Open scrimmage scheduled for Saturday!

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Big news, everyone!  This Saturday (September 10th) at 10:40am, the Illinois Baseball team will host an intrasquad scrimmage game.  The guys have been out at Illinois Field working on their fundamentals and a little friendly competition is probably in order. 

Gates will open at 9am if you want to enter and watch some batting practice.  Entrance will be at the gates on left field side and admission is free.  Beware, parking may be tricky due to Saturday night’s Illinois football game.  Also note, restroom facilities will be limited to portable toilets.. just sayin’. 

Don’t forget, the new roster just came out a few days ago if you want to print one out to learn the new guys.

2017 schedule released

In other news, the 2017 schedule for Illinois Baseball was announced yesterday.  The biggest highlight??  Illinois will test their mettle against the defending champion, Coastal Carolina on the weekend of March 10-12. 

The regular season begins on February 17th against Milwaukee in Beaumont, Texas.  Illinois fans will have to wait almost a month to see the boys at Illinois Field.  The home opener is on March 14th against the Huskies of Northern Illinois. That starts a homestretch of ten games in fifteen days. 

Illinois Field will also host the Illini’s Big Ten Baseball opener versus Michigan State on March 24th.  The Illini will host four home series against Big Ten teams (Michigan State, Northwestern, Maryland and Iowa).  They will also travel for four more (Michigan, Purdue, Minnesota and Rutgers). 

See you at the ballpark Saturday!


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How do you get to Omaha? Practice, practice, practice.

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It’s a take on an old adage but it’s so appropriate in this context.  Before Big Ten games, before non-conference games and even before intrasquad scrimmages, it all comes down to practicing the fundamentals.  And that’s what the Illinois Baseball team started doing this past week at Illinois Field. Thursday was the team’s first practice this semester at Illinois Field. They followed it up with another the next day.

Photo gallery for Thursday’s practice

Photo gallery for Friday’s practice

Practices consisted of simulated infield grounders, pop flies, baserunning pickles… you name it.  In between, I’m sure Coaches Hartleb, Dickinson, Christ and Hudson were facilitating good standards of teamwork between the players.

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I was out there for both days and it was good to see the guys in action.  I had a pleasant chat with pitcher/DH Luke Shilling (above) who seems to have a very positive outlook on the upcoming season and his role in it.  He talked about his summer league experience.  While he owned up to his control issues, he told me he ended the season in great fashion.  Indeed he did.  Luke didn’t give up a run for the Mallards in his last four games. 

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Keep an eye on the Fighting Illini web page or Illini Baseball Report for dates of the upcoming Orange and Blue World Series.  That’s the first sign we can see how much this practice has paid off.  In the past, the coaches have played a hands-off role during the intra-squad series and let both teams battle it out.  It’s a contest of teamwork and leadership as well as talent and skill.

Stay tuned for dates!


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Illini baseball roster updated for the 2017 season

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The Illinois baseball roster has now been updated for the 2017 season! 

Some quick numbers 

33 total players

21 returning from the 2016 season

12 new players

11 out-of-state players

6 left-handed pitchers

10 right-handed pitchers

6 players who can pitch and play another position

 

Illinois will be losing three key position players from the 2016 season.  The team will need to find replacements for catcher Jason Goldstein, shortstop Adam Walton and Michael Hurwitz. 

Of course, the one big loss in the rotation is last year’s junior Cody Sedlock who was drafted in the first round by the Orioles.  The Illini will also need to shore up the pen with the departure of aces J.D. Nielsen, Charlie Naso and Nick Blackburn.

20160504-IMG_6025However, stars Pat McInerney, Dan Rowbottom (left), Doran Turchin, Jack Yalowitz, Anthony Drago, and Trent Hammond are all returning.  They’ll be joined by pitching stars Cole Bellair and Doug Hayes who both showed plenty of good stuff in 2016.  Also, maybe now we can see what catcher Mark Skonieczny is really made of now that he out from under Goldstein’s shadow. 

