Illini Baseball manage one win on Opening weekend at Lamar Cardinal Classic

2016-9-2 Illinois practice-8980-001

First career win for Shilling

Battling the weather in Beaumont, Texas, the Illini came away with an opening day win at the Lamar Cardinal Classic this weekend.  After that, it was a matter of bad timing.  When they scored nine, their opponent scored 15.  When they held their opponent to just two two runs, offense just couldn’t come through. 

Coach Hartleb saw the silver lining though. He did his best, at least. 

"It’s early but there’s obviously some disappointment in my mind.  But I like our players, I like our abilities. I wish we had a game tomorrow but we’ll have to go back and work on some stuff before next weekend."

He’ll have a few days before returning back to Texas again.  Here’s a quick recap of the weekend. 


Game #1 / February 17, 2016    
vs MilwPanther




Illinois got off to a good season start against Milwaukee once they started playing.  The game was delayed over five hours due to the heavy rains in Texas on Friday.  Once the game was going, it was all Illini though. 

It was Luke Shilling on the mound and honestly, he performed like I thought he would.  He allowed just three hits and one run in five innings.  He struck out six Panther batters as well as walking six others.  Matt James and Jackson Douglas pitched the balance of the game allowing just one more run. 

There is a lot to be said for the offense of Game 1. Michael Massey and Jack Yalowitz both collected three hits for the day.  In the 3rd inning, Bren Spillane hit a bases-loaded triple.  By the end of the third inning, it was already 9-0 Illinois.

Fighting Illini Game Wrapup



Game #2 / February 18, 2017    
MilwPanther vs



On Saturday, the Illini weren’t able to execute.  Illinois actually out-hit Milwaukee 8 to 6.  One of those hits was a solo homer by Pat McInerney, the first homerun by an Illini.  In addition, DH Casey Dodge hit safely three times. 

Quinten Sefcik allowed five hits and three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings for the loss.  Relievers Zack Jones and Cyrillo Watson struck out a combined total of six opponents in just 2 2/3 innings. 

Fighting Illini Game Wrapup



Game #3 / February 18, 2017    
lamarlogo vs



In Saturday’s second game against Lamar, things got a little wild and wooly.  Lamar looked liek they were going to run away with it getting off to a 13-3 start by the fifth inning.  Matters weren’t helped in the fourth inning when three Lamar runs scored when two walks drove in runs and one more hit-by-pitch drove in another with the bases loaded. 

But the Illini did make the game interesting.  They put together two runs in the sixth capped by Jalin McMillan’s rbi double.  In the eighth, Matt James rapped a bases-loaded triple and then scored himself on another triple by Jack Yalowitz. 

It was too little too late though as Illinois fell 15-9. 

Fighting Illini Game Wrapup



Game #4 / February 19, 2017    
lamarlogo vs



The final game against Lamar took a different turn than Saturday’s slugfest.  It was a old fashioned pitchers’ duel.  It was goose eggs for both teams for the first seven innings.  Freshman Ty Weber lasted 4 2/3 innings for the Illini and only gave up two hits. He struck out three and walked five. 

Dan Rowbottom put Illinois on top first with a rbi single scoring Yalowitz.  The Cardinals followed up with a tying run in the bottom of the inning.  The game went into extras and in the bottom of the 10th, the winning Cardinal run scored on a wild pitch. 

Fighting Illini Game Wrapup


Random Ramblings


Jack Yalowitz is off to a good start this season.  He had eight hits and four rbis over the weekend.  Freshman Michael Massey from Brother Rice, hit in every game and has five hits total.

And just a reminder, total stats for the Illinois baseball team are here.  You can also access each individual player’s game stats from their bio page too. 

Next up

The Illini will travel to Texas again next weekend.  They will be head to Corpus Christi for a three-way tournament with Texas A&M, Missouri, and Houston. 

I’m hoping the weather clears up by then. 

Go Illini!

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Young Illini arms to be tested on opening weekend at Lamar Cardinal Classic

2016-9-2 Illinois practice-8980-001

It’s a few days past Valentine’s Day and now we’re talking Opening Day?  It’s hard to believe.  It really snuck up on me.  But boy, I am so glad that baseball season is finally here! 

The Illinois baseball team are on their way to Beaumont, Texas to take part in the Lamar Cardinal Classic this weekend.  Illinois is no stranger to the tournament hosted by Lamar.  They have participated in it in years past.  This time around, they will be taking on the Milwaukee Panthers for two games and host Lamar Cardinals for two more. 

