Baseball
Illinois Travels to Western Kentucky for Three-Game Series

 
Redshirt-junior Reid Roper and the Illini will head to Bowling Green, Ky., for a three-game series against Western Kentucky.
Redshirt-junior Reid Roper and the Illini will head to Bowling Green, Ky., for a three-game series against Western Kentucky.
 

March 6, 2014

 Illinois (6-4) at Western Kentucky (7-5)
 Game 1 Saturday, March 8, 2014 | 1 p.m. CT (Changed to Doubleheader)
 Game 2 Saturday, March 8, 2014 | 4 p.m. CT (Changed to Doubleheader)
 Game 3 Sunday, March 9, 2014 | 1 p.m. CT
 Location Nick Denes Field | Bowling Green, Ky.
 Gametracker Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Live Video Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Game Notes Illinois | Western Kentucky
 Game 1 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Kevin Duchene (LHP, So., 1-1, 2.01 ERA)
WKU: Josh Bartley (RHP, Sr., 1-1, 4.91 ERA)
 Game 2 Pitching  Matchup ILL: John Kravetz (RHP, Jr., 1-1, 4.63 ERA)
WKU: Austin Clay (LHP, r-Jr., 2-0, 2.20 ERA)
 Game 3 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Drasen Johnson (RHP, r-Jr., 2-0, 2.79 ERA)
WKU: Jake Thompson (RHP, Sr., 2-0, 1.17 ERA)
 Series History Illinois leads 8-3
 Last Meeting WKU won 13-5 (3/13/2011)
 Streak Lost 1
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook
 Preview Interviews Coach Hartleb | Kevin Duchene | John Kravetz | Ryan Nagle

Illinois...
...is receiving votes in the latest NCBWA poll
...is on a four-game winning streak
...had the Big Ten's Player (Ryan Nagle) and Pitcher (Kevin Duchene) of the Week
...is averaging 5.7 runs per game

On the Road Again
Illinois will continue its string of five straight road trips to begin the 2014 season. The Illini will head to Bowling Green, Ky., for the fourth weekend of the year with a four-game winning streak. Illinois will play a three-game series against Western Kentucky at Nick Denes Field. Due to unplayable field conditions on Friday, the series opener was moved to Saturday as part of a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday's game time remains the same at 1 p.m. All three games will feature live stats via Gametracker and be streamed on WKUSports.tv (subscription required).

Know Your Opponent
Prior to meeting this weekend, Western Kentucky and Illinois have faced off 11 times with Illinois holding an 8-3 advantage over the Hilltoppers. This will be the first meeting between the two sides since 2011 when Western Kentucky took the rubber game of a three-game set in Bowling Green by a score of 13-5.

The Hilltoppers are coming off a 10-2 loss in their midweek game against Lipscomb. Offensively, third-year head coach Matt Myer's team is batting .271 and led by senior second baseman Scott Wilcox who is batting .341 with a .473 on-base percentage and a .545 slugging percentage. WKU's pitching staff boasts a 3.18 ERA with 86 strikeouts and 61 walks. Closer Ian Tompkins has four saves and has not allowed a run.

In game one, Illinois will send reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Kevin Duchene (1-1, 2.01 ERA) to the mound, while righty Josh Bartley (1-1, 4.91 ERA) will get the ball for Western Kentucky.

In game two, junior John Kravetz (1-1, 4.63 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Illini and will be matched up against lefty Austin Clay (2-0, 2.20 ERA) for the Hilltoppers. The finale on Sunday will feature two undefeated right-handed pitchers with Drasen Johnson (2-0, 2.79 ERA) as the probable starter for Illinois and Jake Thompson (2-0, 1.17 ERA) for Western Kentucky.

