Baseball
Illini Travel to YMBL Cardinal Classic

 
Illini center fielder Willie Argo needs six stolen bases to break the career school record.
Illini center fielder Willie Argo needs six stolen bases to break the career school record.
 

Feb. 23, 2012

 Illinois at YMBL Cardinal Classic
 Preview Interviews Coach Hartleb | Brandon Hohl
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook

 Game 1: Illinois (1-2) vs. Gonzaga (3-0)
 Date Friday, Feb. 24, 2012
 Time Noon CT
 Location Vincent-Beck Stadium | Beaumont, Texas
 Live Stats Gametracker
 Live Blog: FightingIllini.com
 Game Notes Illinois | Gonzaga
 Pitching Matchup ILL: Kevin Johnson (RHP, Jr., 0-0, 23.14 ERA)
GU: Marco Gonzales (LHP, So., 0-0, 5.40 ERA)
 Series History Teams have never met
 Game 2: Illinois (1-2) vs. Gonzaga (3-0)
 Date Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012
 Time 11 a.m. CT
 Location Vincent-Beck Stadium | Beaumont, Texas
 Live Stats Gametracker
 Live Blog: FightingIllini.com
 Game Notes Illinois | Gonzaga
 Pitching Matchup ILL: Rob McDonnell (LHP, r-Fr., 0-1, 3.18 ERA)
GU: Tyler Olson (LHP, Sr., 0-0, 3.00 ERA)
 Series History Teams have never met

 Game 3: Illinois (1-2) vs. Lamar (2-0)
 Date Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012
 Time 2:30 p.m. CT
 Location Vincent-Beck Stadium | Beaumont, Texas
 Live Stats Gametracker
 Live Blog: FightingIllini.com
 Game Notes Illinois | Lamar
 Pitching Matchup ILL: Nick Chmielewski (RHP, r-Sr., 0-0, 81.00 ERA)
LU: Jonathan Dziedzic (LHP, Jr., 1-0, 0.00 ERA)
 Series History Illinois leads 1-0
 Last Meeting Illinois won 1-0 (2/24/2008)
 Streak Won 1

 Game 4: Illinois (1-2) vs. Lamar (2-0)
 Date Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012
 Time 11 a.m. CT
 Location Vincent-Beck Stadium | Beaumont, Texas
 Live Stats Gametracker
 Live Blog: FightingIllini.com
 Game Notes Illinois | Lamar
 Pitching Matchup ILL: TBA
LU: TBA
 Series History Illinois leads 1-0
 Last Meeting Illinois won
 Streak Won 1

Illinois Is...
...averaging 8.0 runs per game
...facing Gonzaga for the first time in history

Illini Line Drives
• Illini Offense Starts Hot:
Despite losing nearly 60 percent of its runs scored from 2011, the Illinois offense started strong at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge, averaging 8.0 runs per game and posting eight extra-base hits in three games. It was a balanced attack, as seven players have three or more hits and four players have three or more runs.

• Power Turned on for 2012: After hitting 29 home runs in 57 games a year ago, the Illini flashed some power early in 2012. Illinois blasted four homers in three games at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge, including two in the opening game. The 2011 squad needed 14 games to hit four homers, as they didn't reach that mark until March 18.

• Young Arms Show Promise: Four young Illini pitchers performed well at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge as redshirt-freshmen Rob McDonnell, Reid Roper and Drasen Johnson, and true-freshman John Kravetz combined to allow only two runs in 16 1/3 innings of work. McDonnell gave up both of those runs in a solid start that lasted 5 2/3 innings, while Johnson posted three scoreless frames over two relief stints. Roper pitched a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts against No. 27 St. John's after Kravetz shut down the Red Storm for 6 2/3 scoreless innings.

• Kravetz Turns Heads in Debut: Freshman John Kravetz earned some attention with his first career outing, throwing 6 2/3 innings of shutout relief in Illinois' 9-4 win over No. 27 St. John's. He earned Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week honors as well as CollegeBaseball360.com Primetime Performer and College Baseball Insider Central Region Pitcher of the Week laurels after allowing only two hits and a walk while striking out six.

• New Faces in Many Places: Illinois had four new players in the starting lineup at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge and two familiar faces in new positions, with sophomore transfer Jordan Parr, redshirt-freshmen Reid Roper and Kelly Norris-Jones, and true-freshmen Michael Hurwitz and David Kerian seeing extended playing time. In addition, sophomore Thomas Lindauer started two games at shortstop after serving as a utility infielder in 2011 and Justin Parr moved to left field after seeing time as Illinois' DH last year.

