Former Illini David Clapp, Itch Jones honored by Varsity I Association

Itch Jones honored this weekend

This Fighting Illini announcement caught my eye today.  This is Homecoming Weekend at the University of Illinois and the Varsity “I” Association is honoring seven people.  Two of the 2015 honorees have been affiliated with the Illinois baseball program. 

The highest honor which goes to a “past letterwinner for post-graduate accomplishments” has been handed to David Clapp, who graduated in 1982.  Clapp was a freshman infielder-outfielder back in 1979.  With 30 years in the food aerosol field, he currently serves as President of Full-Fill Industries which he founded in 1999.  Clapp is a big supporter of a student-athlete scholarship program through an endowment.

Also honored is Richard “Itch” Jones.  I don’t probably don’t need to tell hard core Illinois baseball fans about Itch Jones.  He has the overall winningest coach in Illini history with a 474-373-1 record in 15 years.  He remains 28th all-time among college coaches with 1,242 wins.  Itch will still lend his sharp wit in the broadcast booth on occasion and if not, you may find him in the stands rooting on the Orange and Blue. 

The full list of honorees:

Achievement Award: David Clapp (Baseball ’82)
Merit Award: Jim Wright (Basketball/Track & Field ’54)
Honorary "I" Inductees: Tom Bryan, John & Trixy Corley, Richard "Itch" Jones, and John Stevenson

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Cubs win! A list of Illini baseball players who went on to play for the Chicago Cubs

To be sure, it’s a good year to be an Illini baseball fan AND a Chicago Cubs fan.  Both teams have exceeded expectations in 2015.

On the night of the Chicago Cubs’ first 2015 playoff victory (with hopefully many more to come), here is a list of all University of Illinois baseball alums (such as reliever Donn Pall, right) who have spent time on the Chicago Cubs roster at some point.



Years in MLB

Years with Cubs

Dick Barrett



Fred Beebe



Jim Cook



Jim Fanning



John Felske



Ken Holtzman



Carl Lundgren



Rube Novotney



Johnny O’Connor



Ernie Ovitz



Donn Pall



Big Jeff Pfeffer



Otto Vogel



Bob Zick




Ken Holtzman was hands down the most successful, winning 174 games in his career.  He spent his first seven years with the Cubs and tagged on two more to end his career.

Reliever Donn Pall is more known for his work with the White Sox.  He did take a turn on the Northside and pitched for the Cubs in 1994.

Big Jeff Pfeffer not only pitched for the University of Illinois and the Cubs but is a native of Champaign.  He is buried at St. Mary Cemetery a few blocks away from Illinois Field.

Go Cubs!


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Orange Team takes OBWS on Hurwitz GS and Sefcik’s pitching performance

The Orange Team gets bragging rights for a year. 


Hurwitz hit a 9th inning grand slam in Game 2

Congrats to the Orange team who battled back from an 0-1 deficit to win the last two games.  Last night with the help of a Michael Hurwitz grand slam, they defeated the Blue Team 8-7. 


Sefcik was in fine form on Thursday

Then tonight, Quinten Sefcik pitched five innings of 1-hit ball and the Orange Team cruised to a 6-1 win. 

IMG_9178All in all, it was one of the most exciting Orange and Blue World Series I’ve watched.  I had a great time seeing everyone and was glad to meet some new parents.  Also, it was a happy surprise to see that recent alum Will Krug (left) was helping out the team.  Will’s a fantastic guy and there’s no one better to help the young team. 

While there are obviously still kinks to be worked out, this will be an exciting team to watch and I am excited for Spring to get here.  Thank you to the players, coaches and staff for putting on a great event this week.  I hope the added features this year will continue and the word gets out so it grows to become a even bigger event. 

Photos of Monday’s OBWS Game 1

Photos of Wednesday’s OBWS Game 2

Photos of Thursday’s OBWS Game 3

On a different note, Illinois Baseball has announced the new schedule for 2016.  This is probably the earliest that we’ve gotten a finalized schedule like this.  I suppose it has something to do with Illinois’ performance in 2015.  Everyone is lining up to play the big guy on the block now.  That not to say that changes won’t happen.  Most likely, they will. But it is nice to get a good idea of what Spring 2016 holds for our boys. 

