Illini to Play SIU in Inaugural Series at Itchy Jones Stadium

Longtime SIU and Illinois head baseball coach Itch Jones will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the inaugural game of the UI-SIU series on Friday.
Longtime SIU and Illinois head baseball coach Itch Jones will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the inaugural game of the UI-SIU series on Friday.

March 12, 2014

 Illinois (6-7) at Southern Illinois (8-7)
 Game 1 Friday, March 14, 2014 | 3 p.m. CT
 Game 2 Saturday, March 15, 2014 | 2 p.m. CT
 Game 3 Sunday, March 16, 2014 | 1 p.m. CT
 Location Itchy Jones Stadium | Carbondale, Ill.
 Live Stats SIU Live Stats
 Radio WDWS AM-1400 (Dave Loane & Matt Wille)
 Live Audio ($) Game 1 | Games 2 & 3
 Game Notes Illinois | Southern Illinois
 Game 1 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Kevin Duchene (LHP, So., 1-1, 1.93 ERA)
SIU: Sam Coonrod (RHP, Jr., 0-1, 3.38 ERA)
 Game 2 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Ryan Castellanos (RHP, So., 1-0, 2.57 ERA)
SIU: Todd Eaton (RHP, Sr., 0-2, 4.88 ERA)
 Game 3 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Drasen Johnson (RHP, r-Jr., 2-1, 2.30 ERA)
SIU: Aaron Hauge (LHP, r-Jr., 1-1, 2.16 ERA)
 Series History Southern Illinois leads 31-28
 Last Season Illinois swept season series, 4-0
 Streak Won 4
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook
 Preview Interviews Coach Hartleb | Will Krug

Illinois... playing in the inaugural game at Itchy Jones Stadium on a four-game winning streak against SIU
...has three starters with sub-3 ERAs

Illinois vs. Southern Illinois at Itchy Jones Stadium
Illinois will play the first series at Southern Illinois' new Richard "Itchy" Jones Stadium this weekend in Carbondale, Ill. The facility is being named in honor of SIU's all-time winningest coach thanks to a $4.2 million renovation at the site of Abe Martin Field. Longtime SIU and Illinois head baseball coach Itch Jones, who played an instrumental role in the renovation of the stadium, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the inaugural game on Friday. The stadium features a new AstroTurf playing surface, the installation of stadium lights and new dugouts along with a new press box, seating bowl and concession area.

The Illini will square off with the Salukis at 3 p.m. on Friday (March 14), 2 p.m. on Saturday (March 15) and 1 p.m. on Sunday (March 16). For the first time this season, all three games will be aired on the radio on WDWS-AM 1400 with Dave Loane and Matt Wille on the call. The original Gametracker and a mobile version of live stats are both available on to follow each game.

Itch Jones with the Illini
In his 15 years as head baseball coach at Illinois (1991-05), Richard "Itch" Jones compiled a 474-373-1 record, took the Illini to two NCAA Regionals (1998, 2000), led Illinois to two Big Ten regular season titles (1998, 2005) and was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in his final season in 2005. When he retired after 39 years as a collegiate head baseball coach, he ranked 13th on the NCAA Division I list with a career mark of 1,240-751-6. During his career, he developed over 100 professional players, including 20-plus Major League players.

Weekend Rotation Breakdown
This weekend's starters for the Southern Illinois series - Kevin Duchene, Ryan Castellanos and Drasen Johnson - have combined for a 2.17 ERA, a 4-2 record and 46 strikeouts in nine starts. They have all gone deep into games, pitching into the seventh in all but one contest and owning the top two innings pitched totals in the Big Ten - Duchene (28.0) and Johnson (27.1). No. 1 starter Duchene leads the Illini and is tied for fifth in the Big Ten with a 1.93 ERA while also ranking fourth with 20 strikeouts. Castellanos is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA following his only start against Florida Gulf Coast. Johnson is tied for the most strikeouts in the conference at 21 and has a 2-1 record and 2.30 ERA. Including junior John Kravetz (1-1, 4.96 ERA), who has started four games, Illinois' starters boast a 5-3 record and combined 2.75 ERA in 13 starts this season.