Of note, transfer athletes Andy Fisher, Sean Leland, and Zac Taylor must sit out one year due to NCAA regulations. 

Rumor has it that fall practice begins tomorrow at Illinois Field.  It will be the first time the boys will all be playing together as one team. 

Have a good practice, boys and don’t forget your studies this semester!!


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Summer league stats roundup for Illini

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Summer fun for Jalin McMillan who hit .329 for the Southland Vikings

The PR people at the the baseball program have come up with something new (and I love it!).  For the first time, they are posting end-of-season summer league stats for the Illini baseball players. 

I have always been a big believer that summer league plays a big part in a college baseball player’s development.  Further, I have seen many players have a good summer season and then follow it up with a similarly great season for the Illini. 

On that note, who had good seasons this past season?  Four stick out to me. 

Pat McInerney is poised to have a fantastic senior year.  For the Kenosha Kingfish (NWL), Pat led the team with a .352 batting average.  He also had three homers and 22 rbis and 22 runs scored in 122 at-bats. 

Luke Shilling:  On the mound, Luke sported a nice 2.76 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 39 innings for the Madison Mallards (NWL).  The downside?  He walked 31 batters.  In case you’re wondering, Luke didn’t bat much this summer.  He came to the plate just two times. 

Jalin McMillan: A freshman thirdbaseman last year, McMillan showed good stuff for the Midwest Collegiate League’s Southland Vikings.  He hit .329 with 19 rbis and four doubles. 

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Jack Yalowitz:  Pat’s teammate on the Kingfish had a pretty decent year too.  Jack batted .290 with 15 runs scored in 69 at-bats. 

You can see the entire list of players and their stats here


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Summertime fun for current and recent Illini

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So Cody Sedlock is making his way into the Oriole minor league system now.  As their first round pick, he’s getting the royal treatment.  By now though. he is settling in as one of the guys at the Orioles’ Class A Short season Affiliate in Aberdeen.  Cody is now officially an Ironbird (the Ironbirds are so named because of Cal Ripken’s affiliation with the team).

Cody will have plenty of opportunity to help the 8-12 Aberdeen Ironbirds who reside in the cellar of the McNamara Division of the NY-Penn League. 

As for Jason Goldstein, it may take a little longer.  Once he got his physical, it was determined that Jason has a grade-two tear in his right hamstring.  So it’s off to rehab for Goldie.  What’s amazing is that Jason admitted playing the 2016 Illini season with the injury.  Get well Jason!!

nick bNick Blackburn is already at Missoula playing for the Diamondback Rookie affiliate in the Pioneer League.  He’s got a 2 2/3 innings in already and has only given up one run.  Fortunately for me, I have a friend in Missoula who is an Osprey fan and he gives me updates.  He even sent me this mobile phone photo of Nick being introduced to the fans on his first day on the job. 

Finally, J.D. Nielsen’s 13.50 ERA for the AZL Angels may be a little misleading.  J.D. pitched two scoreless outings, including one save, before getting lit up in his third outing.  I have no doubt… the magic is still there. 

So what about our current Illini players??

Glad you asked.  The folks at FightingIllini.com put together this handy page so you can follow our guys at their summer league teams. 

Not too surprisingly, the Illini once again have sent more than a few to the Northwoods League.  A total of seven Illini players head north to the largest summer league in existence. 

Good luck to all! 


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Sedlock signs with Orioles, Walton gets a chance with Diamondbacks

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Jim Callis of MLB.com reports that Illinois starter Cody Sedlock signed with the Baltimore Orioles today.  As a result of his first round selection, He’ll receive a nice sum of almost 2.1 million. 

