Illini baseball hope to corral OSU Cowboys this weekend

reid roper

Reid Roper is leading the Illini in hitting (.413) and rbis (13) this season

In their last road series before coming home to Illinois Field, the Fighting Illini (8-2-1) will be going to Stillwater, OK to face the #10 Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-4).  This will be one of the toughest test yet of the Illini pitching as the Cowboys have the potential to score some runs.   

Illinois suffered their first loss last weekend… and then another.  Overall though, they went 3-2 at the Chanticleer Classic and their starting pitching still marched on and managed to keep runs down.  If they can do that against the Cowboys, they should be golden. 


Allie P. Reynolds Stadium
Stillwater, Oklahoma

Fri. March 6

4:00 pm CT

Sat. March 7

3:00 pm CT

Sat. March 8

12:00 pm CT


Oklahoma State Cowboys


2015 W-L: 6-4


The Oklahoma State Cowboys may be 6-4 but they’re still ranked #10 in the country.  They did get off to an atypical 1-3 start in the 2015 season but soon picked up steam. 

A lot of their success comes from their big boppin’ offense.  They scored 40 runs during a four-game stretch just two weeks ago.  Not surprisingly, they won all four of those games plus the next one against nearby Western Illinois. 

The Cowboys sport three .400 hitters in Gage Green (.417), Kevin Bradley (.406) and Dustin Williams (.400). 

Random Ramblings

How good is Illinois’ pitching so far?  They are ranking nationally in some significant stats. 

From @IlliniBaseball:

  • #2 WHIP (0.81)
  • #3 K-to-BB ratio (5.00)
  • #3 Walks per 9 IP (1.75)
  • #5 Hits per 9 IP (5.50)
  • #10 ERA (1.67)


Interesting, the OSU Cowboys have “Diamond Dolls” at Reynolds Stadium. 

“The Oklahoma State Diamond Dolls are a select group of young women who devote countless hours to the Cowboy baseball program. The Diamond Dolls’ duties include selling game programs, helping with baseball camp preparation and promoting the OSU baseball program.”

Ok Illini, keep your mind (and your eyes) on the game. 


Dan Rowbottom

Dan Rowbottom, enjoy this while you can.  According to the Big Ten, you are currently the batting leader of the conference.  The Big Ten statistician filters by 1 game and 2 at-bats so Mr. Rowbottom, who is 2 for 3, leads the B1G in hitting with a .667 average. 

No offense to Dan (who has a mean game face) but maybe some time the Big Ten will filter the data so it will be somewhat meaningful. 


imageIn case you haven’t checked the schedule recently, the home season is right around the corner!  This will be the last series before the first home game at Illinois Field.  There’s a thick blanket of snow here in Champaign-Urbana and there will be a low of 7 degrees tonight.  I’m relying on the weather forecasters to be correct because they predict a high of 53 for Tuesday’s game at Illinois Field with lots of sunshine. 

Please be right. 

Go Illini!! 

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Illinois baseball redouble their efforts and take last two at Chanticleer Classic


John Kravetz: getting the Illini back on track

After splitting the first two games against Ball State, Illinois (9-2-1) lost their second straight game against Kent State.  However, it was back to their winning ways as the Fighting Illini finished up the Chanticleer Classic in Myrtle Beach with two wins against West Virginia and host Coastal Carolina.

Despite the two losses, pitching was still the name of Illinois’ game.  In the five games over the weekend, Illinois pitchers only gave up eight runs.  Only six of those runs were earned.  It’s worth mentioning that four of the five games over the weekend were one-run games.


Game #10 / March 1 , 2015    




Seven Illini starters got a hit in the 4-3 loss including Mark Skonieczny who made his first college start.  Skony even drove in a run for the cause. 

Starting pitcher Rob McDonnell certainly didn’t pitch badly (7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 5 K).  It’s almost a shame that McDonnell, a 2015 Big Ten pitcher of the Week who currently has a 1.93 ERA also has a 0-1 record in three starts. 