Not only that, the 2016 Illinois baseball roster has now been updated.  It’s no surprise that it’s a young team.  What is interesting is that there are a fair amount of out-of-state players.  No fewer than eight players hail from outside of the state of Illinois. 

Now, baseball practice is pretty much over.  The Illinois baseball players will focus on personal training and yes, their studies. 

Have a good off-season, guys.  Study hard. 

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Orange and Blue World Series: Blue Team wins Game 1 on bats of Matt James, Shilling

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Matt James and Luke Shilling both homered for the Blue Team Monday

Illinois is taking the Orange and Blue World Series a whole lot more seriously this year.  Complete with a PA announcer, a working scoreboard, at bat music and actual umps, it seems that the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is making an effort to get fans out to the park for the annual affair.  It’s no longer just a quick practice games between the guys but something you want to tell your friends about. 

So if you didn’t get out to Monday’s game, you still have two more games this week.  There is one more thing I appreciated about today and it may seem small.  They’re handing out updated rosters so you know who the new players are. 


Freshman Brendan Meissner took a turn on the mound

As for the game, Matt James and freshman Luke Shilling got the Blue Team off to a good start by hitting back-to-back homers in the first inning.  The game was far from over though as the first few innings were full of offense.  The Blues had a 7-4 lead after five and while the Orange Team made a valiant effort scoring a run in the sixth and the seventh, they went down with James on the mound. 

The Blue Team won 7-6. 

There are plenty of my photos from today at the Illinois Baseball Report photo gallery

Game Two will be on Wednesday at 6:15 at Illinois Field.  It is free to the public. 

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Thursday practice photos: Illini gearing up for the Orange and Blue Series


Even though it was just practice, it was great to see the team on the field again.  On Thursday afternoon, I dropped by Illinois Field to watch the Illini baseball players take practice.  Everyone is prepping for the Orange and Blue World Series which begins September 28th


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It’s a young, new team out on the field there’s no doubt about it.  I saw a lot of faces I didn’t recognize.  Shortstop Adam Walton came over to say hi and even helped me out by pointing out some of the new guys.  Believe me, it will take a while to memorize everyone’s name this year.  Adam emphasized that the pitching staff in particular is taking in lot of new players. 


One pitcher that we all remember is Cody Sedlock.  Cody (above), who is coming off a fantastic summer, threw off the mound on Thursday and is looking to be someone that Coach Hartleb will be depending on in 2016. 

There are more photos from Thursday’s practice at the Illinois Baseball Report photo gallery


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Dates set for Illinois Baseball Orange and Blue series


The dates are set!  I know a few of you have contacted me asking me if I knew when the Illinois Baseball annual intrasquad Orange and Blue World Series was taking place.  Illinois Baseball Coach Hartleb announced yesterday that the dates are right around the corner. 

  • Game 1: Monday, Sept. 28 at 4:15 p.m.
  • Game 2: Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 6:15 p.m.  
  • Game 3: Thursday, Oct. 1 at 6:15 p.m.

You’ll find a very different team taking the field for the series.  Many of the stars from the record-breaking 2015 season have graduated or have been drafted.  That goes for the top three starting pitchers.  As I’ve said in years past, the Orange and Blue Series is a great chance to get to know the team that will be representing the Illini in the coming spring.  With so many newcomers, that goes doubly so this year. 

All games are free to the public and take place at Illinois Field. Hope to see you there!!

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How have our Illini players done this summer? Part 3

Jason Goldstein

Jason Goldstein hit .323 for the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods League

So far we’ve gotten a look at the former Illini in the minors this summer.  That included a look at the very special draftee Class of 2015 in their first summer of pro ball.

However, our current Illinois baseball squad have been busy in summer leagues in the past few months.  While we’ve lost a lot of talent both to graduation and draft in 2015, I am honestly heartened to see what kind of skills our guys are bringing to the table.

