the Spartans’ second Big Ten series this season.  They took on Ohio State and won their Friday’s match then dropped the last two.  They also defeated Northwestern in an early season non-conference game 3-2.

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Look for the return this season of Spartan Cam Gibson (left), son of former MLB star Kirk Gibson.  Gibson is leading Michigan State in runs scored (17) and steals (10).

 

Random Ramblings

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May 4, 2014: Walk-off hit by Casey Fletcher leads to celebrations

In case you forgot what happened the last time the Illini played the Michigan State Spartans, this should spark your memory.  Casey Fletcher topped off his five-homer week with his second walk-off hit in two games.  Illinois defeated MSU 10-9 in ten innings and swept the Spartans.  It’s one of those games that stick in your mind.

Whaddya, think, Casey?  Got walk-off?

I am glad to see Nick Blackburn’s photo featured on this weekend preview.  With all IMG_3832.jpgpress that Tyler Jay has deservedly gotten, both he and J.D. Nielsen (right) have done a fine job in past few weeks.  Blackburn’s role has been as a setup man and he’s really gotten it done.  He’s only allowed three runs and one walk all season.  Coach Hartleb has gone to Nielsen as a short reliever to get the Illini out of some nasty jams.  So far, J.D. has allowed one run in 7 2/3 innings and has been particularly effective.

Don’t forget, the schedule is a bit wacky this weekend.  All games have been moved back one day.

Go Illini!! 


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McDonnell, Illini bats dim Kent State Golden Flashes, 9-4

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Rob McDonnell pitched five scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 1.14

I’m glad we got a home game in today.  This is the last of a scheduled ten-game home stand (though yesterday’s game was canceled).  The Illini made the most of it too.  Starter Rob McDonnell (2-1) pitched five shutout innings against the Kent State Golden Flashes (10-10) to get his second win.  The offense really came through with nine runs on twelve hits.  While KSU made it a little interesting toward the end of the game, Illinois won 9-4 and their record stands at 18-5-1 as they head into the Big Ten season this weekend. 

 

Game #24 / March 25, 2015    
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Matt James hits a bases loaded triple in the 7th inning

Rob McDonnell set the tone for the game and the offense followed suit.  McDonnell only allowed three hits and walked two in five scoreless innings.  He struck out four KSU batters. 

Pat McInerney got the Illini on the board with a rbi double in the first.  Illinois was helped by a KSU error and a wild pitch in the 3rd inning.  Add four Illinois hits to that and you have two more runs. 

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Jason Goldstein gets welcomed at home by Josh Ferry and David Kerian after scoring on Matt James’ triple

Illinois’ big inning came in the seventh inning when things got a little wild, literally.  Kent State walked the bases loaded then Jason Goldstein walked getting himself a free rbi.  Matt James then tripled with the bases juiced knocking in all three runners.  All told, five runs scored in the seventh inning giving Illinois a 9-1 lead. 

Things did get a little too interesting after the Golden Flashes scored two in the eighth inning then loading the bases in the ninth.  Coach Hartleb had an ace up his sleeve though.  He moved secondbaseman Reid Roper to the mound, firstbaseman David Kerian to second and Matt James to first. 

Roper got the three outs needed with a hit interspersed.  Only one more Kent State run scored on a sac fly.  

 

 

Random Ramblings

You can find photos from today here

David Kerian at second base.  Hmm, what kind of thought went into that with capable second basemen on our bench?  Well, I’m not the coach of a #17 ranked team so I won’t question it.

 

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Will Krug steals his 7th base this season

Good to see Will Krug have a good day as a starter.  He went 2 for 3 with a run scored.  At .214, he is now batting above the above the Mendoza line.  The same could be said for Ryan Nagle who had a slow start this season.  He’s finally gotten into the groove.  He had 3 hits today and finds the second spot in the lineup suits him.  If he’s not getting a hit, he’s finding other ways on base (11 BB this season). 

Next up

The Big Ten season is almost here!

In case you missed it, there’s been a change in the schedule for the upcoming Michigan State series this weekend.  Long story short, the games have been pushed back a day with games being played on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. 

Saturday, March 28 – Noon CT
Sunday, March 29 – Noon CT
Monday, March 30 – Noon CT

More details on the Fighting Illini website.


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Krug’s CLASS candidacy shows his total student-athlete qualities

IMG_2036-001Congratulations to Will Krug for his candidacy in the Senior CLASS Award.  The CLASS Award is devoted to those who excel on and off the field and who epitomize the total student-athlete.  CLASS which stands for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, recognizes student-athletes who stand out as leaders. 