The big story for Illinois is the youth exhibited by the announced pitching rotation for the tournament.  Let’s take a look

Pitcher probables

  • Friday  Luke Shilling: 0-0, 6.75 ERA
  • Saturday Game 1  Quinten Sefcik: 0-0, 6.46 ERA
  • Saturday Game 2  Cole Bellair: 2-3, 3.34 ERA
  • Sunday  Ty Weber: Freshman

Illinois will be starting three sophomores and one freshman this weekend.  Between the four of them, they have two career wins and ten career starts.  Friday’s starter, Shilling, came up as a multi-faceted player having played first base.  His slugging was much touted however over the summer last year he did so well throwing from the mound that pitching may be his future.  Indeed, it is still power but power pitching.

Quinten Sefcik is another pitcher who can also play the field. He’s listed as a INF/RHP.  I’m wondering if like Shilling, Sefcik will focus on his arm.  That can only help the young sophomore from Carmel Catholic. 

Of all the pitchers, we have seen the most from Cole Bellair.  He went 2-3 with a 3.34 ERA last year as a freshman.  At times, he showed signs of brilliance. 

Ty Weber, the freshman, is the one real unknown.  That said, his credentials from Menomonee Falls (WI) are quite impressive. In his senior year, he went 7-0 with a 2.05 ERA and struck out 64 while walking just 12.  In fact, the Reds liked his stuff so much, they drafted him out of high school.  We’re glad you chose Illinois, Ty!

A quick summary of the weekend…


Vincent-Beck Stadium
Beaumont, Texas

Fri. Feb. 17

2:00 pm CT

Sat. Feb. 18

12:00 pm CT



Milwaukee Panthers



2016 W-L: 32-26, 17-11 Horizon

Sat. Feb. 18

4:00 pm CT

Sun. Feb. 19 

10:00 am CT


Lamar Cardinals



2016 W-L: 35-19, 20-10 Southland


 My take on the Panthers and Cardinals:  Both Milwaukee (32-26) and Lamar (35-19) were winners in 2016.  Lamar even reached 20 wins in conference play against Southland opponents. 

Milwaukee’s Daulton Varsho and Cole Heili are both back.  They both hit eight dingers last year.  As for Lamar, they are dangerous every year.  Six starters in 2016 batted .300.  Fortunately for opponents, their best hitter, Stijn van der Meer,  is no longer with them.  However, Reid Russell (.354, 18 HR) is still read to play.  Lamar is a team to contend with indeed. 

Fighting Illini preview



Random Ramblings


With the beginning of the season come new polls.  In the Big Ten coaches poll, Maryland was chosen as the team to beat followed by Michigan and Nebraska. 


1. Maryland
2. Michigan
3. Nebraska
4. Indiana
5. Michigan State
T6. Iowa
T6. Minnesota

As you can see, Illinois is not in the top seven so Coach Hartleb may need to surprise a few people.  The good news is that three Illini were put on the Preseason Honors list.  Those fine players are Trent Hammond (above), Pat McInerney, and Doran Turchin.  Nice going, guys!!!



The departure of volunteer coach Kyle Hudson will certainly leave a big hole.  Coach Hartleb did find a very capable replacement however.  The team announced this week that former Illini rightfielder Casey Fletcher will be coming back to Illinois Field to help out with the team as volunteer assistant coach

Fletcher played for Illinois from 2014-15 and batted .318 with 60 rbis in 108 games.  Glad to have you back, Casey!! 


Go Illini!!    

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Hudson moving on to coach in the minors


So far, 2017 has been good for former Illini baseball players.  In January, Shawn Roof has been given his own minor league team to manage.  Today, it was announced that former Illini player and current volunteer coach Kyle Hudson has been hired by the Lynchburg Hillcats as a bench coach.  Hudson, a former teammate of Roof, played for the Illini baseball team from 2005-2008.  He also lettered for the Illinois football team. 

big ten tournament wednesday 013-001Hudson (shown left during the 2008 Big Ten Tournament) could hit, run and field well.  He still ranks second behind Darrin Fletcher with a career .366 batting average.  He still holds the all-time record for runs during the Big Ten season with 40 in 2008.  Hud ranks 3rd all-time in stolen bases with 66.  Forty of those came in 2008 which ties him with Roof for second best for an Illini in one season.  A fixture in center field, Hudson’s defense was flawless.   