Game #11 / March 1, 2015    




The Illini didn’t have to wait long to get back on track after back-to-back losses.  They won another one-run game thanks to some good pitching by John Kravetz.  Kravetz threw 7 innings of shutout ball and struck out nine Mountaineers.  He didn’t get the win though.  Give that W to Andrew Mamlic who pitched the eighth.  Reid Roper grabbed the save, his first of the year.  

Illinois got back on the late inning heroics bandwagon again, too.  They scored their winning run in the top of the ninth inning thanks to Ryan Nagle’s rbi groundout that scored Adam Walton. 





Game #12 / March 2, 2015    




IMG_8301-001Bolstered by their success on Sunday, Illinois went out on Monday and had themselves an honest-to-goodness win against host Coastal Carolina.  Their was offense as the Illini scored seven runs, the highest total all weekend.  Every Illini starter collected a hit and as a team they smacked 12 hits.  Reid Roper got three himself and Matt James hit his second homer of the year. 

There was good pitching too, behind starter Cody Sedlock (pictured) who pitched four innings of no-hit ball, striking out four Chants.  Nick Blackburn and J.D. Nielsen kept CCU at bay for two innings until Tyler Jay came in for a three-inning save.  Jay, by the way, didn’t allow a hit or a walk in his Monday stint.



Random Ramblings

The Illini’s record now sits at 9-2-1 and are fighting it out with two other teams for first place.  Maryland is off to a good start at 7-2 and surprising Iowa has won their last six and is now 7-1.  For those wondering, projected powerhouse Nebraska is 6-4. 


If you would have asked me who would be the first two pitchers with two wins on our squad in 2015, I wouldn’t have guessed Tyler Jay and Cody Sedlock.  That’s probably a good thing.  Once our top four starters start getting some support from the offense and perhaps the bullpen, the sky is the limit. 


Next up:  Illinois plays a three-game series against Oklahoma State in Stillwater next weekend.  Gametime for the first game on Friday is 4pm. 

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Illini split with Ball State in two pitching duels

Kevin Duchene two  hit win Friday

Kevin Duchene is back with a vengeance

It’s bad news, good news and bad news time.  The bad news is that Illinois scored just two runs in as many games against Ball State.  The good news is that they won one of those games.  The bad news is that yes, they lost the other, their first loss of the year. 

Their record now stands at 7-1-1 going into Day 3 of the Chanticleer Classic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 

Both games were pitching duels with a 1-0 shutout win for the Illini on Friday and a 2-1 loss on Saturday.  Illini starters Kevin Duchene and Drasen Johnson combined for 14 shutout innings in both games. 


Game #8 / February 27, 2015    
Illinois-Block-I-Primary-Logo_thumb4 vs




Welcome back, Kevin Duchene!  In his first start of 2015, Duchene pitched brilliantly, striking out nine batters in seven scoreless innings.  He pitched efficiently, allowing just five hits and no walks.  Nick Blackburn and Tyler Jay finished out the game by pitching a perfect inning each.

The Illini offense only needed to score one run and wouldn’t you know it, it was Casey Fletcher who came through with the game winner again. His base hit drove home Ryan Nagle in the fourth inning. 




Game #9 / February 28, 2015    
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The Illini ALMOST got away with another 1-0 win on Saturday, too.  Almost. 

Drasen Johnson was on the mound and it seems that he had gotten his quota of run support last weekend.  This weekend, the Illini had scored one run after eight innings.  It was looking like that might be enough as Johnson had Ball State on the ropes.  He pitched seven shutout innings before the bullpen was called in.  Unfortunately, a committee of four relievers had their issues with the Cardinals and the winning run was scored on an unearned passed ball. 

The Illini were set down in order in the top of the ninth for their first loss of the season. 

Matt James scored the lone Illini run on a solo homer in the third inning. It was his first career homerun. 




Random Ramblings

Ok, putting the loss aside for now, I’m pretty amazed at how well our pitching rotation has done so far this season.  I know it’s early in the season but right now they have only given up seven runs and nine walks in 58 innings assuming my math is correct.  That comes out to a 1.08 ERA and 1.39 BB/9 IP.

