Former Illini Roark makes a visit home

Tanner RoarkSeems former Illini pitcher Tanner Roark who is now pitching for the Washington Nationals, is making the headlines more and more.  CBS Chicago covered Roark’s return to Illinois as he took on the Chicago Cubs today.  Roark is a Wilmington High School alum so there were some friendly faces in the crowd. 

Unfortunately for Roark, the Cubs were not gracious hosts today and handed the Nationals a 7-2 loss. 

This season, Roark has been a bright spot in the Nationals’ pitching rotation with a 7-5 record and miniscule 2.98 ERA.  He’s helped the Nats to a league best 3.04 team ERA which is has kept them in first place in the National League East division. 


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Matthew James dual role pays off in no-hitter for Lexington

jamesIt’s a new one on me.  Illini infielder Matthew James can pitch.  Apparently pretty well. 

And James (right) pitched REALLY well on Saturday as he threw a complete  game no-hitter for the Lexington Snipes against the Joliet Admirals.  Behind James’ pitching, the Snipes defeated the Admirals 6-1. 

The line on James:  7 IP, 0 H, 2 BB, 12 K, 1 ER.  James also went 1 for 2 with an rbi at the plate. Here is the boxscore for the record.

James is off to a great start for Lexington hitting .429 in 13 games.  From the hill, he’s 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 20 innings.  Lexington is now 8-5 and in third Mamlicplace in the Midwest Collegiate League.  

James is the second Illini player to pitch a no-hitter in summer league play in 2014.  Andrew Mamlic (left) threw a no-no back on June 21st for the Lombard Orioles.  Mamlic’s performance against the Sheboygan A’s was one walk away from a perfect game. 

Congrats Matthew and Andrew!


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Summer league action in full force

IMG_6872This summer, the boys are out to play.  Twenty-eight Illini baseball players are playing summer ball around the country for twelve teams in seven leagues.  As usual, team Sports Information Director Matt Wille has the Summer Ball Central web page up so we know what they’re up to.  Each team and league on Summer Ball Central is linked to its web site so click away. 

As usual, the Northwoods League is the big benefactor of Illini talent.  Illinois is sending sixteen players to play on five NWL teams. 

Matthew James (pictured) will be playing closest to the U of I as his Lexington Snipes are in nearby McLean County.  Kevin Duchene, Jason Goldstein and Tyler Jay will have to brush up on their Boston accents because they are joining the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in Massachusetts. 

Good luck to all the Illini!


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Class of 2014 Recruits: Ryan Haff

The Illini Coaching staff is off to an early start in recruiting this off-season.  They have already landed Ryan Haff, a Hinsdale Central product.  Haff primarily plays shortstop but looks pretty versatile in the field.  He also has plenty of pop, too leading Hinsdale Central in hits, doubles, triples and homers this past season.

You can read a pretty in-depth feature piece on Haff from April on the High School Cube News site. Haff seems serious about the sport of baseball and training.

Haff will be eligible to join the Illini for the 2014-15 season.


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Bullpen ace Jay nets All-Mideast Region award

Tyler JayIllinois reliever Tyler Jay has something to crow about.  Not only has he been named All-Big Ten Second Team but now he has been named to the ABCA/Rawlings All-Mideast Region Second Team, as well. 

Here is the list of All-Mideast Region Second Team honorees.

Jay’s performance in 2014 was indeed impressive.  He went 4-1 with a 1.94  ERA with 47 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings.  His 10 saves ranks second all-time in Illinois history. 

As someone who has seen Illinois during its lean pitching years, I can attest to the importance of Tyler Jay’s role.  Having a solid bullpen was key to Illinois’ success in 2014.  Jay relieved some of the pressure off of Reid Roper and while he had his “exciting” moments, nobody threw the ball harder than he did. It was obvious he has a future ahead of him.  With a little more experience, Jay could be an even more outstanding hurler. 

Congrats, Tyler!


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Ronnie Muck drafted by the Angels in round 30

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On the last day of MLB’s First-Year Player Draft, Illini bullpen stalwart Ronnie Muck got the call.

With the 899th pick in the 30th round, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim chose Muck.  The right hander from Maine South (Park Ridge, IL) graduated this past year and pitched four years for the Illinois baseball program.

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In four years, Ronnie Muck was always a solid reliever from the pen.  In four years, he tabulated a 3.62 ERA in 102 innings with 81 strikeouts.  More importantly, he only gave up 88 hits with a .235 opposing batting average.  Statistically, his junior year was his best with a 2.70 with just nine walks in 26 2/3 innings.  He also pitched in two different NCAA regionals.

Muck’s career college stats

Congratulations Ronnie!!


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Adam Walton named Freshman All-American Shortstop

IMG_3924-001Congrats to Illini shortstop Adam Walton.  It was announced yesterday that Walton was honored as an Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Shortstop.

Here is the full list of Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honorees.

Walton topped all Illini with a .329 batting average and scored 22 runs while maintaining an 18-game hitting streak during the 2014 season.

In other news, today the MLB First-Year Player Draft began.  No news yet on Illini players yet but tonight’s activities included the first few rounds.  Indiana’s Kyle Schwarber was chosen in the 4th round as the Big Ten’s first pick and highest in Indiana history.

Keep an eye on the draft the next two days here.

Good luck, prospective Illini!


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Spartans end Illini’s tournament run 11-2

On Friday, Illinois gave it their best shot but eventually the Spartans’ offense caught up to them.

