March 1, 2009
Hey Illini Fans,
We're sitting here in the McAllen airport in Texas about ready to head home after an undefeated weekend in the Al Ogletree Classic. We improved our overall record to 5-1 after beating Texas-Pan American, Stephen F. Austin and Texas-Arlington. The pitching staff shined this weekend. Each starter pitched at least seven innings and the bullpen was solid when called upon. It should build a lot of confidence for the staff and the entire team heading into our three-game series in Baton Rouge against No. 1 LSU next weekend.
So far this season we've seen big contributions from some newcomers to the team. It's been good to see these guys jump right into the lineup and contribute right alongside the veterans. Josh Parr, a freshman from Chillicothe, Ill., has started all six games so far this season. He's batting .476 and has played a flawless second base. He's also added a few stolen bases, which force the defense to stay on their toes. Matt Dittman has also held down the first base job. He's been swinging the bat pretty well and has been rock-solid in the field. These two guys just keep building confidence, which is only going to help as the grind of the season starts to set in.
On the pitching staff, a quartet of young hurlers have gotten their feet wet at the beginning of this season. John Anderson, Corey Kimes, Blake Fairchild and Lee Zerrusen have not allowed an earned run so far this year. Anderson even held a one-run lead in the ninth today against Texas-Arlington to earn a save. Combine these guys out of the bullpen with the stellar starting outings that Phil Haig, Aaron Martin and Ben Reeser have contributed, and you have a pitching staff that seems to have found its groove to start the year. A lot has to go right to start a season 5-1, and the way that our offense, defense and pitching staff have each done their part is a key component of our good start. We will have to keep working hard in practice and look for ways to improve each and every time out on the field.
In the usual "Let-me-brag-about-the-weather-down-here-while-you're-freezing-back-home" update, when we got to the ballpark on Friday afternoon it was in the mid-90s. Apparently when the calendar reads February in the southern tip of Texas, it does not automatically mean cold and snowy. But it was kind of windy during Saturday and Sunday's games. Good thing living in central Illinois has prepared us for battling high winds.
Sunday afternoons are usually pretty quiet for the team. A lot of guys have their laptops out and are catching up on emails and homework. Plane rides and bus trips are a good opportunity to do assigned reading or study for tests, too. Another week of school is ahead before we head down to the Bayou on Thursday.
Boarding time is coming up, so I'll pack up the computer. I know updates have been few and far between so far, but I'll try to do better. You would think that my professors would say that writing Diamond Notes makes me excused from homework, but no such luck so far.