Illini Head to Greenville for Keith LeClair Classic
Feb. 20, 2013
Illini Ace Back in the No. 1 Spot: 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, who is in his third season as Illinois' No. 1 starter, won his first start of the season for the first time in his career, striking out six over six innings and allowing one run in the Illini's season-opening victory at Tennessee Tech. The Midlothian, Ill., native has not missed a start in his career and owns the most starts on the current Illini staff with 44, which is six more than the rest of the Illinois staff combined (38). He currently ranks sixth in school history with 273.0 innings pitched and 11th with 170 career strikeouts. He 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.
Three Outfield Upperclassmen: Despite losing former center fielder Willie Argo, the Illini outfield still boasts a plethora of experience with two seniors and a redshirt-junior. Senior Davis Hendrickson is starting in right field for the third year in a row. He started 49 games in right field in 2012 and has now made 108 career starts at the position after starting all three games against Tennessee Tech. Senior Justin Parr is now playing center field, moving from left field where he started all 53 games in 2012. The Chillicothe, Ill., native leads the Illini and Big Ten in hitting with a .600 average (9-for-15) and RBI (6) and has recorded multiple hits and at least one run and RBI in every game this season. Redshirt-junior Jordan Parr is now starting in left field, shifting from first base where he started all 53 games in 2012. The Chillicothe, Ill., native hit the first Illini home run of the season during a 3-for-6 day with two runs and a career-best-tying three RBI in the season-opening victory at Tennessee Tech.
Around the Horn: For the fourth-straight season, senior Brandon Hohl is starting at the hot corner for the Illini. The Mokena, Ill., native started all 53 games in 2012 and now has made 160 career starts at third base. The sure-handed fielder has only 30 errors in his career, giving him a .936 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. They turned three double plays to start the year at TTU. Freshman Ryan Nagle and sophomore David Kerian have each seen time at first base during the first three games.
Goldstein Starts Behind the Plate: Freshman Jason Goldstein became the first freshman opening day starter at catcher for Illinois since Brian Schullian in 1992. The Highland Park, Ill., native, who was ranked as the No. 4 catcher in the country and the No. 71 prospect nationally in the class of 2012 by Perfect Game, has recorded a hit in each of his first three games and has two runs and an RBI.
Freshmen Pitchers Debut as Starters: Two freshmen pitchers, left-hander Kevin Duchene and right-hander Nick Blackburn made their Illini debuts in Cookeville at the season-opening series. Duchene and Blackburn each received no decisions after exiting each of their respective games in the fifth inning against the Golden Eagles.
Looking at the Keith LeClair Classic Competition
Illini Against the Tourney Field
The Illini lead the all-time series against Ohio with a record of 8-3, but the two teams haven't met since 1952 when they split a doubleheader. The Bobcats are 0-2 on the season and led by sophomore first baseman Jake Madsen, who is hitting .429 and has the team's only RBI. Freshman Jake Miller is the probable starter against Illinois.
Illinois and New Mexico State have met twice in school history, splitting a pair of contests in 1996. The Aggies are 2-2 in 2013 and led by senior first baseman Bobby Lecount, who is hitting .462 with eight RBI. Junior Christoper Bradley is expected to start against the Illini.
Illinois will face Boston College for the first time in school history on Sunday. The Golden Eagles are 1-2 on the year and led by freshman Logan Hoggarth, who is hitting .400 in 10 at-bats with two doubles and an RBI. The BC starter for Sunday is still TBA.
Illini Keep on Running