Summer leagues are a good chance for college players to keep their baseball skills honed and maybe learn a thing or two along a way.  I have a theory substantiated only anecdotally that those players who do well in summer leagues go on to a great spring season for the Illini.  Maybe the players are coming into their own or perhaps it’s that extra boost to their confidence.  Either way, if that holds true, a couple of Illinois players may be due for a great season in 2016.  Just see what a few of them have done this summer!


Illini catcher duo rake in Summer ‘15

IMG_4856-001Sophomore catcher Mark Skonieczny has put together a fantastic season for the Lake Erie Monarchs.  Not only did he bat .309 with 24 rbis but he made an appearance in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League All-Star Game.  Skony came through with a hit in the GLSCL classic.  Nice going, Skony!

As always, the Northwoods League hosts many of our Illini players for the summer.  Not to be outdone by Skony, catcher Jason Goldstein had a spectacular year for the Madison Mallards.  He batted a tasty .323 in 37 games while driving in 17 runs and scoring 24.


Nielsen, McInerney help Kenosha to Northwoods League Championship

IMG_9647-001A pitcher who I’m excited about for next year is J.D. Nielsen.  This summer for Kenosha he went 4-1 with five saves and a nice 2.73 ERA.  His bullpen efforts helped bring the Kingfish to the Northwoods League playoffs.  He and Kingfish teammate Pat McInerney (.205, 9 runs scored) helped the Kingfish to a 48-24 record and took them all the way to their first Northwoods League Championship.  Congratulations to J.D. and Pat!

IMG_9848-001Pitcher Doug Hayes who played for the NWL’s Waterloo Bucks had some spurts of excellence.  He won three in a row and his ERA dipped to 2.37 by July 17.  He got roughed up in his last game so forgive his season ERA of 5.01.  He still won four games and saved two for the Bucks.  Doug showed some control too.  He walked only 14 in 46 2/3 innings.  Also in the NWL, infielder Adam Walton batted .278 with five steals and 14 runs scored for the Rochester Honkers.  He came through with a 3 for 4 with two doubles game in early August.

Early in the season, two Illini combined to help Hayes’ Bucks win a game against St. Cloud.  Charlie Naso earned the save while Ryan Nagle (yes, the same Ryan Nagle who got signed by the Pirates) hit an rbi double.  In his short time with the Bucks, Nagle hit .275 with 9 rbis.  Naso was efficient on the mound with a 3.66 ERA in 11 appearances.  Waterloo had their share of Illini.

In addition to Naso, Nagle and Hayes, the Bucks also had up and coming Illini Matt James on their roster.  James played a versatile role for the Bucks playing outfield, first base and taking his turn on the mound.  At the plate, he hit .234 with 15 rbis.  On the mound, he saved two games with a low 2.34 ERA.

IMG_5681On the same day that Walton went 3 for 4, Cody Sedlock gave us a preview of what we might see from him next spring.  He won the Bourne Braves’ first game of the Cape Cod Baseball League playoffs with a pitched a seven-inning gem. For the season, he was 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA and 26 Ks and just 7 walks in 29 innings.  For the record, I’m not the only one who’s high on Mr. Sedlock for next year.

We haven’t seen much of Quinten Sefcik in Illini games yet but that may change in 2016.  Quinten won three straight games for the Terre Haute Rex in the Prospect League.  He finished the season with some nice numbers.  He went 3-1 with a 3.05 ERA in 10 games and 7 starts.  That helped the Rex to the Prospect League playoffs.


A few more Illini worth talking about

There were a couple more Illini that deserve mention.  Former Illini catcher Chris Robinson came out of retirement to lead Team Canada to a Gold medal in the Pan American Games.

Also, former Illini pitcher (not to mention former volunteer coach) Jason Anderson was named head coach of the Eastern Illinois University baseball team. No doubt, he will be visiting Illinois Field next year in our Panther-Illini matchup.

This is not a comprehensive list, just a few of the highlights from the summer.  Now that the fall semester has started, it won’t be long before we can see the boys in action in the Orange and Blue series.

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How have our Illini players done this summer? Part 2

A couple days we saw how a few of our former Illini are doing this summer in the minor leagues.  Today, it’s time to take a look at the Illinois Draftee Class of 2015 and see how they are faring in their first year in the pros. 