Know Your Opponent
Illinois won all four meetings against Southern Illinois last season and carries the four-game winning streak over the Salukis into this weekend's action. SIU narrowly leads the all-time series between the two teams, 31-28. Southern Illinois has lost its last four games after rolling off seven of eight early in 2014. SIU sits at 8-7 with a .240 team average and 2.89 ERA. First baseman Cody Daily leads the squad with a .313 average, the only SIU hitter over .300. This weekend's rotation features right-handers Sam Coonrod (0-1, 3.38 ERA) and Todd Eaton (0-2, 4.88 ERA) and lefty Aaron Hauge (1-1, 2.16 ERA).

Last Time Out
Illinois was swept in a series for the first time since 2012, dropping all three games by a combined four runs at Western Kentucky. Field conditions forced Friday's game to be moved to Saturday as part of a doubleheader. In the opener, the Illini led 3-1 after seven innings but the bullpen allowed a three-run eighth, as UI fell 4-3. In game two on Saturday, junior David Kerian hit a go-ahead two-run homer to put the Illini up 3-2 in the third, but the Hilltoppers scored a run in the fifth, sixth and eighth to steal the nightcap, 5-3. In the finale, starter Drasen Johnson threw seven straight scoreless innings before allowing the only run of the game on a two-out RBI double in the eighth, as Illinois only managed four hits in a 1-0 loss to WKU. The offense struggled with a .245 average and only six runs in the three games at Nick Denes Field. The Illini only used five pitchers and sported a 3.38 ERA on the weekend but did not come away with a win.

Nagle Ranks Among B1G Leaders
Sophomore Ryan Nagle ranks second in the Big Ten in average (.412) and fourth in hits (21). His .512 on-base percentage is sixth in the conference, while his .510 slugging percentage seventh. The Streator, Ill., native is also tied for third in doubles (5) and 10th in RBI (11). He has started all 13 games, with the last seven 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 2-1 record and 2.30 ERA in four starts. He is tied for first in the Big Ten with 21 strikeouts and has only given up four walks in 27.1 innings, which is the second-most innings pitched in the Big Ten. The Chillicothe, Ill., native is coming off a complete-game eight-inning effort in the which the Illini lost 1-0 at Western Kentucky. He earned his second win over No. 23 Florida in which he threw 6.1 scoreless innings and didn't allow a walk. He collected 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 20 hits, which is tied for fifth 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 .351 average, which ranks third on the Illini. He is a team-best 8-for-10 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.

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 13 games at first base, while redshirt-junior Reid Roper started the first six games at third base and the last seven at second base. Freshman Ryne Roper has started five games at shortstop and six games at third base, while redshirt-freshman Zack Kolakowski was the Opening Day starter at shortstop and has started the last seven games at the position. Sophomore Adam Walton has seen time at both second and third base.

Mizzou Game Moved to Busch
The Illinois-Missouri game originally slated for May 6 in Sauget, Ill., has been moved to April 2 at Busch Stadium, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Illini and Tigers will battle for Braggin' Rights at Busch for the fourth time in the past five years. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on the Wednesday night. Tickets to the annual game are just $15 and include $5 in Cards Cash. Tickets are currently on sale online at, via phone by calling 314-345-9000 and at the Busch Stadium Box Office.

Last season, Illinois topped Mizzou for the first time in the series at Busch Stadium, capitalizing on five errors on its way to a 6-2 victory. In 2012, the Illini scored three runs in the first inning but Missouri scored in each of the first four innings and held on for a 5-4 win. The 2011 contest was rained out, and Mizzou won the inaugural Battle at Busch in 2010, 7-4.