• Veterans Provide Solid Foundation: Five Illini players possess most of the team's experience, with senior center fielder Willie Argo entering his fourth year in the starting lineup, and junior third baseman Brandon Hohl and junior pitcher Kevin Johnson beginning their third year as starters. Right fielder Davis Hendrickson and left fielder Justin Parr both will be in their second year starting for the Illini, but Parr moved to the outfield after spending much of 2011 as Illinois' designated hitter. Argo, Hendrickson, Hohl and Parr combined to start 220 out of a possible 228 games in 2011, and Johnson started 29 games in 2010-11, including all of 2011 as Illinois' No. 1 starter. In their careers, Argo has started 158 of 166 games and Hohl has started 107 of 112.

• Young Guns Key for Illini: But the key to Illinois' season could be its young players, as No. 2 starter Rob McDonnell is a redshirt-freshman and seven players vying for spots at catcher, first base, second base and designated hitter had only five games experience at Illinois prior to the Big Ten/Big East Challenge - with sophomore catcher Alex Lincoln accounting for all five. Nine players made their Illini debut at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge: Josh Ferry, Michael Hurwitz, Drasen Johnson, David Kerian, John Kravetz, McDonnell, Kelly Norris-Jones, Jordan Parr and Reid Roper.

• Argo Named Top 100 Senior by Perfect Game: Senior center fielder Willie Argo was named the No. 50 college senior in the country by Perfect Game prior to the 2012 season. Argo, who was drafted in the 43rd round of the 2011 MLB Draft by Pittsburgh and in the 49th round of the 2008 draft by Arizona, is the top Big Ten senior on PG's list.

• Argo, Hohl, Johnson Named Players to Watch: Three Illini - center fielder Willie Argo, third baseman Brandon Hohl and starting pitcher Kevin Johnson - 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 fellow 2011 co-champion Michigan State picked to win the league.

• Argo Attacks Record Book: Center fielder Willie Argo, likely will leave Illinois with his named splashed all over the record book. His current target is the career stolen bases record, which Todd Schmitke currently holds with 83. Argo has 78 after swiping two bags at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. He also holds Illinois' single-season steals record with 41 in 2010 and hit the second-most home runs by a freshman with 12 in 2009. See page five for a full list of records.

• Double-Takes Common for Parrs, Illini: For the first time since 1998, the Orange and Blue have a set of twins on the roster in Justin and Jordan Parr. Justin won the Big Ten batting title in 2011 with a .411 average in conference games as Illinois' starter at designated hitter, while Jordan transferred from Parkland College during the summer. Although they are identical twins, their eligibility is different because Jordan redshirted his first season at Parkland. He has sophomore standing in 2012, while Justin is a junior.

Illini Face Gonzaga, Lamar at YMBL Cardinal Classic This Weekend
After opening the season with a 1-2 weekend at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge, the Illini head to the YMBL Cardinal Classic, hosted by Lamar University. Illinois opens the event by playing Gonzaga, which swept a three-game series from Nebraska last weekend, at noon on Feb. 24 and 11 a.m. on Feb. 25. The Orange and Blue then take on the host Lamar Cardinals at 2:30 on Feb. 25 and at 11 a.m. on Feb. 26. Lamar also had a successful opening weekend, winning both its games against Arkansas State in a rain-shortened Lamar Classic.

Illini Against Tournament Field
The Fighting Illini have very limited experience against the Bulldogs and Cardinals, as Illinois has never faced Gonzaga in baseball and has only played Lamar once. The Illini beat Lamar, 1-0, on Feb. 24, 2008.

Youngsters Impress Early in 2012
Nine freshmen, redshirt-freshmen or transfers saw extended time at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge and showed that they will be a big part of the 2012 Illini squad. Redshirt-freshman Reid Roper had one of the more impressive weekends, hitting a team-best .400 with a double, a home run, three RBIs and three runs. He also pitched a perfect ninth inning in the 9-4 win over No. 27 St. John's, striking out two, and played flawless defense at second base and shortstop.

Redshirt-freshman Kelly Norris-Jones started all three games behind the plate and hit .333 with a double and two RBIs, while sophomore transfer Jordan Parr hit .300 with a homer, a team-high four RBIs and four runs. Freshman Michael Hurwitz served as Illinois' leadoff hitter in all three games, tripling and scoring two runs, and rookie David Kerian saw time as a pinch hitter and designated hitter, hitting .250 with two RBIs and a run.

On the mound, freshman John Kravetz led the Illini to victory over No. 27 St. John's with 6 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, and redshirt-freshman Drasen Johnson posted two scoreless relief outings that totaled three innings. Redshirt-freshman Rob McDonnell allowed only two runs in 5 2/3 innings in his first career start against No. 25 Louisville, while freshman Josh Ferry gave up three runs in 3 2/3 innings of relief against Notre Dame but flashed potential in the outing.

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