I’m not trying to jinx the team and really, it’s unrealistic to think this kind of thing can continue but wow, that’s pretty amazing! 

Next up:  Illinois continues on in the Chanticleer Classic tomorrow playing Kent State at 9am. 

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Unbeaten Illini ready to grab some more wins at Chanticleer Classic

Kevin Duchene

Kevin Duchene is ready to get into action at Myrtle Beach

This weekend, it will be a five-game set for #25 Illini (6-0-1) down in South Carolina.  Coastal Carolina University Baseball will be hosting the four-day event known as the Chanticleer Classic.  Fire up Gametracker! It’s time to follow some Illini baseball! 

The Fighting Illini weekend preview is up and it looks like the imposed suspension of starting pitcher Kevin Duchene has been lifted.  With a five-game series, that’s good news.  Pitching probables for the weekend are Duchene (0-0, 0.00) for Friday, Drasen Johnson (1-0, 1.32) for Saturday while Rob McDonnell (0-0, 0.77) and John Kravetz (1-0, 2.70) will be on the mound for Sunday.  As for Monday, no pitcher has been announced but my guess is that Coach Hartleb may tap Tyler Jay for the job. Field at Pelicans Ballpark
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Fri. February 27

1:00 pm CT

Sat. February 28

10:00 am CT   


Ball State Cardinals


2015 W-L: 4-2

Sun. March 1

9:00 am CT


Kent State Golden Flashes


2015 W-L:  2-4

Sun. March 1

12:30 pm CT


West Virginia Mountaineers


2015 W-L:  3-3


Springs Brooks Stadium
Conway, South Carolina

Mon. March 2

11:00 am CT


Coastal Carolina Chanticleers


2015 W-L: 5-2


Of the four teams that Illinois will be facing this weekend, Coastal Carolina will most likely be the toughest opponent.  Not only are they off to a 5-2 start this year but if my memory serves, they have a baseball tradition that behooves them.  They have been known to crack the national polls on occasion.

The Mid American Conference’s Ball State has jumped out to 4-2 start in 2015.  They’ve been helped by four solid hitters most notably Elbert Devarie at a .464 clip.  They also have dependable bullpen to help them out of a jam

Kent State’s offense is a bit down but they’ve been helped by a decent outings by their pitching staff.  They’ve scored 26 runs in six games but on the other hand, have only given up 29.

Random Ramblings

By the way, if you’re wondering what a “Chanticleer” is, this link might help.  It’s also not pronounced like you might think. 

As noted, the Illini baseball team is now nationally ranked.  D1 Baseball ranks them #25 while NCBWA places them at #27.  I’m always nervous about early season rankings and I’m sure the Illini coaches try to persuade the players not to pay too much attention to them.  That said, Illinois now places #2 nationally in the Warren Nolan Power Rankings behind Ohio University.  You can’t help but feel excited for the team. 

The wins are coming because of good pitching and good offense.  A key stat:  Illinois is outscoring their opponents 50-19.  Nine of those runs have come in the 9th inning too. 

Go Illini!! 

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Illinois baseball remains undefeated after eventful weekend


Casey Fletcher is hitting .417 in seven games this season

In Friday’s game, Drasen Johnson got run support.  An Illini win ended with a walk-off HBP on Saturday.  And Sunday’s game ended in a tie.  Indeed, it was a strange weekend for Illinois baseball down in Florida. 

But in the end, the Illini can still claim to be unbeaten after defeating Florida Gulf Coast and Fordham one game each.  The Illini are off to fantastic start.  They got off to a 6-0 start for the first time since 1986 when they went 7-0.  Alas, the travel-curfew induced tie put a kibosh on matching that. 

Regardless, this past weekend has cemented the point that the Illinois baseball’s performance in the opening weekend is certainly no fluke. 

Here are some quick recaps:


Game #5 / February 20, 2015    
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The Fighting Illini headline wasn’t too subtle about it.  “Bats Back Johnson in 13-2 Victory over FGCU”, it read.  Starting pitcher Drasen Johnson finally got some run support and then some.  Big hitters in the game against the Eagles were Casey Fletcher (4 for 5, 3 rbis) and Will Krug (1 for 5 but 3 rbis and 2 runs). 

