Illini Head to Coastal Carolina Invitational
March 1, 2012
Illini Line Drives
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 has five homers in seven games, including two in the season-opener against Notre Dame. The 2011 squad needed 14 games to hit five homers, as they didn't reach that mark until March 18.
Young Arms Show Promise: A trio of young pitchers has stepped up early in 2012 as sophomore Ronnie Muck, redshirt-freshman Reid Roper and true-freshman John Kravetz have combined to allow only five runs in 17 2/3 innings of work. Muck posted two scoreless outings at the YMBL Cardinal Classic last weekend, while Roper has notched a pair of scoreless appearances against No. 27 St. John's and Lamar. Kravetz shut down the Red Storm for 6 2/3 scoreless innings on Feb. 19 and pitched well in his debut as a starter, allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings against Lamar on Feb. 26.
Leaving 'em Stranded: Three Illini relievers have shown an exceptional ability to strand inherited runners early in 2012, with Drasen Johnson, Ronnie Muck and Reid Roper taking over on the mound with 13 runners on base and allowing only one to score (.077). Johnson has stranded 6-of-7 inherited runners, while Muck is 4-for-4 and Roper is 2-for-2. As a team, Illinois has stranded a solid 71 percent of inherited runners (22-of-31).
Offense is Solid...Once It Gets Going: The Illini are scoring a respectable 6.85 runs per game, which is even more impressive considering they've done it with only 9.85 hits per game. That is due in large part to the fact that Illinois hitters have advanced runners at a .639 rate and are hitting .381 with runners in scoring position. But the Orange and Blue have run into some trouble getting innings started as they're hitting only .214 with the bases empty compared to a .406 average with runners on base.
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 79 after stealing three bases in Illinois first seven games. 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.
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.
Illini Travel to Coastal Carolina Invitational
All four teams in the field have seen middling results so far in 2012 after entering the season with high expectations. St. John's is only 2-4 following a preseason ranking as high as No. 11 by Collegiate Baseball, and was projected as an NCAA Tournament team by Baseball America. SJU is laden with prospects for the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft as outfielder Jeremy Baltz, No. 1 starter Kyle Hansen and pitcher Matt Carasiti are ranked second, third and fourth among Big East prospects by BA, respectively. Hansen has been excellent but hasn't gotten much support, going 0-2 with a 1.80 ERA, 16 strikeouts and only four walks in 10 innings. Baltz is hitting a solid .292 with one homer and six RBIs, but Carasiti has struggled, going 0-1 with a 16.20 ERA in five innings over three appearances. He has allowed seven walks while striking out three.
The Chanticleers were BA's pick to represent the Big South in the NCAA Tournament this year, while their No. 1 starter, Josh Conway, is BA's top prospect in the Big South. CCU outfielders Daniel Bowman and Ted Blackman also are the Nos. 5 and 7 prospects in the league, respectively. Conway has been excellent, posting a 1.50 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 12 innings over two starts, but Bowman and Blackman have started just 7-for-36 (.194) in a struggling Chanticleer lineup that is hitting just .201 after six games.
Pitt has started 3-4 despite returning 15 letterwinners and three pitchers that combined for 32 starts on a 2011 squad that went 33-23. BA picked the Panthers to finish seventh in the Big East in 2012. Pitt took a 9-8 victory over Michigan at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge but dropped games to Indiana, Iowa and Northwestern. The Panthers are hitting well at .321 but has an 8.26 team ERA and has made 14 errors in seven games.
Illini Against Tournament Field