Here is Will Krug’s CLASS profile.

Admittedly, Krug, a civil engineering major, has had a pretty rough 2015 season on the field so far.  He’s batting .194 and has missed a few starts.  I’ve watched Will during these past few games though and his attitude hasn’t changed despite the rough start.  In those games that he hasn’t started, he has found a way to help his team from helping the left fielder warm up between innings or be available as a pinch runner or pinch hitter.  He’s always in the game and won’t give up. 

IMG_6997-001I personally think it’s just because Krug wants to be part of game so much that he can’t let it go.  It’s not in his nature to sit on the dugout bench and just let the game happen. 

To top it off, Krug is a very approachable player and represents the team and the University of Illinois in a positive fashion to the fans. 

Congrats again, Will Krug!  An award well deserved! 


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No Illinois baseball game Tuesday

Tuesday’s baseball game after initially being delayed a few hours has been cancelled due to impending weather

I’m glad I decided to check this afternoon before coming in.  “Why would they cancel it?”.my wife asked me.  “It’s starting to look nice out.” 

Indeed, there always reasons.  I don’t pretend to know why.   No makeup game against Illinois State has been scheduled. 


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Duchene wins Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors after keeping Bulls at bay

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Three years. Three career Pitcher of Week honors for Kevin Duchene… and the season is still young.

Kevin Duchene was awarded the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week award for his fantastic effort last Friday against South Florida on Friday.  In seven innings, he allowed just two hits did not give up an earned run while striking out eight batters in Illinois’ 13-1 win over the Bulls. 

This gives Duchene a 3-1 record and a team-leading 0.67 ERA among qualifying pitchers.  He won his first Pitcher of the Week honor as a freshman against Penn State (he also won Freshman of the Week at the same time) in 2013.  He won his second award in his sophomore year against a tough Florida team in 2014.  This week’s is his third honor. 

No pressure, Kevin but keep it comin’! 


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Poll Watch: Illinois Baseball inching upwards at #17

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After a grueling 2-1 series win against the University of South Florida Bulls team plus a midweek win versus Lindenwood-Belleville, the Fighting Illini (17-5-1) find themselves slowly moving up in the polls… again.  In three of the five major national polls, they moved up.  Baseball America kept them at #25 where they were last week.  Only Collegiate Baseball took them down a notch from #18 to #22. 

The Illini’s highest ranking is D1Baseball.com’s #17 spot.  That’s the highest that Illinois has been since the dark ages… okay, 1990 really. 

Here is the full list of polls and where Illinois is placed:

 

National Poll

Illinois’ Ranking

Previous Ranking

NCBWA

26th

27th

D1Baseball.com

17th

18th

Collegiate Baseball

22nd

18th

Baseball America

25th

25th

USA Today Coaches’ Poll

22nd

24th

 

The Big Ten has other representatives in the polling.  D1Baseball ranks Maryland at #11 and Indiana at #19.  Both of those teams had conference games last weekend, by the way.  You can see the conference standings here.  Long story short:  Maryland and Nebraska are off to 3-0 starts and Michigan and Northwestern are both 0-3. 

Illinois begins their Big Ten season this weekend at East Lansing against Michigan State.


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Illinois drops Sunday game to USF Bulls 8-5

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First loss… and first runs allowed this season

Put away the brooms.  Today just wasn’t going to happen for the Illini. 

Despite coming back from a four run deficit, Illinois (17-5-1) lost to South Florida (16-8-1) in ten innings 8-5 on Sunday at Illinois Field.

 

Game #23 / March 22, 2015    
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Five earned runs charged to John Kravetz

It was probably a humbling day for Illini pitching. 

Starter John Kravetz (1-0) who had given up just seven runs all season, allowed five in the third inning alone.  More incredibly, Tyler Jay (4-1) who hasn’t seen a run cross the plate yet in 2015, gave up three runs in the 10th inning.  Jay also suffered his first loss of the season in today’s game. 

 

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Reid Roper made it close in the fifth with a 3-run homer

That’s not to say there weren’t positives to take away from today’s game.  Casey Fletcher continued his clutch hitting by getting the Illini off to a good start.  His base knock drove home a run in the first inning giving Illinois an early lead.  Down 5-1 in the fifth inning, the Illini battled back.  With two runners on, Reid Roper hit a three-run homerun to bring Illinois to within one run, 5-4.  It’s Roper’s third homer of the season and he now has 19 rbis which leads the team.  In the bottom of the eighth, David Kerian tied it with a rbi single.

 

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Relievers J.D. Nielsen (left) and Nick Blackburn (right) have been pretty solid lately for the Illini.  Today was no exception.  They combined for three scoreless innings giving up one hit each. 

