Illini Travel to Arlington for UTA/Hilton Invitational

Junior Ronnie Muck and the Illini will play Houston Baptist and Texas Arlington at the UTA/Hilton Invitational.
Junior Ronnie Muck and the Illini will play Houston Baptist and Texas Arlington at the UTA/Hilton Invitational.

Feb. 28, 2013

 Illinois at UTA/Hilton Invitational
 Preview Interviews Coach Hartleb | Nick Blackburn | David Kerian
 Game Notes Illinois (PDF)
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook

 Games 1 & 2: Illinois (4-3) vs. Houston Baptist (4-3-1)
 Date Friday & Saturday, March 1-2, 2013
 Times Friday Game 1: 11 a.m. | Saturday Game 2: 11 a.m.
 Location Clay Gould Ballpark | Arlington, Texas
 Live Stats Friday Gametracker | Saturday Gametracker
 Friday Matchup ILL: Kevin Duchene (LHP, Fr., 1-0, 8.10 ERA)
HBU: Tyler Hoelscher (RHP, So., 2-0, 0.00 ERA)
 Saturday Matchup ILL: Nick Blackburn (RHP, Fr., 1-0, 4.09 ERA)
HBU: Brandon Hammerly (LHP, Jr., 0-1, 5.56 ERA)
 Series History First meeting

 Games 3 & 4: Illinois (4-3) at Texas-Arlington (5-2)
 Date Saturday & Sunday, March 2-3, 2013
 Times Saturday Game 3: 3 p.m. | Sunday Game 4: 11 a.m.
 Location Clay Gould Ballpark | Arlington, Texas
 Live Stats Saturday Gametracker | Sunday Gametracker
 Saturday Matchup ILL: Kevin Johnson (RHP, Sr., 1-1, 5.40 ERA)
UTA: John Beck (RHP, Jr., 0-1, 4.61 ERA)
 Sunday Matchup ILL: John Kravetz (RHP, So., 1-0, 2.84 ERA)
UTA: Brad Vachon (RHP, Jr., 2-0, 0.00 ERA)
 Series History UT-Arlington leads 4-3
 Last Meeting Illinois won 3-2 (3/1/2009)
 Streak Won 1

Illinois Is...
...on a three-game winning streak
...leading the Big Ten in OBP (.414) and walks (43)
...playing Houston Baptist and Texas-Arlington twice each

Leading Off
• Patience Pays Off: Illinois has the most walks in the Big Ten with 43, which is 15 more than second-place Michigan (28), and is leading the conference in on-base percentage at .414, ahead of second-place Ohio State (.385). The Illini's patience at the plate has translated into the second-most runs scored in the league with 45. The Orange and Blue are also ranked second in the Big Ten in average (.302), hits (74) and RBI (38). Illinois is also a threat on the base paths, sitting third in the conference with 17 stolen bases on 18 attempts.

• Kerian Breaks Out in Greenville: Sophomore David Kerian posted a breakout performance at the Keith LeClair Classic, where he led the Illini in hitting with a .571 average (8-for-14), .643 slugging percentage and .625 on-base percentage. The Dakota Dunes, S.D., native entered the tournament with six career hits in 31 at-bats before more than doubling his all-time output. He also had a team-high nine total bases, four RBI and 31 putouts at first base for the tournament. Kerian took over at first base in the third game of the season and has started the last five contests. His career-best performance came against Ohio, where he finished 4-for-4 with a walk, a run and two RBI. He was named Big Ten Player of the Week by College Sports Madness following the tournament.

• Parrs Solidify Middle of Lineup: Twin brothers Jordan and Justin are both back for the second-straight season and are starting in left and center field, respectively. Left-handed Justin (16-for-31) and right-handed Jordan (10-for-29) boast the top two hit totals on the team and are hitting .433 combined (26-for-60) as the No. 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup. The Chillicothe, Ill., natives each have a hit in every game and are tied for the top spot in RBI with eight, which is ranked second in the Big Ten. They also have combined for 11 runs and eight stolen bases.

• Freshmen Record First Career Wins: Two freshmen pitchers, left-hander Kevin Duchene and right-hander Nick Blackburn, each picked up their first career wins at the Keith LeClair Classic. Duchene earned the victory over Ohio (11-6), tossing 5.1 innings and allowing four earned runs. Blackburn turned in a quality start in his win over Boston College, striking out five over 6.2 innings with no earned runs.

