Illini Open Big Ten Play at Nebraska
March 22, 2012
Illini Line Drives
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 81 after stealing two bases last weekend. 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 list of records to watch.
Illini Offense Starts Hot: Despite losing nearly 60 percent of its runs scored from 2011, the Illinois offense has started strong in 2012, averaging 6.3 runs and 9.9 hits per game. It has been a balanced attack, as seven regular starters have 16 or more hits and 11 or more runs.
Johnson, Kravetz Silence Opposing Bats: Illinois' top two starters, Kevin Johnson and John Kravetz, have stymied opponents early in 2012, allowing only 16 earned runs in 61 2/3 innings for an ERA of 2.34. They have been especially dominant the last two weeks, with Johnson allowing two earned runs over 16 innings and Kravetz giving up only three earned runs over 15 2/3 innings.
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 18 runners on base and allowing only one to score (.056). Johnson has stranded 7-of-8 inherited runners, while Muck is 8-for-8 and Roper is 2-for-2. As a team, Illinois has stranded 71 percent of inherited runners (29-of-41).
Take 2, They're Small: Despite having a pair of new starters up the middle in shortstop Thomas Lindauer and second baseman Reid Roper, Illinois ranks ninth in the nation in double plays per game with 1.24. An interesting twist on the Lindauer/Roper combination is that they both are taking courses in American Sign Language and occasionally use it to communicate on the field. First baseman Jordan Parr has finished all but one of the Illini's twin killings and leads the Big Ten with 20 double plays.
Bullpen Keeps Improving: While Illinois' bullpen has performed well all season, the Illini relievers were especially good last weekend against Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois. In 9 2/3 innings of relief over the four games, the Illini pen allowed three runs, only one of which was earned. Ronnie Muck didn't allow an earned run in 2 1/3 innings of work over two appearances, while Luke Joyce gave up only one earned run in 3 1/3 innings. Reid Roper, Anthony Milazzo, Drasen Johnson and Bryan Roberts also contributed one shutout inning apiece.
Illinois Opens Big Ten Play at Conference Newcomer Nebraska
Illinois and Nebraska both have been playing well of late, with Illinois winning nine of its last 12 games and the Huskers taking six of their last eight and 15 of their last 20 after an 0-3 start. Nebraska and Illinois have played two common opponents in Gonzaga and West Virginia, with the Zags going 3-0 against NU and 2-0 against the Illini. Illinois beat West Virginia 14-3 on March 11, but the Mountaineers took a 4-1 victory over the Huskers a week earlier.
Nebraska is statistically one of the best offensive teams in the Big Ten, leading the league in hits (270), runs (185), doubles (50), home runs (24) and on-base percentage (.412) while ranking second in batting average (.330) through Wednesday's games. The story changes a bit on the mound, though, as the Huskers rank fourth in the Big Ten in strikeouts (132), fifth in ERA (3.89), seventh in runs allowed (102), eighth in walks allowed (77) and 11th in hits allowed (231). Those raw numbers are a bit skewed, though, because Nebraska has played 23 games compared to between 17 and 20 games for many other conference teams.
Illini All-time Against Nebraska
Complete Illini Coverage in 2012
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