Hudson’s skills were noticed by the scouts and he was drafted by the Baltimore organization.  He eventually made it to the big leagues for a cup of coffee in 2011 going 4 for 29 with 3 runs and 2 stolen bases. 

In 2015, Hudson became a volunteer coach for the Illini baseball team.  While he was honing his coaching skills, the team won the Big Ten title and advanced through the Regionals.  It must have wonders for Hud’s professional development and I’m sure that was not lost on the Cleveland organization.  He will now show them what he can do from a coaching perspective. 

The Lynchburg Hillcats are based in Lynchburg, Virginia and are the Class A Advanced affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. 

Good luck, Kyle!!!

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Former Illini Roof taking charge of Class A Hillsboro Hops

One of my all-time favorite Illini athletes is on the road to beginning to make the big time.  Early last month, it was announced that former Illinois shortstop Shawn Roof will be head coach of the Hillsboro Hops, the Class A Short Season affiliate of the Diamondbacks this year.  Roof will take the reins with help of assistant coaches Franklin Stubbs and Mike Parrott both former big leaguers. 

Long time Illini fans will remember Shawn Roof who played for Illinois from 2004 to 2007.  He had a way of leaving his mark on every team he played.  He played hard and was known for his hustle on the field.  When asked how his team would play in his introductory interview, he responded,

“We are going to play with a lot of energy, play hard, and respect the game”. 

I’m not surprised by this answer one bit.


Roof during his Illini days

As hard as he played the game on the field, he was a very sincere and approachable person.   Roof and I connected during the 2006 off-season and have been in touch ever since.  When he graduated in 2007, he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers.  Roof bounced around the minor leagues for six years reaching as high as Triple-A in 2010 with the Toledo Mudhens. 

IMG_6584When playing the game wasn’t in the cards, Roof’s people skills and knowledge of the game gave him the edge he needed to land a coaching job with the Baltimore organization from 2013-14.  Later, Roof was a visitor to Illinois Field in 2015.  He had taken a coaching job with Indiana and his Hoosiers swung by for a series. 

Now, Roof has his own team and I couldn’t be more proud.  If the Hillsboro Hops team name seems a little familiar, it may be that Adam Walton (a more recent Illini star shortstop) spent some time there last year. 

Illini records still held by Shawn Roof

  • Most Career HBP – 45
  • Most HBP in one season, 2007 – 22
  • 3rd most HBP in one season, 2006 – 17
  • Most HBP in one game – 4
  • 4th most career SB – 65
  • 2nd most SB in one season, 2007 –40 (tied with Kyle Hudson)
  • Most SB in one game – 4


Good luck, Shawn! 

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Illinois baseball hosts the press for Media Day


Local media showed up at the Irwin Indoor Football Practice Facility where the Illinois baseball team was taking practice on Friday.  It was Media Day and both Coach Dan Hartleb and designated player spokesperson Anthony Drago (above) took some time to speak to the press. 



Coach Hartleb’s crew is young but he emphasized “Our ultimate goal is always to win a national championship. Everything else is a by-product of that”.  Coach told me he was pleased with the turnout and outcome of last weekend’s Hot Stove Banquet but is glad to turn his focus back to baseball.  It is a lot of weeks of work and especially the last few days. 

Coach was diplomatically mum when I asked him who would be in Illinois’ starting lineup especially in positions that were vacated like shortstop.  “We’ll see who is ready at the top of the season; who is mentally prepared.” 



I also had a chance to chat with Illinois’ new student assistant coach, Mike Hurwitz. After graduating from Illinois, Hurwitz is now entering the MBA program at the College of Business. 

Hurwitz may be a helpful resource for the team academically since there are so many Business majors on the team now. All joking aside, Mike says he there to help the team in any way he can especially those who who inherit the middle infield positions left open by him and Adam Walton. 



Luke Shilling may play a big part in Coach Hartleb’s plans in 2017.  With such a young pitching staff, Shilling can make a difference with his arm (and maybe even with the bat).  Shilling told me he hopes the team can make a good showing against national champion Coastal Carolina before they head back to Champaign. 



The Illinois baseball season opens on February 17 against Milwaukee in Beaumont Texas.  The Illini home season begins March 14th against Northern Illinois at Illinois Field. 