• 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 45, which is four more than the rest of the Illinois staff combined (41). He currently ranks sixth in school history with 278.2 innings pitched and 10th with 176 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.

• Clutch Two-Out Hitting: Illinois is hitting .341 with two outs in an inning and led by sophomore David Kerian, who is 6-for-7 (.857) when faced with the situation. Kerian also leads the team with five of the Illini's 19 two-out RBI. Three other players are hitting over .400 with two outs: Justin Parr 8-for-14 (.571), Michael Hurwitz 5-for-11 (.455) and Jordan Parr 5-for-12 (.417).

• 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 now made 163 career starts at third base. The sure-handed fielder has only 30 errors in his career, giving him a .935 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. Lindauer has been involved in five of Illinois' six double plays this season. Sophomore David Kerian has made five-straight starts at first base and boasts a perfect fielding percentage with 41 putouts and four assists.

• 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, recorded a hit in each of his first three games and has two runs and two RBI on the year.

Looking at the UTA/Hilton Invitational Competition
After winning its final three games at the Keith LeClair Classic, Illinois will return to action this weekend at the UTA/Hilton Invitational in Arlington, Texas. The Illini will play two games each against Houston Baptist and host Texas-Arlington. Freshman Kevin Duchene will start the first game of the tournament against HBU on Friday at 11 a.m. followed by freshman Nick Blackburn in game two against the Huskies on Saturday at 11 a.m. Senior Kevin Johnson will take the hill on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. against UT-Arlington, while sophomore John Kravetz will wrap up the rotation on Sunday at 11 a.m. against UTA. All four games will be played at Clay Gould Ballpark.

Illini Against the Tourney Field
Illinois will face Houston Baptist for the first time in school history on Friday. The Huskies are 4-3-1 on the year and won three games in a row before tying Bryant by a score of 4-4 last weekend and falling 10-2 to Houston on Wednesday. HBU is led by sophomore catcher Samm Wiggins, who is hitting .381 with four RBI. Houston Baptist will start Tyler Hoelscher on Friday and Brandon Hammerly on Saturday against the Illini.

Illinois has played UT-Arlington seven times in school history, with the Mavericks owning a 4-3 advantage in the series. The Illini won the last matchup between the two teams by a 3-2 margin in 2009. Junior outfielder Justin Copeland leads the Mavs with a .393 average and .632 slugging percentage. A pair of right-handed juniors are slated to start for UTA against the Illini with John Beck on Saturday and Brad Vachon on Sunday.

Hartleb Moves Up All-Time List
With the Feb. 24 victory over Boston College, head coach Dan Hartleb earned his 213th career win and moved ahead of Wally Roettger (212) for the fifth-most wins in Illinois baseball history. The top-five winningest coaches in school history are listed below:

1. Lee Eilbracht 518-395-6 (27 seasons: 1952-78)
2. Itch Jones 474-373-1 (15 seasons: 1991-05)
3. George Huff 314-97-4 (23 seasons: 1896-19)
4. Tom Dedin 268-234-6 (9 seasons: 1979-87)
5. Dan Hartleb 213-182 (8 seasons: 2006-present)

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 are without Willie Argo, who once again led the way by going 22-for-26 on the base paths, third-best in the Big Ten. The Illini are currently third in the Big Ten with 17 stolen bases in 2013. Jordan Parr leads the team and is second in the conference with five stolen bases, while Michael Hurwitz, Justin Parr and Davis Hendrickson each are 3-for-3 on the year. Seven different Illini have at least one stolen base, and the Orange and Blue have only been caught stealing one time.

Spring Trip Game at Rent One Park
Illinois baseball will return to Rent One Park in Marion, Ill., for a game on Sunday, March 17 against Southern Illinois. The game, which is scheduled for 2 p.m., will be the third game of a four-game series with the Salukis. The remainder of the series will still be played at Abe Martin Field in Carbondale with games on March 15 (3 p.m.), 16 (2 p.m.) and 18 (1 p.m.).

This marks the sixth year in a row that the two programs will face each other at Rent One Park, which is the home of the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League. General admission lower level tickets are $5 or $3 with a student ID and can be purchased at the Rent One Park box office.