IBR: a new look at top

I was looking up at the banner of Illinois Baseball Report a few weeks back and noticed it was about time to change it.  Three of the players, Jason Goldstein, Adam Walton and Cody Sedlock, have gone on to bigger and better things. 

 

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And while I liked Coach Hartleb’s photo from last year, he looked like needed a little cheering up.  A little trivia, that photo was taken at the moment when the 2015 Illini team lost to Vanderbilt in the 2015 Super Regionals.  So I guess you can understand the consternation on Coach’s face. 

In short, it was time for a new web banner.

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This year, we have a new crew up top joining a happier-looking Coach Hartleb.  From left to right, it’s catcher Mark Skonieczny, pitcher Doug Hayes, Coach Dan Hartleb, thirdbaseman Trent Hammond and firstbaseman/DH Anthony Drago. 

If you want to see my photos in full resolution, check them out at the Illinois Baseball Report photo gallery. Photos are categorized by year going all the way back to 2005-2006. 


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Nifty 1993 Illini baseball card set is really worth a look

full1993My friend Robin gifted me a pretty nifty piece of Illinois Baseball memorabilia.  It is an unperforated set of baseball cards of the 1993 Illinois baseball team.  Wow!

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Lots of history here.  Starting with the head coach, Itch Jones who still ranks 28th all-time with 1,242 wins.  And guess who was his assistant coach?  Yep, it was current head Dan Hartleb.  Unfortunately, Dan’s photo didn’t weather the years so well. 

 

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I found the 1993 schedule card very interesting.  The boys didn’t go to Texas for the early season.  No, they went to Hawaii!  Some similarities remain though.  Non-conference games against Eastern Illinois Indiana State and Western Illinois are still standard fare. 

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Scott Speizio, who eventually made it to the bigs, was featured.  You would think since his dad also played for the Illini, they would have spelled his name correctly.  Here is his bio on the back.

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Other stars like Larry Sutton Mark Dressen and Forry Wells were also part of the set.  You can see the whole set here

Thanks Robin!  This is a great blast from the past! 


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The Orange Team dominates the 2016 Orange and Blue World Series

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After a fall’s worth a practice and a couple of scrimmages, the Orange and Blue World Series took place this week.  This is probably the 12th one I’ve attended and I don’t think I’ve seen a more one-sided victory by one of the teams.  The Orange Team swept the Blue Team three games.  To add insult to injury, they also won both of the scrimmages earlier in the fall. 

A quick recap of the games: 

Game 1- Monday

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A real blowout by the Orange Team.  You could have called it the Bren Spillane show.  The lanky Wheeling freshman banged out three homers in the game.  His last in the fourth inning capped back-to-back-back homers against the Blue Team.  Doran Turchin and Michael Massey also got into that action. 

FightingIllini.com wrap

IBR photos

Orange Team 16  Blue 0

Game 2- Friday

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A rainy afternoon at Illinois Field but it was the game to watch.  Pitching was on for both teams and it was 2-2 at the end of 8 1/2 innings.  It was Bren Spillane again who brought the stick for the Orange Team.  He drove home the winning run with a walk-off hit.  He and shortstop Tyler Engel were the only players with more than one hit. 

Luke Shilling (5 IP, 5 K) and Joey Gerber (2 IP, 3 K) pitched a solid game for the Orange Team. 

FightingIllini.com wrap

IBR photos

I will say that there was no doubt how serious these guys take this competition when the Orange Team clinched this series. True victory in their eyes. 

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Game 3- Saturday

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Today, it was a rainy morning but the baseball gods brought the sun out eventually.  The Orange Team must have found their game plan from Game 1 and used that.  Not only did they score nine runs early but they kept the Blue Team hitless for five innings.  Michael Massey doubled twice and drove home four runs while Mark Skonieczny banged a single and a double while driving home three. 

The Blue Team did eventually score twice on six hits, including two by Jalin McMillan. 

IBR photos

Orange Team 9 Blue Team 2 

While it is true Massey, Spillane, and Skonieczny got their share of the headlines, let’s not ignore the pitching effort.  The Orange Team hurlers did fantastic, allowing just four runs in three games.  Those pitchers mostly include Luke Shilling, Joey Gerber, Zack Jones, and Sean Leland. 

Enjoy your victory now, Orange Team.  From now on, you and the Blue Team will be as one.  We’ve seen the best that the best that the both of you had to offer.  Yes, you won the Orange and Blue World Series but that is just three games and you both have a whole season ahead of you. 


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Dates for Illinois Baseball’s Orange and Blue World Series scheduled!

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From the looks of it, the guys have been having fun with the intrasquad scrimmages the past two Saturdays.  But check it out!  Scrimmages are just scrimmages but next week, the real Orange and Blue World Series takes place.  Then, things are going down. 

Three games are scheduled next week.  According to FightingIllini.com, the dates are…

Orange & Blue World Series Schedule
Game 1 – Monday, Sept. 26 at 4 p.m.
Game 2 – Friday, Sept. 30 (Time TBA)
Game 3 – Saturday, Oct. 1 at 10:30 a.m.

Admission is free.  Of course, keep an eye on @IlliniBaseball on Twitter for any last minute scheduling changes. 

Spread the word and and get out to Illinois Field!