Johnson was his typical efficient self.  He allowed just two runs on four hits in seven innings striking out eight FGCU batters.  Doug Hayes and Andrew Mamlic pitched the scoreless 8th and 9th innings.




Game #6 / February 21, 2015    
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IMG_4282Saturday’s was a little exciting going down to the wire.  The Illini had a comfortable 6-3 going into the ninth but the Fordham Rams rallied to tie the game in the top half of the inning.  It took a walk-off hit-by-pitch of Casey Fletcher that scored Jason Goldstein to win the game.  Former Illini Shawn Roof would be proud. 

Again, John Kravetz was lights out straight out of the gate.  He shut the Rams out for the first four innings before running into a bit of trouble in the fifth inning.  Nick Blackburn got him out of too much trouble and pitched two more scoreless innings. 

Adam Walton stole three bases and Reid Roper (pictured) who went 3 for 4, stole two. 




Game #7 / February 22, 2015    
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This had to be frustrating game for both the Illini and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.  Sunday’s game ended in a tie because of a travel curfew. 

Down by a run, Pat McInerney drove home Casey Fletcher in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game 4-4.  After the end of nine regulation innings at 5:45pm, the game was officially called. 

Starter Rob McDonnell gave up a run in the first and three in the fifth.  In between, he was perfect, retiring 10 consecutive FGCU batters.  In relief, Tyler Jay got the job done pitching 4 plus scoreless innings. 

Reid Roper was 2 for 3 while David Kerian hit his first homer of the season. 




Random Ramblings

There is no tie in baseball. 

Realistically, I understand the logic behind Sunday’s imposed tie.  The Illini baseball players are students and need to get back to campus.  Aside from that, the logistics of arranging for travel are already a nightmare.  Accommodating a change is near impossible. 

I still feel for the players of both teams.  The Illini most definitely want to preserve their win streak.  Also, I can imagine that the Florida Gulf Coast players would have loved that feather in their cap of defeating an undefeated team. 


FYI.. Mark Skonieczny, I’m adding your name to my spell check dictionary now.  I’ve learned my lesson from Nick Chmielewski. 

Next up:  Illinois will participate in the Chanticleer Classic which starts February 27th in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  First up is Ball State at 1pm. 

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Illinois Baseball hopes to build on momentum in Florida


David Kerian is batting an even .500 after last weekend

It’s been a exciting week after Illinois’ surprise 4-0 opening weekend in Beaumont, Texas.  Surprising that is, to everyone outside of the Illini Nation.  It wasn’t so much that the good guys swept opponents New Mexico State and Lamar but in the way that they did it with dominant performances from all four of their starting pitchers. 

Kevin Duchene was not one of those pitchers.  His suspension remains a mystery.  However, Tyler Jay filled in quite nicely, pitching five scoreless innings against Lamar and even garnered some attention as Fangraphs showed off his change-up slo-mo style.

This weekend, the Illini travel to the ‘other’ South, Fort Meyers, Florida to be exact.  They’ll be playing one game against the Fordham Rams (1-2) sandwiched between two against host Florida Gulf State Eagles (1-3).  Probable pitchers have been announced on the Fighting Illini’s weekend preview.  Drasen Johnson (0-0, 0.00), Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Rob McDonnell (0-0, 0.00) and John Kravetz (1-0, 1.17) are slated to take the hill.   



Swanson Stadium
Fort Meyers, Florida

Fri. February 20

5:30 pm CT

Sun. February 22

1:30 am CT   


Florida Gulf State Eagles


2015 W-L: 1-3

Sat. February 21

12:00 pm CT


Fordham Rams


2015 W-L:  1-2


This will be the first meeting between the Fordham Rams and the Illini.  The Rams are off to a 1-2 start no thanks to some rough pitching in their first weekend.  They gave up 22 runs in 25 innings. 