 

Here are highlights from FightingIllini.com.  By the way, Sedlock is adding another award to his resume this week.  He was named to the ABCA/Rawlings Mideast All-Region first team

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Sedlock was among four Illini who were drafted in the MLB Draft last week.  I was a little surprised redshirt junior shortstop Adam Walton was not chosen.  However, the next day, he was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a free agent

Walton was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 2015 after his First Team All-Big Ten selection.  That year, he hit .289 with 25 multi-hit games and 50 run scored. He also ranked second the Big Ten in assists and double plays.  Walton ends his career with a .280 average and 151 games started. 

Congrats, Cody and Adam!


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Illini 2016 Draft Roundup: Sedlock, Goldstein, Blackburn and Nielsen chosen

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Cody Sedlock: another first round draft choice from the Illini

The Illinois baseball program had some big shoes to fill after last year’s draft.  A total of nine players were drafted from the 2015 team which won the Big Ten championship and went on to the Super Regionals. 

That said, the 2016 Illini team held their own.  This year, four Illini were drafted.  Three pitchers and one position player will go on to play ball in the minors.  Highly touted Cody Sedlock was drafted with the 27th pick, the second year in a row an Illini was chosen in the first round (Tyler Jay was picked in round one in 2015).  Also worth mentioning, the Illini have five top ten picks in the last two years, a new record. 

Here are the Illinois baseball draftees of 2016… 

 

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Cody Sedlock – RHP

Baltimore Orioles
1st round – 27th pick

The wait is over for Cody Sedlock and I have to say the pundits were pretty spot on with their predictions.  In mock drafts, most had Sedlock drafted somewhere between the #25th and the #30th pick. 

Cody brings a lot of speed to the mound as well as endurance.  I’ve watched his pitch speeds throughout the games this year.  Even into the 8th and 9th innings, he consistently kept his velocity of his fastball in the 90s.  The Orioles got a good one. 

FightingIllini.com highlights

 

 

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Jason Goldstein – C

Seattle Mariners
9th round – 267th pick

Jason Goldstein improved his draft presence by eight rounds from last year.  The Mariners are getting an all-around solid catcher with star potential.  The durable Goldstein can hit well especially in the clutch.  He is smart behind the plate and  can handle pitchers well and will be a positive influence in the dugout. 

Most importantly, he has been a part of a winning team and knows what to do to get to the next level.   

FightingIllini.com highlights

 

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Nick Blackburn – RHP

Arizona Diamondbacks
16th round – 479th pick

Like Goldstein, reliever Nick Blackburn improved his draft position from last year.  As their save guy, Blackburn was a key element of the 2015 Illini team which went to the Super Regional.  Coach Hartleb continued to call on him to close out games for Illinois in his senior year.  As a result, he racked up 11 saves, third in team history.  

FightingIllini.com highlights

 

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J.D. Nielsen – LHP

Los Angeles Angels
34th round – 1026th pick

I admit when I saw his name come up in MLB’s Draft Tracker, I did a double take.  It was listed as “Justin” Nielsen.  In all the years he’s been here, I’ve known him as “J.D.”

Regardless what you call him, J.D. Nielsen has been one of my favorite pitchers to watch on the mound.  He’s a 6’6” lefty with a unorthodox sidearm delivery which baffles the opposing batters.  Coach Hartleb was never shy about using Nielsen.  He left the Illini with 79 career appearances which is third best in team history. 

FightingIllini.com highlights

Congratulations to all of the Illini draftees!


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Just prior to MLB Draft, Cody Sedlock gets All-American nod

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Two days shy of the 2016 MLB Draft, Cody Sedlock received some more good news.  The junior right-hander was named to the All-America first team by Baseball America.  Sedlock becomes only the 14th player in Illinois history to be named a first team All-American and only the second right handed pitcher (Jason Anderson was the first).

Baseball America’s All-America teams of 2016

IMG_3607-001Illinois can boast two All-America first team selections in the past year,  though.  Lefty Tyler Jay was named just last year.  The last time two players in Orange and Blue were All-American in two years was in 1947-1948. 