 

 

Random Ramblings

I have photos posted.  You can find them here

USF Bull brother duo Levi and Luke Borders were big contributors to the victory over Illinois.  They combined to go 8 for 10 with 5 rbis.  If you’re wondering, they are indeed the sons of former MLB catcher Pat Borders. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not down on either Kravetz or Jay.  An off game was bound to happen to one of our starting pitchers sooner or later.  And let’s be real, how long did we really think Tyler Jay was going to keep a scoreless streak going?  I was watching Jay pretty closely today and even in between giving up his five hits, he was fooling USF hitters in the worst way. 

Wow!  Take a look at this Indiana-Penn State boxscore from today.  Penn State who can only boast a 4-14 record, came back from a 7-0 deficit to beat #21 Indiana 13-7.  Eight errors by IU probably didn’t help.

In other news, the Big Ten season has started in faraway places.

Next up

Speaking of the Big Ten season, Illinois will begin their Big Ten series in East Lansing next weekend.  First though, they have two midweek games scheduled. 

The rest of campus is on spring break but the Illinois players will be here in town to take on Illinois State on Tuesday at 4pm and Kent State on Wednesday at 3pm.  Both games will be at Illinois Field.


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Illinois Baseball lasso Bulls with HRs from Kerian, James, and Fletcher

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Victory leap! 

It was a sunny day at Illinois Field and the balls were flying out of the park.  In fact, every run scored today was the result of a homerun.  The good news is that Illinois (17-4-1) came out ahead of the South Florida Bulls (15-8-1) in the end by the score of 5-2.  That put the Illini up two games to none in the three game weekend series with one game left on Sunday.  That also gives Illinois its fifth straight win and seventh win in eight games.

 

Game #22 / March 21, 2015    
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Just two earned runs for Drasen Johnson who get his 3rd win

Starter Drasen Johnson pitched a fine game giving up just two solo homers in 7 2/3 innings.  He allowed six hits and walked none while striking out six Bulls.  Johnson is now 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA.  With three homeruns by the Illini today, Drasen can hopefully say he has shaken the curse of lack of support he was plagued with earlier this season. 

 

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David Kerian got things started with a solo homer…

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“That’s nice, David.  Now, it’s my turn”, says Matt James….

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…“Told ya”

Offensively, David Kerian got things going for the Illini with a solo shot in the second inning.  He now leads the Illini with five homers.  The next batter, Matt James, followed that up with a homerun of his own, his third of the year, putting the Illini up 2-0.  The Bulls scored on a solo shot in the fourth inning bringing the score within one run. 

 

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Casey Fletcher puts the game out of reach in the sixth with a 3-run HR

 

Fletcher has been very clutch for the Illini in 2015 with late inning rbi hits.  Today was no exception.  With two runners on in the sixth inning, Fletcher put the game out of reach with a three-run loooonng bomb to right field.  That is his third dinger of the year and gives him 15 rbis for the season. 

JD Nielsen came in to get the last out of the eighth inning which he did with no problem.  Tyler Jay was called on to get the save in the ninth.  He pitched a perfect ninth with one strikeout and earned his fifth save.  His 2015 scoreless streak has been extended to 23 1/3 innings. 

 

 

Random Ramblings

Beautiful day for taking photos. You can find them here.  Good to see a great crowd!  We broke 1,000  in attendance today. 

Wow, another impressive win.  Let’s keep it going.  The USF Bulls starter tomorrow is 3-0 with a 1.32 ERA.  Be nice to hand him his first loss.  Hard to believe that tomorrow’s starter John Kravetz is 1-0 with his nifty 1.83 ERA.  A win is a win though and I know John K isn’t looking at stats. 

A few of us fans were talking about the new PA sound effects that we’re now hearing as of this year.  I must admit it, I like a lot of them.  My favorite… the bell tolling when Illinois is winning and two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Next up

The Illini will attempt a sweep of the USF Bulls on Sunday.  Get out there early!  The teams take the field for an 11am start time.  John Kravetz (1-0, 1.83 ERA) will be on the mound for the Illini. 

See you at the ballpark!


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Blowout! Illini offense complements Duchene’s outing against South Florida

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The scoreboard says it all. 

Not only did Kevin Duchene pitch a masterpiece but the Illinois (16-4-1) exploded with the bat in Friday’s game against the University of South Florida Bulls (15-7-1).  Facing just 26 batters, Duchene gave up just two hits and one unearned run in seven innings for his third win of the season. 