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Goose Gossage highlights Illini baseball Hot Stove Banquet

Hot Stove Banquet 2017-317

Last night, the Illinois baseball program celebrated at its annual Hot Stove Banquet.  Sponsored by the Illini Baseball program and the Illinois Baseball Dugout Club, the Hot Stove is held every year in the offseason.  Fans at the banquet were treated to a terrifically uncompromising speech by Hall of Fame relief pitcher Goose Gossage. 

I don’t have the exact numbers but this year’s banquet was filled to capacity.  I know this because the auction items that were normally in the ballroom where attendees would dine were placed in three breakout rooms at the iHotel.  Yet even with additional space, the ballroom was still packed. 

The Hot Stove Banquet serves many purposes.  It is seen as the kickoff for the new season (it won’t be long before practice starts).  The banquet is a fundraiser for the Illinois baseball program.  In many ways, it is a reunion.  Many former players come back to support the program.  And of course, it is a great time to give due recognition to those that deserve it, meet the players and listen to a great speech by the honored guest. 

Hot Stove Banquet 2017-0298

Speaking of such, I had a chance to meet Goose Gossage briefly after dinner.  He is a very gregarious fellow.  I mentioned that Steve Garvey was the speaker at last year’s banquet and he talked a bit about the 1984 playoffs.  Knowing I was a Cubs fan, he said, “And what about Lee (Smith)?” referring to his Hall of Fame snub.

When he spoke to the crowd, Gossage began by talking about his roots in Colorado Springs and how he learned to love the game of baseball at a young age.  The highlight of his talk in my opinion, was his perspective of George Brett’s pine tar incident.  He told it with a lot of humor and honestly, I learned a thing or two. 

Gossage was opinionated when it came to Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame (“he broke the cardinal rule we were all taught when we first joined up”), pitch counts (“we didn’t have pitch counts.  If you got tired, they would come and take you out.”) as well as steroids-users in the Hall of Fame. 

Goose had a chance to meet with the team earlier in the day in the clubhouse and he mentioned that was what it was all about (“I’m not even a part of this program but it’s still baseball”).    


Hot Stove Banquet 2017-0343

Mike Namoff who conducts the live auction during the banquet is always an entertaining feature of every Hot Stove Banquet.  While he incorporates a lot of humor in the live auction, he is very effective at getting bids for the high-ticket items. 


Hot Stove Banquet 2017-0267

This was a hot item; a basketball signed by the last five Illini coaches

This year, people could bid on items in the outer rooms using an online app called Bidpal.  No pen and paper needed!  Coach Hartleb gave credit to Sports Information Director Brett Moore and Coach Kyle Hudson for getting that up and running. 


Hot Stove Banquet 2017-0253

IBR donates to the auction

This year, I reached out to the program and asked if I could donate some of my photos to the auction.  They took me up on my offer and I’m hoping to do this again. 

Between the live auction, the Bidpal auctions and banquet admissions, over $63,000 was raised!


Hot Stove Banquet 2017-0258 Hot Stove Banquet 2017-0270

From L to R:  Adam Walton, JD Nielsen, Ryan Nagle.  Wes Braun, Dom Altobelli

As I mentioned, every Hot Stove Banquet is a reunion of sorts.  It was great to see former players from ten years ago like Dom Altobelli as well as recent alum such as Cody Sedlock.  I got a chance to chat with all of them.  At every banquet, a current player is assigned to every table in an effort for people  to learn the team. 


Hot Stove Banquet 2017-0290

From L to R: Anthony Milazzo, JD Nielsen, Adam Walton, John Kravetz, Ryan Nagle, Cody Sedlock, Grey Schultz, Charlie Naso

I had to feel for catcher Grey Schultz.  He was assigned to Table 36 which was entirely made up of recent Illini baseball alum.  I hope you got through the night ok, Grey. 

As for me, I had the privilege to sit next to Tyler Engel’s father, Tim.  We had fun chatting for most of the night and I learned a couple things about Tyler (he starred in football, basketball as well as baseball in high school). 

Another successful Hot Stove Banquet is in the books.  The man who deserves most of the credit is Coach Dan Hartleb who works tirelessly no matter what time of year it is.

You can find a few more photos from the Hot Stove Banquet here

See you at the ballpark!

