Duchene, Jay, Walton Named Big Ten Preseason Players to Watch
Former Illini All-American Returns to Champaign
Early National Letter of Intent signing period started November 12.
Illinois to Host 23 Home Games, Play 12 Contests Against Five 2014 NCAA Tournament Teams
12-Year Coaching Veteran Comes to Champaign from Creighton
Photos of the Illini playing Mizzou at Busch Stadium in St. Louis
Illinois baseball at Houston Baptist and UT Arlington. 3/1/13 - 3/3/13
Photos from Illinois' Honor and Serve Day and 8-6 win over Michigan State.
Recruited and developed 70 professional players, including 58 while at Illinois
Dan Hartleb enters his 10th season as head coach at Illinois and 25th season on the Illini coaching staff in 2014-15. Hartleb has already joined the ranks of the winningest coaches in school history, as he is currently fourth in school history with 276 career victories. He won his 100th Big Ten game in 2013 against Nebraska and has a conference record of 130-107.
During the 2014 season, Illinois posted its best Big Ten record at 17-7 during the conference's 24-game schedule era, finishing in third place and playing in the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini earned their most conference wins under Hartleb, which included a 10-2 mark in Big Ten road games. Six Illini earned All-Big Ten honors, while Adam Walton was named a Freshman All-American. Illinois' pitching staff shined on the mound, setting the school record with a 3.25 team ERA. Tyler Jay garnered All-Region recognition and shined on the Team USA Collegiate National Team roster during the summer, going 2-0 with a save and no earned runs allowed in 16.2 innings of relief. Hartleb also served on the coaching staff for the 2014 USA Baseball 14U National Team Development Program.
During the 2013 season, Illinois advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years and finished 35-20, marking the most wins under Hartleb and since 2000 by an Illini squad. The Illini earned an at-large bid into the Nashville Regional, where they won their opening game before falling in their final two contests. Hartleb coached a pair of players to top national and conference honors, as Justin Parr was named an All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year and Kevin Duchene was picked as a Freshman All-American and Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
Hartleb guided the Illini to Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships in 2011, and the squad advanced to the championship game of the NCAA Fullerton Regional. After a rocky start to the season, Illinois reversed course by winning 18 of their final 24 games to clinch a share of the regular-season Big Ten title, sweep through the Big Ten Tournament with a 3-0 record and go 2-2 at the NCAA Fullerton Regional as the No. 4 seed, eliminating No. 1 Cal State Fullerton and No. 3 Kansas State along the way.
Hartleb has twice taken UI to an NCAA Regional in 2011 and 2013. He has led the Illini to the Big Ten Tournament in seven of his nine seasons at the helm, giving the Orange and Blue eight postseason appearances in the last 10 seasons and 14 in the last 19 years.
After spending the first 10 years of his tenure at Illinois as the pitching coach, Hartleb earned the additional title of associate head coach in 2001, coordinating many administrative duties associated with the Illini baseball program. Following the 2005 Big Ten Championship season, ABCA Hall of Famer Richard "Itch" Jones retired and Hartleb was hired as the 10th coach in 136 years of Illinois Baseball. Hartleb coached under Jones for 17 years, two at Southern Illinois and 15 at Illinois.
During his time with the Illini, Hartleb has been instrumental in recruiting and developing 58 players who have signed minor league contracts, including one in 2014, three in 2013, two in 2012, four in 2011, three in 2009, two in 2008, four in 2007 and seven in 2005. Ten former Illini have reached the major leagues, with Tanner Roark (Washington Nationals) and Chris Robinson (San Diego Padres) adding their names to that list in 2013.
In addition, 26 former players have earned All-America honors on 49 different teams and 10 Illini freshmen have been named to Freshmen All-America teams. Three of Hartleb's pitchers have been named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and Illinois has produced five Big Ten Players of the Year, along with 32 first-team All-Big Ten selections.
The Illini also have achieved a great deal of success in the classroom in Hartleb's nine years as head coach, earning five NCAA Public Recognition Awards, an honor bestowed on the highest-achieving schools in the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate (APR). Illinois also has ranked in the 90th percentile of all baseball programs in seven of Hartleb's nine seasons.
As the pitching coach at Illinois from 1991-2005, Hartleb produced an All-American pitcher in five consecutive seasons from 1998-02 and three of the four Big Ten Pitchers of the Year from 1998-2001. Brett Weber started the run when he earned All-America status and won Pitcher of the Year honors in 1998 and closer Jimmy Journell followed suit with All-America honors of his own in 1999.
