T-minus two days before the 2013 season opener for the Fighting Illini Baseball team. On Friday at 3pm, the challenge begins. The challenge to see if Coach Hartleb’s Illini baseball team can come back from their lackluster finish in 2012. Time will tell but I know the players will have fun trying.
They be playing Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles of the Ohio Valley Conference. TTU is in a very similar predicament. Like Illinois, they are coming out of an off-year. Also like the Illini, they were just chosen to come in sixth in the OVC (I don’t like these preseason polls, I really don’t). So, Tennessee will have something to prove against the Big Ten team.
It looks like the probable pitchers for the Illini are Kevin Johnson on Friday, and two freshmen will finish out the balance. Kevin Duchene will start on Saturday and Nick Blackburn will finish out the series.
Speaking of freshmen, it looks like Jason Goldstein will get the nod for opening day behind the plate. Another freshman, Ryan Nagle, will be filling the hole at first base.
Coach Hartleb talks about his strategy for the upcoming series in today’s press conference in this video.
A quick rundown on Tennessee Tech
Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles
|February 15, 2013||3:00 pm CT|
|February 16, 2013||2:00 pm CT|
|February 17, 2013||1:00 pm CT|
|Bush Stadium||Cookeville, TN|
|Program website link||2012 Record 21-32 (10-16 OVC)|
|Head Coach: Matt Bragga||Key player: Zach Stephens (.368, 52 rbis in 2012)|
Yes, it’s ‘Bush’ Stadium, named after this gentleman.
Much like the Illini, the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech are looking forward to a competitive schedule in 2013. Their preseason press release highlights the TTU’s matchups against a couple Big Ten teams, Illinois and Michigan State. Similar to Illinois, they’re looking to improve on their sub-par 2012. The Golden Eagles went 21-32 and 20-16 in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Keep an eye out for TTU firstbaseman Zach Stephens. He was the OVC’s preseason choice for Co-player of the Year. He led the Golden Eagles in pretty much every major offensive category in 2012.
For those wanting to follow the games
I notice that Gametracker is on the the schedule for all three games this weekend. For those not lucky enough to make it to Cookesville (believe me, I considered it), you can follow the live scoring system. I’m looking forward to seeing our little guys crossing the plate.
If we’re lucky, maybe even SID Matt Wille will be providing play-by-play via live blogging like in years past. No definitive word on that yet.
Around the Web
Chris Webb of B1G Baseball puts three Illini on his 2013 Freshman 15 list. He lists Nick Blackburn and Jason Goldstein in the top 15 and adds Adam Walton as someone to watch.
Webb also says Ronnie Muck is primed for a breakout season:
…Along with strong peripherals, Muck has shown an ability to produce in tough situations, he pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless baseball in the 2011 Fullerton Regional against Stanford. Everything is present for Muck to be a premier pitcher in the Big Ten this season.
Good luck this weekend, Illini!! Clip the Golden Eagles!
Tags: adam walton, coach hartleb, jason goldstein, kevin duchene, Kevin Johnson, nick blackburn, opener, previews, ronnie muck, ryan nagle, tennessee tech