Meanwhile, the Illinois offense scored 13 runs on 16 hits and two homeruns by Reid Roper and David Kerian.  The final score of the game was Illinois 13 USF 1 giving Illinois a quick edge on the three game weekend series. 

 

Game #21 / March 20 , 2015    
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Dan Rowbottom singles in the 8th

I got to the game late coming from work.  As I crossed Mount Hope Cemetery, I heard the PA announcer… “A solo homerun for Reid Roper!”  So I knew we were on the board.  I soon found out the score, 5-1.  Little did I know that there was more to come.

IMG_2769The Illini combined for nine runs in the eighth and ninth innings despite Coach Hartleb replacing most of the starters.   I’m sure Kevin Duchene (left) was happy for the support. 

It was a good to see that a lot of our second stringers got into the game.  Not only that, a lot of them produced.  Trevor Murphy got a hit and scored a run.  Dan Rowbottom also knocked a hit and scored.  That’s his second hit in this week.  Pinch runner Josh Ferry crossed the plate.  Kelly Norris-Jones relieved Jason Goldstein behind the plate again and drove home a run with a base hit. 

For the game, Adam Walton and Pat McInerney were big contributors along with Roper and Kerian.  Walton went 2 for 5 with a double and two rbis.  McInerney was 3 for 3 with two doubles and two rbis. 

After Duchene left in the seventh, Doug Hayes and Andrew Mamlic both pitched one scoreless inning each to close out the game. 

 

 

Random Ramblings

Just a few photos today.  You can find them here

It was a big win today.  This was USF’s first loss in ten games so you know it has to be a boost for the Illini.  Further, they were facing starter Jimmy Herget who has only given up three earned runs all year… till today.  He gave a total of seven in today’s game.  If you delight in schadenfreude (not that I do), his ERA went from 0.85 to 2.37 in just one game. 

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The new scoreboard is now up!  It’s not quite ready for use but it looks good!  You can read about the specs at the Fighting Illini web site

And here, just because this photo of Quinten Sefcik just begs to be posted…

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Next up

The Illini will continue their series against the USF Bulls on Saturday at Illinois Field.  Game time is at 1pm and Drasen Johnson will be on the mound. 

Nice work, Illini!!


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Illinois baseball host South Florida this weekend

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Drasen Johnson will go for win #3 this Saturday

This weekend, #18 Illinois baseball will take on a tough University of South Florida Bulls team at Illinois Field  This season, the Bulls are 15-6-1 and currently on a nine-game win streak.  The Illini are 15-4-1 and look to extend their three-game winning streak.

The pitching rotations are up on the Fighting Illini weekend preview.  Kevin Duchene (2-1, 0.90 ERA) will be starting on Friday.  Drasen Johnson (2-1, 1.75) will be on the bump on Saturday and John Kravetz (1-0, 1.83) will show his stuff on Sunday. 

 

 

Illinois Field
 
Champaign, Illinois

Fri. March 21

4:00 pm CT

Sat. March 22

1:00 pm CT

Sat. March 23

11:00 am CT

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South Florida Bulls

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2015 W-L: 15-6-1

The Bulls of South Florida are from the American Athletic Conference.  As good as their 15-6-1 record is, it’s only good for fifth place in the AAC.  A tough conference, indeed. 

The Bulls baseball team is a little like the Illini.  They have a formidable pitching staff especially if you look at their top starters.  The probables for USF have an impressive combined record of 10-2 with ERAs of 0.85, 1.91 and 1.32.  The key to winning against the Bulls is to get to their bullpen as quickly as possible.  With a few exceptions, opponents have had better luck getting through to them.   

Random Ramblings

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John Kravetz gets another shot this weekend at moving up the charts.  He is currently 20-7 lifetime and tied for eighth place on the all-time Illini record list for wins.  Last weekend, Kravetz gave up just one run in seven innings against Southern Illinois but relief ace Tyler Jay came home with the win. 

 

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Casey Fletcher hit another dinger against SIU last Sunday

Much has been made about the pitching performances of the Illinois team this year.  However worth mentioning is second in the Big Ten in homeruns with 13.  David Kerian leads the crew with three while Casey Fletcher, Jason Goldstein, Pat McInerney and Matthew James have all hit two.

 

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There’s more information on the weekend preview about the new video display being erected outside the right field fence.  The new scoreboard will feature a YESCO video display and will measure 36’x19’.  The board is being put together by Correct Digital Displays Inc. from Sheridan, Illinois. 

Some features will include: high-res 16mm pixel spacing video display, 10-inning scoreboard with team names, time, at-bat, count, and pitch speeds. 

Go Illini!! 


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