According to the local press, Florida Gulf State is experiencing some injury problems with at least two key players riding the bench.  Both centerfielder Gage Morey and firstbaseman Nick Rivera are projected to be out.  Coach Dave Tollett isn’t painting a pretty picture for the Eagles either.  In his words, “It will get worse before it gets better.”. 


Random Ramblings

I wasn’t going to say anything in last weekend’s wrap-up but since the Fighting Illini weekend preview did, I will.  The preview notes that last year, Drasen Johnson got 2.4 runs support per game in 2014.  This year it continues.  Last weekend, Drasen pitched 6 2/3 innings of scoreless ball but received nary a run of support. 

Come on, offense, get some runs for Drasen!

If you haven’t seen it already, check out Coach Dan Hartleb interviewed by Illini SID Matt Wille


Coach Hartleb by the way, coached his 500th game as an Illini last weekend!  Congrats, Coach! 

It won’t be long before Illinois baseball comes to Illinois Field.  It’s less than three weeks away.  The Illini take on Chicago State on March 10th.  Let’s hope it gets warm soon!

Enjoy the warm weather, boys and win a few more. 

Go Illini!! 

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Monday de-brief from a 4-0 weekend

Boy, there’s a lot to cover after a 4-0 sweep in which the Illini dominated as they did.  They are of course, tops in the Big Ten after the first weekend though Maryland and Ohio State did put in a 3-0 series.  The other new guy on the block, Rutgers went 0-4.

But check this out…


Illinois was ranked #1 in the Warren Nolan Power Index this week!

IMG_3626You had to figure one of our starting hurlers was going end up Big Ten Pitcher of the Week.  The way all four of them pitched, they all deserve it.  Rob McDonnell ended up with the Pitcher of the Week honors.  He certainly had it coming.

MickeyD was dominant on Saturday against New Mexico State as he pitched seven scoreless innings allowing just two hits and striking out ten Aggies.

Sadly, I can’t attend the games down south but the fantastic photos by Dewi Krug (Will’s mom) really give me a good perspective of the road game atmosphere.  This is one of her photos below.

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You can see Dewi’s photos at her Illini baseball gallery.  Here are direct links to her photos from last weekend’s games

NMSU Game 1NMSU Game 2 | Lamar Game 1 | Lamar Game 2

Kevin DucheneBelieve it or not, there was actually a bit of negative news today in Illinois baseballland.  WCIA’s Aaron Bennett tweeted that starting pitcher Kevin Duchene will not pitch next week and is suspended from the team. There is more detail (but not much more) in this article here.

Head Coach Dan Hartleb probably to his credit, was vague on the topic, “To get on the field in this program you have to do the right things all the time, and as soon as we feel like Kevin’s made some strides in that area, then we’ll bring him back as part of the team, But until he does the right things, then we’ll continue to move forward without him.”

Hurry back Kevin.  For now, the team has got your back.

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Four and Ohhhh! Illini off to a spectacular start!

IMG_5599 IMG_3626
IMG_4337-001 IMG_4621

Johnson, McDonnell, Kravetz and Jay get the job done at the Cardinal Classic

If there was any question as to Illinois baseball’s standing in the preseason polls, they have been put to rest.  The Illini baseball team shone in the Lamar University’s Cardinal Classic down in Beaumont, Texas winning all four games.  They team took two against the New Mexico State Aggies by the scores of 5-1 and 4-2 and won both against host Lamar 8-1 and 9-3.

As touted as the starting pitching has been in the preseason, they simply dominated.  Starters Drasen Johnson, Rob McDonnell, John Kravetz and Tyler Jay gave up a total of one run in the four games.  The Fighting Illini offense proved they are up to the task with key, late-inning hits.  They hit .357 as a team with three starting position players collecting seven hits on the weekend.

Here are some quick recaps:


Game #1 / February 13, 2015




Late inning heroics was story of Friday’s game.  Down by a run and down to their last out, the Illini tied in the ninth and exploded for a four-run rally in the tenth to defeat New Mexico State 5-1.  David Kerian who went 3 for 4 was a key player in the victory.  He scored the tying run in the ninth and in the 10th, drove in the winning run with a base hit.