Tyler Jay

Drafted 2015

Current organization: Minnesota Twins

After Tyler Jay’s superb season for the Big Ten champs, he was promptly drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Twins and signed with a nice signing bonus.  He spent the season with the Fort Myers Miracle in the Class A Advanced Florida State League.  While his ERA isn’t what it was in the Big Ten (4.70), he’s showing signs of his potential by striking out 20 batters in 15 1/3 innings. 

Tyler Jay’s MLB Bio


Kevin Duchene

Drafted 2015

Current organization: Oakland Athletics



After a quick look at Kevin Duchene in the Arizona League, the A’s brought him up to the Class A New York-Penn Short League where he played for the Vermont Lake Monsters.  Overall, Kevin started seven games and appeared in three more with a 0-3 record.  For the season, his ERA had been hovering around 4.00 till his last appearance when he got hit hard.  Now it stands at 4.26.  Get that win, Kevin!

Kevin Duchene’s Bio



David Kerian

Drafted 2015

Current organization: Washington Nationals

Since his Big Ten Player of the Year season for the Illini, David Kerian hasn’t stopped hitting.  Washington must see the potential that we did as he has been getting plenty of playing time for the Auburn Doubledays in the Class A Short Season NY-Penn League.  For the year, he’s hitting .245 in 159 at-bats with 18 rbis and 22 runs. 

David is picking it up, too.  In his last 10 games, he’s hit .323 with eight runs. 

David Kerian’s Bio


Drasen Johnson

Drafted 2015

Current organization: Colorado Rockies


The durable starter for the Illini ended up playing for the Boise Hawks in the Class A Short Season Northwest League.  So far, Drasen has had good stuff with a 2.81 ERA in 13 games and 4 starts.  With a few more innings, Drasen would be fourth in ERA in the NWL.  He’s got a 1-3 record but honestly, I think he’s used to that hard luck role. 

Drasen Johnson’s Bio




Ryan Nagle

Drafted 2015

Current organization: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates have taken a chance on drafting junior Ryan Nagle.  So far this year, he’s at least getting his ABs in for the West Virginia Black Bears in the Class A Short Season NY-Penn League.  In fact, he made a considerable impression on the Bucs organization by hitting in five of his first six games including a triple in his very first at-bat.  Overall in 92 at-bats this season, Ryan is hitting .239 with 14 rbis and five doubles for the Black Bears. 

Ryan Nagle’s Bio




Rob McDonnell

Drafted 2015

Current organization: Los Angeles Dodgers

Rob McDonnell was drafted by the Dodgers and he’s spent the year with the Ogden Raptors in the Pioneer League.  Father Dan McDonnell says that the first couple weeks were rough (5.14 season ERA) but Rob has settled down.  His current stats bear that out.  Rob has got a winning record at 3-2 and has struck out 34 batters in 28 innings. 

Rob McDonnell’s Bio




John Kravetz

Signed 2015

Current organization: Toronto Blue Jays

John Kravetz has been moved around a lot in 2015.  Surprisingly, John was not drafted in 2015 but signed by the Blue Jays as a free agent.  He started out with GCL Blue Jays in the Gulf Coast League then moved to the Bluefield Blue Jays in the Appalachian League.  For one game in between though, John saw an appearance in the Jay’s Class A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays.  For the record, John Kravetz pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings in that game so I hope he made an impression. 

For the year, John’s ERA is 4.03 with a 2-3 record and 18 Ks in 22 1/3 innings. 

John Kravetz’s Bio


The Illini are making themselves known!  It’s the first year so there’s always work to be done.  The one thing that all seven of these players have in common is that they know how to play on a winning team.  That kind of experience is invaluable and I am sure not lost on minor league managers and GMs.

Good luck, guys!

Next up:  I’ll take a look at some of the highlights from our current Illini and their performances in their respective summer leagues. 

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How have our Illini players done this summer? Part 1

Well, it’s almost September already.  Summer leagues have wrapped up their seasons, minor leagues are almost done and believe it or not the Cubs haven’t given up the NL Central in the MLB. 

Over the next week or so, I thought I’d take a look at how some of the former and current Illini have done in Summer of ‘15 in their respective baseball ventures. 