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Hurwitz to stay on as student coach

Mike hurwitzThe Illini baseball team are adding to its coaching staff.  Joining head coach Dan Hartleb, assistant coaches Drew Dickinson and Adam Christ and volunteer coach Kyle Hudson is a familiar face.  Michael Hurwitz who has spent much of the last five years playing second base for Illinois will be the new student assistant coach

Hurwitz will be focusing his talents on coaching the Illini middle infielders while attending graduate school.  Both second base and shortstop positions have been left vacant since last year.  Hurwitz himself graduated and shortstop Adam Walton is now playing in the minor leagues.  There is a lot of talent there but it will need to honed. Hurwitz will have plenty to work with. 

Hurwitz has been one of the hardest working players in recent memory.  After a productive junior season (third in Big Ten in walks and 11th in OBP), he red-shirted during the 2015 season due to injury.  He rehabbed and came back to have one of his best years.  He started the home season out hot with a 15-game hitting streak. By year’s end, he led the team in runs (32) and walks (27).

Maybe it’s me but throughout his career, Mike always seemed to come through with the clutch double.

A good choice by the Illini coaching staff.  I think the team will benefit from his presence.  Mike, I’m glad you’re staying a little longer!

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Illinois baseball batting a 1.000 in academics, graduation rate

sept17scrimmage (55)-002I know Dan Hartleb has always placed a high priority on academics during his reign as head coach of the Illinois baseball team.  According to data released by the NCAA today, it can be shown that this isn’t all talk. 

Illinois baseball is one of seven Illini athletic programs that can boast a 100% Graduation Success Rate (GSR).  The other U of I programs are men’s golf, women’s basketball, women’s gymnastics, soccer, women’s swimming and diving and women’s tennis.  The data is based on the 2006-2009 cohort, ending with freshman that began at the University of Illinois in 2009-10.

Further, Illini baseball graduation rate of 100% is the first since the report began in 1998. That perfect rate is one of only 13 in Division I baseball and the only baseball program in Big Ten Conference batting a 1.000. 

This achievement by the Illinois baseball program is only accentuated by the fact that many of the players were majoring in engineering, business and the sciences.  Keep up the good work Coach Hartleb and congrats to the Illinois baseball program!

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Hartleb recruits four to Illini baseball

hartlebCoach Dan Hartleb and his crew have been busy since the Orange and Blue World Series. reports today that three high school seniors and one JC sophomore have signed National Letters of Intent to play for the Illinois baseball team. 

All four will eligible to play in the 2017-2018 season. 

A quick look at the prospects:

Jimmy Burnette

Chicago, IL – St. Laurence HS

OF/P 6’2” L-L 

Notes:  321, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 35 R in 40 games as a junior along with a 3-1 record, 3.72 ERA and 45 SO, 2016 All-Catholic League second team

It looks like Jimmy is a Cubs fan so he can’t be all bad. 


Dylan Jones

Oswego, IL – Oswego East HS

OF/P 6’3” L-R 

Notes:  373, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 18 SBs as a junior.  Four-time Perfect Game all-tournament team.  Team MVP as a freshman. 

Dylan’s step brother is current Illini pitcher Zak Devermann (sibling rivalry in the making?)


Ryan Kutt

Orland Park, IL – Brother Rice HS

P/1B 6’2” R-R 

Notes:  10-0, 0.88 ERA, 89 SO, 71.2 IP in high school.  Also hit .403, with 9 HR, 50 RBI, 16 2B.  Numerous awards including 2016 IHSA Baseball All-State first team and 2016 Louisville Slugger Baseball All-American first team. 

Orland Park continues to be a source of talent for the Illini.  Former Illini Dom Altobelli and current Illini Sean Leland are from there. 


Grant Van Scoy

Papillion, NE – Papillion La Vista HS

INF 5’10” R-R 

Notes:  378/.438/.627, 10 HR, 18 2B, 2 3B, 50 RBI, 29 SB, 65 R, 55 G as a junior college freshman. 2016 junior college all-region selection.

Grant will have two years of eligibility left after transferring to Illinois.


Coach Hartleb had nothing but good things to say about his signees. 

"We’re extremely excited about this 2016-17 recruiting class. It’s a little bit smaller than some of our classes of the past two years, that’s because the amount of scholarship money that we have open, but I really feel good about the things that we’ve done to help the program. We’ve tried to go out and good athletes, guys that are good baseball players, but these guys are all good student-athletes and good people. They are going to fit in very well with our Illini family."

Congratulations to the class of 2017!  Welcome to the University of Illinois baseball team!

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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. 



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.


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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