Jason Anderson picked up the streak in 2000, taking home both All-America and Pitcher of the Year honors after posting a 14-3 record that season. Andy Dickinson kept it alive with All-America honors in 2001 and '02 and Pitcher of the Year accolades in '01.
But Hartleb has not simply been a pitching coach. He also has helped recruit and develop many top Illini players, including infielder Chris Basak, catchers Chris Robinson and Lars Davis, and infielder Bubba Smith. After three years under Hartleb's tutelage, Robinson became the highest-drafted position player in Illinois history when he was selected in the third round of the 2005 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Detroit Tigers. Davis nearly matched Robinson in the 2007 draft when he was taken in the third round by the Colorado Rockies, but 12 picks later overall.
Jimmy Journell earned his first Major League appearance with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, less than three months after Anderson's big-league debut. Journell was the Cardinals' 2001 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Mitch Walk, who was the Pitcher of the Year for the class-A San Jose Giants in 2001, pitched for Illinois from 1998-2000 and advanced to Double-A Norwich in 2005. Matt Vorwald was drafted in the seventh round by the Minnesota Twins in June of 2001.
Andy Dickinson was drafted by the Oakland A's in June of 2002 and advanced to the A's Double-A Midland RockHounds in 2005. Dave Mazurek and Justin Olson added their names to the list in 2003, as the former All-Big Ten closer signed a free agent deal with the Texas Rangers and Olson joined the Minnesota Twins organization. Mazurek played for the high class-A Lynchburg Hillcats, a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate, in 2005, and Olson played for the Minnesota Twins' Double-A affiliate in 2006. Conroy was drafted in the 19th round by the New York Yankees in 2005 and won a New York-Penn League title with the class-A Staten Island Yankees that fall.
Other pros who have pitched under Hartleb at Illinois include 1999 Chicago Cubs draft pick Tim Lavery, 1998 Anaheim Angels signee Cody Salter, 1997 Houston Astros pick Brian Hecht, 1993 St. Louis Cardinals draftee Matt Arrandale, Mark Dressen and Jake Toohey.
Hartleb, a former catcher himself, also has been instrumental in creating a catcher tradition at Illinois. In addition to the recent high selections of Robinson and Lars Davis, catchers Adam Davis, Patrick Arlis and Aaron Nieckula had their names called during the draft. Adam Davis was an 11th-round pick by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2011 draft, Arlis was selected in the 11th round of the 2002 draft by the Florida Marlins and the A's took Nieckula in the 22nd round of the 1998 draft.
Following a five-year minor league career, Nieckula became the manager of the Kane County Cougars in 2006 and led the A's class-A affiliate to the Midwest League championship series. He guided the Stockton Ports, Oakland's advanced-A squad, in 2009 and returned to Kane County in 2010. After the A's changed affiliates in the Midwest League, Nieckula became the manager of the Burlington Bees for 2011 and continued with the club in 2012.
In addition to developing Illinois' batteries throughout the years, Hartleb also has helped bring some of the top recruiting classes in the nation to Champaign in recent years. Anderson turned down a sixth-round offer from the Kansas City Royals in 1997 to attend Illinois after being recruited by Hartleb, and James Morris, a 23rd-round draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds in 2005, turned down a draft offer from the Anaheim Angels in 2001 to do the same. Hartleb's 1994 recruiting class, which included the core of the 1998 Big Ten championship team, also will go in the books as one of the finest classes ever recruited to Illinois.
Hartleb began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at Southern Illinois University in 1989-90. A two-year letterwinner at SIU, Hartleb finished his playing career with a .305 batting average. As a senior, Hartleb appeared in 56 contests as a catcher. Hartleb transferred to Southern Illinois from John A. Logan Community College, where he was a junior college all-star catcher. At Hamilton High School in Hamilton, Ohio, Hartleb was a standout athlete in both baseball and football. He was inducted into Hamilton High School's Hall of Fame in February 2002.
A 1989 graduate of SIU with a B.S. in advertising, Hartleb received his M.S. in higher educational administration from SIU in May 1996. He and his wife, Gina, were married in December 1993 and reside in Champaign with their children, Zakary David and Haley Noel.
The Hartleb File
Southern Illinois, 1989
John A. Logan CC, 1986, A.S.
Updated September 2014