Starter Drasen Johnson was on task as he pitched six plus shutout innings.




Game #2 / February 14, 2015




Game 2 on Saturday was a nail-biter too.  Going into the bottom of the eighth, the Illini were again down by a run.  This time it was Ryne Roper who came through with a two-run base hit to put the Illini ahead.

Rob McDonnell pitched one of his best games for the Illini.  He kept the Aggies scoreless through seven innings and struck out ten batters and only allowed two hits.




Game #3 / February 14, 2015




Speaking of good pitching performances, John Kravetz ate his Wheaties before his game against the Lamar Cardinals on Saturday.  He flirted with a no-hitter, not allowing a safety until the eighth inning.  He was lifted that inning after giving up two hits and run.  He struck out four and walked none.  J.D. Nielsen got the done after that, pitching a perfect 1 1/3 innings.

The Illini didn’t need them but they scored five runs in the ninth inning.  For the game, Will Krug, Reid Roper both collected three hits and David Kerian had two.




Game #4 / February 15, 2015



The big surprise starter for Sunday’s game against Lamar turned out to be none other than Tyler Jay.  Jay who had already pitched in relief for a save earlier, proved he was up to the task of toeing the rubber for first career start.  His numbers:  5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, and 6 K.

The Lamar Cardinals finally scored a run in the sixth and two more in the ninth but by that time it was over.  Helped by a couple Cardinal errors, the Illini had already scored eight runs by the fourth inning.  Both Reid Roper and Ryne Roper got three hits while Adam Walton, Ryan Nagle, Casey Fletcher and again, David Kerian had two-hit games.



Weekend Summary

IMG_3633Looking at the offensive stats, you can tell the guys were ready.  With a team average of .357, every starter batted at least .300.  In the four games, three Illini (Kerian, Nagle, and Reid Roper) got seven hits and three more (Krug, Walton, and Ryne Roper) got six.  Even Pat “the Bat” McInerney who started just two games went 4 for 8.  Reid Roper leads the team in rbis and Jason Goldstein has his team’s only homer.

But the pitching!!  Check these team stats out for the four game weekend.

  • team ERA of 1.46
  • 35 strikeouts but only 6 walks
  • BA against of .130

The most important statistic to look at of course, is the four wins.


Random Ramblings

I happen to love the new format of the recap pages (like this one) on the Fighting Illini website.  Along with the standard written text update, they incorporate a quick box score, stats, extra photos, video, and some nice graphics.  I feel it goes a long way to telling the story of the game and its players.

Adam Walton is leading off now.  That’s a good move in my opinion.  He proved he could hit last year.  Placing him in the top spot can leverage his speed and take advantage of Krug in the #2 slot.

Next up:  Illinois faces Florida Gulf Coast on February 20 in Fort Meyers, Florida.


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Fighting Illini baseball opens at Lamar University Cardinal Classic

Tyler Jay

Tyler Jay: High expectations in 2015 for the stopper

It’s finally opening weekend!! 

With brand new uniforms and two new coaches, the Illini have the same old desire to win.  Don’t expect a lot of changes on this team.  Other than acquiring assistant coach Spencer Allen and volunteer assistant coach Kyle Hudson, there have been precious little personnel movement since 2014.  That can only be a positive thing coming from a team that went 32-21 and even better, 17-7 in the Big Ten. 

This Friday, the University of Illinois baseball team goes down Texas way to participate in the Lamar University’s Cardinal Classic.  There they will take on the New Mexico Aggies and host Lamar Cardinals for two games each. 



Vincent-Beck Stadium
Beaumont, Texas

Fri. February 13

2:00 pm CT

Sat. February 14

11:00 am CT   


New Mexico State Aggies


2014 record: 

23-31 (11-13 WAC)

Sat. February 14

2:00 pm CT

Sun. February 15

11:00 am CT


Lamar Cardinals


2014 record: 

31-25 (16-14 Southland)


It won’t be the first time the Illini has faced either team.  In fact, Illinois narrowly defeated the Aggies 3-2 just two years ago.  The Aggies will be getting used to a new coach.  Brian Green is taking over after their winningest coach in history, Rocky Ward left. 