Let’s start at the top with those Illini baseball players drafted in past years.



Tanner Roark

Drafted 2008

Current organization: Washington Nationals

After a breakout season in 2014 (15-10, 2.85 ERA) for the Washington Nationals, Roark is having an up and down 2015 year.  He started out in the pen, was put in the rotation in late May then relegated back to the pen again after six starts.  All in all, he hasn’t done too bad and the season isn’t over yet.  He has a 4-4 record and 4.54 ERA but most importantly he still exhibits the control that he is known for (18 walks in 79 1/3 innings).  From the beginning of the season, Roark has accepted his role with grace which most likely endears him to Manager Matt Williams. 

Tanner Roark’s MLB Bio


Ronnie Muck

Drafted 2014

Current organization: Los Angeles Angels



The durable reliever drafted last year started out with Burlington in the Class A Midwest League.  He kept opposing hitters baffled as he sported a 1.93 ERA while going 2-2.  He made the jump to Advanced A and went to Inland Empire 66ers in the California League.  While his ERA has gone up a little (that’s expected at a higher level), he’s actually not doing too bad either.  He’s 3-0 with a 4.67 ERA with 41 Ks in 34 2/3 innings.

Ronnie Muck’s Bio



Kyle Hudson

Drafted 2008

Current organization: Los Angeles Dodgers

As mentioned recently, our own volunteer coach Kyle Hudson was picked up by the Dodger organization.  He was used in a purely base running role for the AZL Dodgers in the Arizona League and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the California League.  Combined, he scored 7 runs and stole 11 bases.  I can only guess that the Dodger organization placed him because of his leadership and coaching talents (because we all know he has those). 

Kyle Hudson’s Bio


Matt Milroy

Drafted 2012

Current organization: Miami Marlins

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Pitcher Matt Milroy has had a solid year in the Class A Advanced Florida State League with the Jupiter Hammerheads.  The Marlins seem to be transitioning Matt to a reliever role; he started just one game this year.  So far, that is working well.  With a 6-2 record and a nice 3.09 ERA, Matt has struck out 77 opposing batters in 58 1/3 innings. He seems to be hot as of late… he’s 2-1 with a 2.60 ERA in his last 10 games. 

Matt Milroy’s Bio



Kevin Johnson

Drafted 2013

Current organization: Oakland Athletics

Kevin finally saw some action in 2015 after the A’s activated him from the disabled list.  It’s been a long road for Mr. Johnson.  Now with the Beloit Snappers in the Class A Midwest League, the starting pitcher is beginning to get his innings in.  Kevin appeared in 31 games and started 7 games.  With a 2-6 record, he sported a 4.79 ERA for the Snappers. 

Kevin Johnson’s Bio

I’ll pick up later in the week with those Illini in the minors who were just drafted in 2015.  We’ll see then how they’ve fared in their first year in the pros. 

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Hello and goodbye: It’s the beginning of the school year

Today is the first day of classes at the University of Illinois.  Students are getting into the swing of things here in Champaign-Urbana and that includes the returning Illinois baseball players as well as the incoming freshman.  Study hard, guys! 

While there will be some new players joining the team, there are a couple of transitional announcements.   

IMG_2317-002Kyle Hudson’s status as Illinois’ volunteer coach is still not officially declared.  His bio is still listed on the Coaches roster but he had been taken on by the Los Angeles Dodgers to play in their organization this summer.  The Dodgers were focusing on speed and there’s no one better than Hud to increase the running game.  He finished out the season with the Dodgers’ Single A Advanced team Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.  Good luck, Kyle!  If you find your way back here next year, we’d love to have you again! 

IMG_6618-001While touching base with the Illinois baseball office this August, I found out that Matt Wille who was the Assistant Sports Information Director, is no longer with the team and has found a position in the public sector.  Matt was such an asset for Illinois baseball and will be missed.  While an SID doesn’t make headlines, what they do is so critical to the success of an athletic organization.  Matt was my contact person and I’ve enjoyed working with him throughout the years.  Good luck, Matt!

Practice will be commencing soon for the team.  It won’t be long before the Orange and Blue World Series! 

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