Illinois Opens Season at Tennessee Tech

Senior Brandon Hohl will start at third base for the fourth year in a row when the Illini open the 2013 season at Tennessee Tech.
Senior Brandon Hohl will start at third base for the fourth year in a row when the Illini open the 2013 season at Tennessee Tech.

Feb. 14, 2013

 Illinois (0-0) at Tennessee Tech (0-0)
 Game 1 Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 | 3 p.m.
 Game 2 Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 | 2 p.m.
 Game 3 Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 | 1 p.m.
 Location Bush Stadium at Averitt Express Baseball Complex (1,100) | Cookeville, Tenn.
 Gametracker Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Game Notes Illinois
 Game 1 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Kevin Johnson (RHP, Sr., 7-5, 3.97 ERA)*
TTU: Tristan Archer (RHP, Sr., 4-4, 4.04 ERA)*
 Game 2 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Kevin Duchene (LHP, Fr.)
TTU: David Hess (RHP, So., 3-7, 7.59 ERA)*
 Game 3 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Nick Blackburn (RHP, Fr.)
TTU: Jacob Honea (RHP, So.)
 Series History First meeting
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook
 Preview Interviews Coach Hartleb | Brandon Hohl | Kevin Johnson | Justin Parr
*2012 record/statistics

Illinois Is...
...playing Tennessee Tech for the first time
...returning 574 career starts in the field among 6 players
...starting freshmen at catcher, first base & 2 in rotation
...beginning its 134th year of baseball

Leading Off
A Look at the Competition: Tennessee Tech, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, finished the 2012 season 21-32 overall. The Golden Eagles return eight position starters and 19 letterwinners while welcoming 13 newcomers to the squad. Illinois and Tennessee Tech will face each other for the first time.

Illini Return Many Familiar Faces: With nearly everyone back on the roster, the Illini return the majority of their offensive production. In all, the Orange and Blue return 79.7 percent (401 of 503) of their hits from last season and 78.0 percent of their runs (241 of 309). The Illini also return 84.1 percent of their extra-base hits (95 of 113) and 65.4 percent of their stolen bases (51 of 78). Illinois also brings back a strong contingent of its pitching staff from a year ago, including 85.7 percent (24 of 28) of wins from 2012, 76.2 percent (353 2/3 of 464) of innings pitched and 69.7 percent (202 of 290) of strikeouts.

Three Outfield Upperclassmen: Despite losing former center fielder Willie Argo, the Illini outfield will boast a plethora of experience with two seniors and a redshirt-junior slated to start. Senior Davis Hendrickson will start in right field for the third year in a row. He started 49 games in right field in 2012 and has made 105 career starts at the position. Senior Justin Parr will start the season in center field, moving from left field where he started all 53 games in 2012. The Chillicothe, Ill., native was named to the All-Big Ten third team and hit .290 with three home runs and 38 RBIs a year ago. Redshirt-junior Jordan Parr is expected to start in left field, shifting from first base where he started all 53 games in 2012. The Chillicothe, Ill., native led the Illini with a .348 average, 45 RBIs, 13 doubles and shared the home run lead with five last season.

Illini Ace Back on Friday Night: Senior Kevin Johnson was selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft following the 2012 season, but elected to return to school for his final season in orange and blue. Johnson was a workhorse for the Illini last season, making 14 starts, tossing a team-high 88 1/3 innings pitched and winning a career-high seven games. He will again headline the returning pitchers on staff for 2013. The Midlothian, Ill., native will serve as Illinois' No. 1 starter for the third-straight season after posting a 7-5 record and 3.97 ERA in 2012. He has made all 24 possible Big Ten starts in his career with five complete games and his 93 career strikeouts in conference play rank sixth in school history. He also holds the school record for innings pitched in Big Ten play with 153 2/3 innings.

Around the Horn: For the fourth-straight season, senior Brandon Hohl will man the hot corner for the Illini. The Mokena, Ill., native started all 53 games in 2012 and has made 157 career starts at third base. The sure-handed fielder has only 29 errors in his career, giving him a .937 fielding percentage. The nation's leading double play combination from a year ago is back up the middle in shortstop Thomas Lindauer and second baseman Reid Roper. Illinois led the nation in double plays per game (1.3) and ranked second nationally in total double plays turned (69) in 2012. Freshman Ryan Nagle, who was ranked as one of the top two left-handed hitters and a top-5 overall hitter in the class of 2012 in Illinois by Prep Baseball Report, will get the start at first base.

Goldstein to Start Behind the Plate: Freshman Jason Goldstein will be the opening day starter for Illinois, making him the first freshman to start the first game of the year at catcher since Brian Schullian in 1992. The Highland Park, Ill., native was ranked as the No. 4 catcher in the country and the No. 71 prospect nationally in the class of 2012 by Perfect Game.

Freshmen Pitchers Debut as Starters: Two freshmen pitchers are slated to start for the Illini this weekend in Cookeville. Left-hander Kevin Duchene will toe the rubber on Saturday, while right-hander Nick Blackburn will take the hill on Sunday to close out the series. Duchene was listed as the No. 6 overall prospect in the class of 2012 in Illinois by Prep Baseball Report, while the Blackburn came to Illinois ranked No. 21 in the state.

Muck, Roper on Stopper of Year Watch List: Junior Ronnie Muck and redshirt sophomore Reid Roper were named to the initial watch list for the ninth annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball. A total of 75 players were announced on the first edition of the list. Muck and Roper are expected to work in tandem in the set-up and closer roles, respectively. Both relievers recorded three saves in 2012.

Johnson, Parrs Named Players to Watch: Three Illini - starting pitcher Kevin Johnson, left fielder Jordan Parr and center fielder Justin Parr - were named players to watch by the Big Ten in the league's preseason release. Illinois also was predicted to finish sixth by the conference coaches, with Indiana picked to win the league.

Pair of Parrs Again on the Roster
For the third-straight season, the Illinois roster will include a pair of Parr brothers. Twin brothers Jordan and Justin are both back for the second-straight season and are expected to start in left and center field, respectively. Last season, Jordan started all 53 games at first base, while Justin started every game in left field. The two combined for 74 runs and 130 hits in the middle of the Illini lineup. Justin played his first season as an Illini in 2011 with older brother, Josh, who was a shortstop drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks after that campaign. Justin will enter his third and final season for Illinois after transferring from Parkland College, while Jordan, who also previously played at Parkland College, will enter his second season with Illinois, but has two years of eligibility remaining because he redshirted in 2010.

Illini Keep on Running
The Illini continued to be one of the most aggressive teams on the base paths in the country in 2012, ranking 41st nationally in stolen bases per game (1.45) and second in the Big Ten in steals (78). The Orange and Blue swiped 78-of-121 bases in 2012, including stealing 41-of-61 bases in the last 29 games. However, the Illini will be without Willie Argo, who once again led the way by going 22-for-26 on the base paths, third-best in the Big Ten. Thomas Lindauer was 15-for-24, which tied him for seventh in the Big Ten, and Davis Hendrickson was 11-for-18, making them the top two returning base-stealing threats.

Homegrown Talent Abounds
The Illinois roster is made up of 35 players, 31 of whom are from the state of Illinois. Of the four players who don't hail from the Land of Lincoln, sophomore infielder David Kerian is from South Dakota, redshirt-sophomore catcher Kelly Norris-Jones is from British Columbia, Canada, freshman Ryan Castellanos is from Davie, Fla., and freshman J.D. Nielsen is from Winterset, Iowa.