With the MLB Draft starting on Thursday, Cody Sedlock’s stock keeps rising.  The latest mock draft by CBS predicts him being chosen 23rd, if that means anything.  Anything can happen though. 

The MLB Draft begins 6pm CT on June 9 and will continue through June 11.  I’m not going to jinx anybody but I’m pretty positive that Cody Sedlock won’t be the only Illinois player’s name we will hear called. 

IMG_3320-002One person who his no doubt happy about Sedlock’s situation is Illinois pitching coach Drew Dickinson (left).  With the successes of Sedlock and Tyler Jay, people are noticing Dickinson now. 

After his fifth season at Illinois, he has now been chosen by Team USA to coach at the USA Tournament of Stars.  Dickinson will debut on June 21-26 down in the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina.  He will be the pitching coach for Team United. 

Good luck to Drew!!


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Thank you Illinois Baseball Senior Class of 2016!

It’s May 31st so before the month is out and we close out the 2016 season, I want to recognize the Senior Class of 2016.  This class has quite a lot to to be proud.

The Class of 2016 went 145-74-1 for a .661 winning percentage.  They also boasted a 64-30 record against Big Ten teams.  According to FightingIllini.com, this is the winningest group since the 1960-1963 class who had a .695 winning percentage.

  Of course, it probably goes without saying, that these guys all participated in the most successful season in Illinois baseball’s history in 2015.  That included a 27 game win streak, an incredulous 50-10-1 record and a chance to host both the Regional and Super Regional.

The 2016 team was a young team but we are going to say farewell to few valuable players.  Here they are are.

Nick Blackburn- P

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Nick has been Coach Hartleb’s go-to guy out of the pen the last few years when the game is on the line.  During Illinois’ record-breaking 2015 season, he had a fantastic year.  He went 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA and 19 strikeouts and only three walks.  He didn’t let Vanderbilt get to him during the Super Regional mowing them down for 1 2/3 innings.

He was rewarded by getting drafted by the Mets in 2015 but chose to finish out his last year in the College of Business.  He did pretty well on the mound too.  He earned 11 saves (3rd in team history) in 24 appearances with a 3.73.

Jason Goldstein- C

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For the past few years, Jason was the heart and soul of this team.  With solid defense, clutch offense and important presence in the dugout, he was the face of Illinois baseball.

Jason’s 2015 season was pretty phenomenal especially during certain weeks.  Within a period of eight days, he drove in 12 runs including a grand slam against Eastern Illinois.

After an All-Big Ten First team selection in 2015, Jason was drafted in the 17th round by the Dodgers.  He chose to stay at the University of Illinois to finish out his senior year as an industrial engineering major.  Illinois baseball were happy about that as Jason led the team in hitting (.312), on-base percentage (.402), and rbis (29) in 2016.  Goldie was rewarded with the All-Big Ten Third team honor.

Michael Hurwitz- IF

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Two years ago, I was sitting in the visitors’ section during a game and a few opposing fans were snickering about Mike’s diminutive frame while he was up to bat.  I bit my tongue but I wanted to tell them that Mike was currently leading the Big Ten in walks and OBP.

Unfortunately, Mike was red-shirted in 2015 due to injury.  He got his chance to play in 2016 and he certainly made the most of it.  This time, he wasn’t content with just taking a walk though.  Mike contributed a 15-game hit streak during the month of April.  On top of that, he extended his on-base streak to 25 games.  He ended the season with a .276 batting average and a .392 OBP, third on the team.

Andrew Mamlic- P

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Like Goldstein, Mamlic has earned his undergraduate degree in engineering, civil engineering to be specific.  Not only that, he plans to receive his master’s by August of this year.

Mamlic really came out of nowhere this season.  A walk-on his freshman year, he didn’t get much time on the mound till 2016.  Then he was thrust into the starting role like his fellow Illinois club member, Doug Hayes.  With his 5-7 record, Andrew should have won more games with his very respectable 3.70 ERA.  He also only allowed 18 walks in 73 innings.