Last Time Out
The Illini caught fire with a sweep of the Sunshine State last weekend behind four dominant pitching performances. Illinois opened with a 3-2 victory over Florida Gulf Coast on Friday afternoon followed by a 6-0 shutout of No. 23 Florida on Friday night. The bats came alive with a 9-1 victory over FGCU on Saturday, while the Orange and Blue took down the Gators again on Sunday by a score of 5-1. The Illini pitching staff posted a 1.00 ERA and all four starters - Ryan Castellanos (7 IP, 2 ER), Kevin Duchene (9 IP, 0 ER), John Kravetz (7 IP, 1 ER) and Drasen Johnson (6.1 IP, 0 ER) - came away with a win, respectively. Illinois' offense hit .300 on the weekend, drew 15 walks and outscored its opponents 23-4. Ryan Nagle was on fire with 10 hits in 16 at-bats for a .625 average while scoring a team-high four runs. Casey Fletcher hit .364 with three runs and three RBI, while Will Krug and Jason Goldstein each batted .333. Reid Roper had a .313 average with three runs and three RBI.

Duchene, Nagle Nab Big Ten Honors
Following a 4-0 weekend in Gainesville, Fla., a pair of Illini earned conference honors. Sophomore Kevin Duchene was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, while sophomore Ryan Nagle was tabbed Big Ten Co-Player of the Week after helping Illinois to two wins each over No. 23 Florida and Florida Gulf Coast.

Duchene blanked the nationally ranked Gators 6-0 on Friday night with a three-hit shutout at McKethan Stadium The Joliet, Ill., native struck out six during his first win of the year and needed just 100 pitches to record his second career complete-game shutout. He gave up three hits and two walks but faced just 31 batters thanks to a pair of double plays. He also was the last Illini to collect the weekly conference honor, winning it for the first time on May 13, 2013, following his two-hit shutout of Penn State.

Nagle, who leads the Illini with a .462 average through 10 games, recorded multiple hits in all four contests on the weekend while hitting .625 (10-for-16) during the sweep. He scored a team-high four runs with one in each game, helping the Illini outscore their opponents 23-4. He also had a pair of doubles and three RBI along with posting a .647 on-base percentage and a .750 slugging percentage. Nagle nabbed his first career Big Ten Player of the Week award and shared the honor with Indiana's Kyle Schwarber.

Nagle Among Big Ten Leaders
Sophomore Ryan Nagle leads the Big Ten in slugging percentage (.590) and is tied for the most RBI (11) and doubles (5) in the league. He ranks second in the Big Ten in both average (.462) and hits (18), which sit 41st and 31st in the nation, respectively. His .512 on-base percentage is third in the conference, while his nine runs are tied for seventh. He has started all 10 games, with the last four in left field.

Johnson Shines in Starting Role
Redshirt-junior Drasen Johnson has made a smooth transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation in 2014, boasting a 2-0 record and 2.79 ERA in three starts. The Chillicothe, Ill., native is coming off a win over No. 23 Florida in which he threw 6.1 scoreless innings and didn't allow a walk. He is tied for first in the Big Ten with 18 strikeouts and has only given up two walks in 19.1 innings. He earned his first career win as a starter at Coastal Carolina and notched a career-high 10 strikeouts in his Illini debut in the weekend rotation at Georgia State.

Krug Starts It Off
Junior Will Krug has sparked the Illini offense in the leadoff spot, collecting a 16 hits, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten. The Park Ridge, Ill., native doubled in Illinois' first at-bat of the season and continued his hot start with a .356 average, which ranks third on the Illini and 12th in the conference. He is a team-best 7-for-9 on stolen bases and is third on the team with nine RBI. Krug has picked up where he left off last year, where he hit .305 in 25 games before missing the second half of the season due to an arm injury.

Patience at the Plate
Illinois is averaging 4.6 walks per game to begin the season, which ranks second in the Big Ten behind only Iowa (5.2). Juniors Michael Hurwitz (8) and David Kerian (7) lead the team in free passes and are ranked second and sixth, respectively, in the Big Ten.

Infield Combinations
Illinois' infield has a new look in 2014 with two returners and two new faces making up the diamond. Junior David Kerian and has started all 10 games at first base, while redshirt-junior Reid Roper started the first six games at third base and the last four at second base. Freshman Ryne Roper has started five games at shortstop and three games at third base, while redshirt-freshman Zack Kolakowski was the Opening Day starter at shortstop and has started the last four games at the position. Sophomore Adam Walton has seen time at both second and third base.

HEADLINES