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Orange Team takes Illinois baseball scrimmage again, 4-0

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Saturday was another repeat from last weekend.  We had rain early in the morning but by the time the Illinois baseball players were scheduled to square off in their intrasquad matchup at 10:40am, it was nice and sunny and perfect baseball weather.

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It was a repeat in other ways too.  The Orange Team won again.  This time it wasn’t a comeback win like last time.  Behind some good pitching, they won 4-0 over the Blue Team.  Credit freshman Ryan Thompson (above) and sophomore Louisville transfer Sean Leland with getting the job done on the mound. 

Another new guy, freshman infielder Michael Massey seemed to be in the thick of things all game.  He drove home a run early in the game with a base hit then advanced on the throw home.  He later scored that inning. 

 

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Just to show that even during these exhibition games, the players are going all out.  Massey also scored from third on a ball that got away from catcher David Craan.  As you can see above, pitcher Zak Devermann who was attempting to make the play on Massey and both players were playing for keeps. 

sept17scrimmage (11)I saw a familiar face at the game Saturday.  Former Illini and draftee Jason Goldstein (left) was sitting near the dugout for most of the game. 

I was speaking the Anthony Drago’s father Tony on Saturday.  According to him, the guys are really enjoying these scrimmages.  Practices are one thing but playing head-to-head give them more in-game experiences and quite frankly, are more fun for them. 

I agree!  They’re fun to watch too. Keep ‘em coming!

More photos from Saturday here.


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Blue v. Orange: Another open scrimmage set for Saturday

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This Saturday, they’ll be at it again.  After having so much fun last weekend, Illinois baseball’s Orange Team and Blue Team will battle it out this coming Saturday during another open scrimmage at Illinois Field. 

  • What:  Open scrimmage
  • Where:  Illinois Field
  • When:  September 17 at 10:40am (gates open at 9:00am for batting practice)
  • Cost:  Free!

Sure, it’s a friendly intrasquad game but deep down, I’ll bet the Blue Team will be looking for some payback after the Orange Team came back to win 7-5 last Saturday

The scrimmage is part of the Illinois baseball fall practice and occurs prior to the Illini football game against Western Michigan at 3pm (so keep parking in mind!).  For those of you tailgating, stop on by Illinois Field!


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5 things I learned from Saturday’s Illini baseball scrimmage

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Last Saturday, the Illinois baseball players assembled on Illinois Field for a little friendly competition.  A half hour before the game was to start, there was quite a rain and the pitching mound was covered.  Things have a way of working out though.  At 10:40am, the sky cleared and for the most part, it was a beautiful day for a baseball game. 

Divided into the Orange Team and Blue Team, it was a full game with pretty much all of the players getting into the action.  Both teams played well and it was a good game to watch.  The game may have been friendly but the competition was real.  The Blue Team pulled out to a 2-0 lead early.  By the end of the game though, the Orange Team came back to win 7-5. 

And now, five things I picked up from Saturday’s game. 

 

1.  Luke Shilling still knows how to hit

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See, while Shilling focused on pitching during college summer ball, he only came to the plate twice all summer.  Well rest assured, he can still rake.  On Saturday, he drove in Blue Team’s first run with a double to left.  In the last frame, crushed the ball for a homer to right field fence.  

 

2.  Mark Skonieczny wants to make sure that catcher’s job is his…

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The Orange Team’s Skonieczny played a solid game behind the plate on Saturday but Mark had some fireworks up his sleeve.  While Blue Team got off to a quick start thanks in part to Shilling, it was Skony’s three-run homerun that sealed the deal for the Orange Team.  That’s Skonieczny above, returning from retrieving the ball from the other side of the wall as tradition dictates. 

That one homerun matches his total for all of last year so I’ll bet there is more where that came from. 

 

3.  …but David Craan will at least make him work for it

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I was really impressed by Blue Team’s catcher David Craan.  While speedy Craan didn’t hit for power, it seemed he was always on base.  More importantly, he got into scoring position either by stealing a base or by heads up base running.  As a result, Craan scored a couple runs for the Blue Team. In addition, his defense was surprisingly nifty.  He handled several plays at the plate including back-to-back force outs at home. 

 

4.  We can expect more of the same from Trent Hammond

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One of the joys from last year was watching the flawless defense of thirdbaseman Trent Hammond.  It looks like like Hammond hasn’t lost any of his magic glove over the summer (see photo above).  This year, fellow 3B Jalin McMillan looks like a capable backup and in a year, he looks to be Illinois’ starter at third.  For now, his best plan for his sophomore season is to learn everything he can from senior Hammond.

 

5.  A scrimmage game is a magnet for Illini Baseball alums

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In addition to Will Krug and Mike Hurwitz who have been helping out with the team this fall, a few recent alums stopped by.  That included former outfielder Ryan Nagle and former pitchers J.D. Nielsen, John Kravetz and Nick Blackburn (above, talking to Coach Hartleb) who were most likely in town for the big football game as well.   

All in all, it was great to see the guys in action.  It will be interesting to see what Illinois will do with their middle infield as the team lost both shortstop Adam Walton and secondbaseman Michael Hurwitz.  I saw plenty of talent out there… it will just be a matter of who will play and where. 

More photos from Saturday here.


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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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