Illini Return to Florida for Bright House Invitational
March 2, 2011
Illinois at Bright House Invitational
ILLINOIS (3-3) at Stetson (6-1)
Probable Starters (based on last game's lineup)
Pos Name Avg Ht B/T Yr Note C Adam Davis .292 6-0 R/R Jr. 4-of-5 reaching base as leadoff; has thrown out 4-of-6 runners stealing 1B Matt Dittman .118 6-2 L/R Sr. Has .407 OBP - 3rd on team - despite .118 average 2B Justin Parr .182 6-2 L/R So. Broke open 2-2 tie in 9th inning with 3-run triple at FGCU on 2/26 SS Josh Parr .370 6-0 R/R Jr. Hitting .500 with RISP and leads team with 3 two-out RBIs 3B Brandon Hohl .333 6-1 R/R So. Has 2 multiple-hit games in Illinois' first 6 contests LF Davis Hendrickson .368 6-1 L/L So. Currently has a team-best 5-game hitting streak CF Willie Argo .280 6-1 R/R Jr. Went 5-for-12 (.417) in FGCU series to raise averge 126 points RF Pete Cappetta .125 6-2 R/R Sr. CollegeBaseballInsider.com survey lists him as the best OF arm in Big Ten DH Casey McMurray .391 5-8 R/R Sr. Has 7 of Illinois' 29 RBIs after 2 weekends; 5-for-5 reaching as leadoff
Illini Line Drives
Defense Makes the Difference: The Orange and Blue have shown through the first two weekends that defense is the key to their success this season, as Illinois is 3-1 when making zero or one error and 0-2 when making two or more errors.
Offense Making Adjustments: After hitting .245 at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge, the Illini raised their team batting average 27 points by hitting .298 at Florida Gulf Coast. Casey McMurray hit .455 at FGCU, while Willie Argo hit .417. Josh Parr hit .357 in the series and Brandon Hohl hit .308. The Illini are now hitting .272 as a team after six games.
Parr Starts Strong in 2011: Josh Parr, who started 2010 by hitting 13-for-66 (.197), has opened the 2011 season much stronger. He's hitting .370 (10-for-27) through Illinois' first six games, while starting at shortstop and hitting leadoff in all of those contests. Parr is 6-for-7 stealing bases and hasn't made an error in the field.
Hits Hard to Come by Against Illini: Kevin Johnson and John Anderson, the first two pitchers in Illinois' weekend rotation, have allowed only 17 hits in 19 2/3 innings of work. less than one hit per inning. Additionally, relievers Chris Pack has given up only six hits in eight innings and Will Strack has allowed only nine hits in seven innings.
Band of Baseball Brothers: While many teams say their camaraderie is similar to brotherhood, the Illini actually have a set of brothers on the squad in 2011. Josh - a junior shortstop - and Justin - a sophomore utility player - Parr are one of 35 sets of brothers in college baseball discovered in a survey of baseball sports information directors across the country. With Josh starting at shortstop and Justin at second base, the Parrs are the only brothers in the country who constitute their team's starting middle infield, but 12 other brother combinations currently start for their team at various positions. Only five BCS conference schools have a set of brothers on the team: Illinois, Kansas State, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Temple.
Illini Lineup Loaded with Experience: The probable starting lineup for Illinois features five players who started 38 or more games last year and another (Matt Dittman) who started 42 games in 2009. In their careers, Casey McMurray, Willie Argo, Pete Cappetta, Brandon Hohl, Josh Parr, Adam Davis and Dittman have racked up 566 games started, an average of 80 games started per player.
Pitching Staff Loaded for 2011: Illinois' pitching staff hasn't been a strength since the 2005 season, but that appears to be changing heading into 2011. The Fighting Illini return 11 of 14 pitchers from last year's staff while adding five talented freshman arms. The returning pitchers total 330 2/3 innings from 2010, excluding the 27 2/3 innings pitched by Bryan Roberts because he will not pitch this season. That is an astoundingly high 73.1 percent of last year's innings on the mound.
Role Reversal: A pair of Fighting Illini pitchers made their first career starts at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge, as senior right-hander John Anderson took the ball against Cincinnati on Feb. 19 and junior left-hander Corey Kimes got the start against West Virginia on Feb. 20. Anderson made 34 relief appearances in his two years on the Illini squad before 2011 - he played for the Illinois club baseball team in his first two years on campus. Kimes made 37 relief appearances in two seasons prior to 2011, and gave up three runs in 4 1/3 innings against West Virginia.
Run Production Returns: The Fighting Illini also return a large portion of their run production from 2010, with 233 of its 342 runs (68.1 percent) and 209 of its 301 RBIs (69.4 percent) on the 2011 roster.
Dittman, Argo Return from Injuries: Two Illini - first baseman Matt Dittman and center fielder Willie Argo - suffered fractured hamate bones in their wrists last year, with Dittman's season ending after 14 games despite his blistering start (22-for-44, .500). Argo battled the injury throughout the year, but his batting average dipped from a season-high .421 after 12 games to its final .318 mark.
Argo Attacks Record Book: Willie Argo, who hit the second-most home runs by a freshman in school history in 2009, broke Illinois' single-season stolen bases record with 41 in 52 games in 2010, including 15 steals in the last 16 games and four multiple-steal games. He also started the 2010 season with 17 consecutive steals without being caught, the second-longest streak in school history. Argo was 2-for-2 on the basepaths on opening weekend.
Illini Excel Academically: The Fighting Illini boast nine seniors on the roster, including seven fifth-year players. Four of those Illini have already finished their bachelor's degree, with pitcher John Anderson finishing his B.A. in political science with a history minor in May 2010, pitcher Wes Braun wrapping up his B.A. in communication in December 2009, pitcher Chris Pack completing his bachelor's degree in communications at Villanova in 2010 and pitcher Lee Zerrusen completing his B.S. in kinesiology in December 2010. Anderson is currently pursuing an M.S. in library and information science, Braun is working toward an MBA degree, and Pack and Zerrusen are pursuing M.S. degrees in sport management.
Illini Head South for Bright House Invitational
*Complete series notes available in the above PDF