The #3 seed Illinois (32-21) got an early lead against Michigan State (31-25) and had a 2-1 lead as late as top of the seventh inning.  But then things went sour and the Spartans tied in the seventh.  Illinois proceeded to give up five runs in the eighth and four more in the ninth.  That sealed a Spartan win and finished the Illini’s bid in the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha possibly ending their 2014 season.

 

Game #53 / May 23, 2014
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Starter John Kravetz pitched a great game against the rival Spartans spreading out six hits in 6 2/3 innings and allowing just 2 runs, one earned.  The Illini’s first run came in the second inning when Ryan Nagle drove home Casey Fletcher who doubled earlier, on a sacrifice fly.  Illinois’ second run occurred in the third when Jason Goldstein IMG_6584-001drove home Will Krug on a two-out double.

It has to be difficult for senior Ronnie Muck (left), who has been one of Illinois’ most reliable relievers in the past two years to finish his college baseball career in the way he did.  Everyone knows his five-run on 1/3 innings performance is in no way indicative of his overall value to the ball club.  I’m sure many would like to see Illinois get a NCAA bid just so Muck can vindicate himself.

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Speaking of which, Coach Dan Hartleb thinks that Illinois is one of best NCAA bubble team out there and he’s doing his best to promote that:

“I’m really proud of this team.  I do believe we are a team that can go into a regional and compete and even win a regional. If you look at our résumé with our record against Top 100 and Top 25 RPI teams, we may be the best bubble team, so hopefully those are things the committee looks at. I think we are worthy of a bid, but I also know that committee has a tough job because there are other teams that our worthy.”

Hartleb makes a good case but I’m sure there are ten or fifteen other coaches making similar arguments.  We will find on Monday if Illinois’ season will continue on to the Regionals as an at-large selection.  The NCAA Selection Show will be at 11am Monday on ESPNU.

By the way, keep an eye on Dewi Krug’s photo gallery.  She’s been posting pictures all year and as Will Krug’s mom, she was in Omaha all week.  Soon, I’m sure she’ll be posting photos from this week’s games in Omaha.

Good luck Illini!


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Illini find their bats against Ohio State at Big Ten Tournament 6-5

Kevin DucheneOn day after the #3 seed Illinois Baseball team (32-20) couldn’t find their bats in Game One of the Baseball Big Ten Baseball Tournament in Omaha, they turned it around.  At TD Ameritrade Park, they provided all the offense starting pitcher Kevin Duchene (left) needed against #7 seed Ohio State in their 6-5 win.

Duchene (4-1) was pretty effective given the 6-5 score.  Of the five Buckeye runs, only one was earned.  He gave up just five hits and walked two in his six innings.

It probably helped that the pressure was off Duchene.  From the first inning on, the Illini never fell behind in the game and only for a short inning were they tied.  A key error in the seventh inning helped the Illini put two runs on the board and take the lead for good.

 

Game #52 / May 22, 2014
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It was a team effort today.  Every starter in the Illini lineup got at least one hit.  The top five (Krug, Walton, Kerian, Goldstein and Reid Roper) contributed two hits as did Kelly Norris-Jones who spear-headed the key seventh inning with a lead off basehit.

IMG_6156Once Duchene was pulled after six innings, Nick Blackburn (left) and Tyler Jay did him justice by pitching a combined three innings of scoreless ball.  Jay earned his 10th save of the 2014 season.

 

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What happens next?  I guess it depends on what happens in tonight’s game between Nebraska and Michigan State.  On Friday afternoon at 3:30pm, Illinois will face the loser between those two.  That’s a tough call.  Nebraska is a tough team but the Spartans despite their win earlier in the tourney may still be harboring some grudges against the Orange and Blue.  Regardless. it will be John Kravetz (6-1) on the mound and THAT’s good news for the Illini.

The winner of that game goes plays on Saturday and that’s when you know things are getting exciting.

For the full Big Ten Tournament bracket and other info, check out Tournament Central.

Go Illinois!!


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Spartans find revenge against Illini at Tourney, 2-1

Like almost every other one of his starts this year, Drasen Johnson did his part. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough.

IMG_4512In Game One of the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, the Fighting Illini couldn’t get the offense going against Michigan State.  While Johnson struck out a career high ten batters and only allowed two runs and just one earned in seven innings, the Illini could only muster a run on a walk by Ryne Roper in the third inning.

Coach Dan Hartleb on Drasen Johnson today:

“Drasen has been good for us all year, but we haven’t given him any run support at all.  He had a tough first two innings but battled his way through it. The winning run was an inning where we didn’t talk on defense and didn’t get an out on a bunt play. Drasen deserved to win again today, but we didn’t get our jobs done.”

 

Game #51 / May 21, 2014
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Johnson has had a hard luck 2014 season.  Despite a 2.91 ERA in 15 starts, he has a 5-7 record.  He’s allowed two or fewer runs in a game eight times this season and the Illini offense average 2.4 runs per game when he starts.

It was Cam Gibson who got things going for Michigan State today with a leadoff homerun in the first inning.  I saw his intensity in the Spartan series at Illinois Field and I knew he would be ready to even the score.  He certainly didn’t waste any time.

Boxscore

Wrapup

 

Next up

The Illini are in the loser’s bracket now at the Big Ten Tournament.  To stay in it, they’ll need to win.  It will be another 9am game on Thursday this time against #7 seed Ohio State who lost against Nebraska.

For the full Big Ten Tournament bracket and other info, check out Tournament Central.

Go Illinois!!


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