As for Lamar’s head coach, he has his own story.  Jim Gilliam has incentive to win as he is one away from 1,300 career wins. If he doesn’t get that win against New Mexico State, Illinois will be up next.  

Fortunately, the Illini have history on their side.  They have swept Lamar 3-0 lifetime and have gone 2-1 against the Aggies. 

IMG_5599The Fighting Illini weekend preview is out and so are the probable pitching assignments.  Look for Drasen Johnson (seen left, 5-7, 2.91 ERA in 2014) to be the opening day starter.  Rob McDonnell (4-0, 3.67) is tapped to to go on Saturday morning against the Aggies.  John Kravetz (6-0, 3.00) is taking on Lamar Cardinals on Saturday afternoon.  There’s a puzzling TBA listed for the last game against Lamar.  Logically, I would think that’s where Kevin Duchene’s (4-1, 1.80) name would go.  According to the News-Gazette this morning, Duchene is “fully healthy” but perhaps he needs one more week more.  Or perhaps Coach Hartleb is just toying with the idea of using one of the second tier starters to give them some experience. 


Random Ramblings: 

Lots of news in the past week.  First, the preseason poll has come out and Illinois is picked to place third in the conference.  Keep in mind this is a poll of the conference coaches. 

If you’re wondering, newcomer Maryland has the respect of the coaches of the Big Ten and placed first.  Nebraska comes in #2. 

The top six teams in the preseason poll:

1. Maryland
2. Nebraska
4. Indiana
5. Michigan
6. Ohio State

Last year’s Big Ten champion Indiana, who lost a lot of players to graduation and the draft, slips to #4. 

IMG_4146-001The Tyler Jay parade of honors is getting pretty crazy.  He’s now been been added to NCWBA’s Stopper of the Year Watch.  That makes a total of eight awards or honors that Jay has received over the off-season.  So much so, that the Fighting Illini website is keeping a running list now.

Don’t let it get to your head, Tyler.  Just throw hard. 

Speaking of preseason honors, I couldn’t help but notice that Adam Walton (above) and Kevin Duchene were both picked as 2015 Big Ten Players to Watch (along with Jay).  That’s the second selection for Duchene, by the way.

Finally, a fun stat from…

“Offense: UI will bring back 100 percent of its hits (487), home runs (21), RBI (233) and total bases (652); 98.8 percent of its runs (250 of 253); and 98.5 percent of its stolen bases (65 of 66).”

I’ve talked and talked about Illinois’ pitching this coming year but this really drives home the fact that their offense doesn’t lose ANYTHING from last year.  If anything, it gives them all a year of experience. 

Let’s see if we can prove the preseason poll wrong and do it one or two better. 

Go Illini!! 

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Pitching previews: A diplomatic solution to a nice pitching dilemma

IMG_6733-001The Fighting Illini baseball program has been doing position-by-position previews in the last few days on the website.  The previews of the actual starting position players haven’t been too surprising but I was wondering what would happen when it came to the pitchers.  Illinois may be in the envious position of having too much good pitching.  While some non-conference series are four games, most are three and once we get the all-important Big Ten season, it’s a three-man rotation all the way. 

Well, the Illini baseball program did the diplomatic thing and headlined four pitchers in their preview found here.  In order (though from the looks of it, the order doesn’t make a difference) they feature Drasen Johnson, John Kravetz, Rob McDonnell and Kevin Duchene. 

While it is a good position to be in, there probably is no such thing as having TOO much pitching.  Pitchers can get into a funk or (god forbid) can get injured.  Coach Dan Hartleb is probably counting his blessings that he has this many talented arms to rely on. 

Aside from the top four, he also has Cody Sedlock, Andrew Mamlic as well as Nick Blackburn to call on.  All can fill in at a moment’s notice. 

Long story short, we’ll see how things shake out down the road while the Illini play out the non-conference schedule. 

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