Andrew pitched key games against Missouri (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R) and Michigan (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER).

Charlie Naso- P

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What a senior year for Charlie Naso!

He led all pitchers with a 2.25 ERA.  It seems so long ago but in 2014, he showed greatness as a sophomore when he didn’t allow a run all year in 11 appearances.  Charlie only appeared in six games in 2015 but he was ready for action this year.   Charlie had a 2-0 record in 22 appearances and 28 innings to go along with his team leading ERA.

Word has it that Charlie is going into broadcast journalism so we probably haven’t heard the the last of him yet.

J.D. Nielsen- P

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When a call to the pen for J.D. Nielsen was made, I always appreciated his cool walk-on music.  His tall frame and unorthodox sidearm pitching delivery was fun to watch when he was on the mound as long as you weren’t the batter.

Coach Hartleb began to rely more and more on J.D. as the 2015 season passed.  By the end of the season, he had a 2.92 ERA and was considered a valuable asset when games were close.

J.D. continued his success in 2016 with a 5-1 record and 34 strikeouts in 30 innings.  He ended his time at Illinois with a third-best 79 appearances.   J.D. was honored with a Big Ten Sportsman Award by Illinois.

 

Good luck and thank you to each of the Senior Class of 2016!


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Sedlock named B1G Pitcher of the Year!

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It shouldn’t be any surprise to any Illini fan.  Starter Cody Sedlock has been chosen as the Big Ten Pitcher of Year.  He becomes the second Illini in as many years to garner the award after Tyler Jay earned it in 2015. 

Sedlock was efficient.  He had a conference ERA of 1.67 and an opposing batting average of .188.  Sedlock was durable.  In his last five starts, he lasted at least nine innings.  He was the nation’s only pitcher to last into the extra innings.  But most of all, Sedlock was intimidating.  His 116 strikeouts leads the Big Ten and broke the Illinois school record.

IMG_3607Junior Cody Sedlock received national attention on April 22nd when he pitched 10 2/3 shutout innings against Ohio State and struck out 14 batters.  Sedlock didn’t get the win but the baseball writers across the country noticed.  Since then, all eyes have been on him and he has responded brilliantly.  Sedlock allowed six earned runs in 34 innings pitched since that game. 

The season numbers on Sedlock:

W-L: 5-3, IP:  101 1/3, H: 80, ER: 28, BB: 31, K: 116

Sedlock was also unanimously named All-Big Ten First team.  While he just finished his junior year, no one is under any illusion that he will be returning.  In fact, some mock drafts show Sedlock will be going as high as the #32 overall pick in the MLB Draft on June 9-11. 

But that’s not all…

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On the 2016 All-Big Ten Third team is catcher Jason Goldstein.  As a former catcher himself, Coach Hartleb has always put a big emphasis on the position of catcher.  Goldstein is no exception.  He has the rare combination of defensive skills, prowess with the bat and leadership in the dugout. 

Goldstein led the team in hitting for almost the whole season.  He ended up with a .312 batting average.  Hitting in the middle of the order, Goldstein was Hartleb’s go-to guy for driving in runs.  He led the Illini with 28 rbis. 

 

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Cole Bellair was chosen for the 2016 All-Big Ten Freshman team.  After several successful outings from the bullpen, Bellair was called on by Coach Hartleb to be the Sunday starter.  Cole responded well though sometimes he didn’t always get offensive support he deserved.  He ended the season with a 3.34 ERA, fourth on the team. 

 

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Senior reliever J.D. Nielsen was nominated as the Illinois Sportsman Award honoree.  At 5-1 with a 3.60 ERA (and a quite unorthodox delivery), the Winterset, Iowa native was a reliable option out of the bullpen when games were close.  Nielsen finished his career with 79 appearances for the Illini.  That ranks him a cool third all-time among all Illinois pitchers.

Congratulations to Cody, Jason, Cole, and J.D.!! 


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