March 25, 2014
...will play Illinois State in Champaign on Wednesday
...has one four of its last five games
...is in the midst of a nine-game homestand
...is 10-2 when out-hitting its opponent but 0-8 when getting out-hit
...boasts the second-best ERA (3.23) in the Big Ten
...offers free admission to all home games at Illinois Field
Illinois-ISU Game Moved to Champaign
The date and location changed for this week's game against Illinois State due to the inclement weather in the area. The Illini and Redbirds were originally slated to play on Tuesday, March 25, in Normal, Ill., but the two teams will now play on Wednesday, March 26, at 3 p.m. in Champaign, Ill., at Illinois Field. Freshman Cody Sedlock (1-1, 2.16 ERA) will start on the mound against Cam Verbeke (0-0, 11.81 ERA). Dave Loane and Ben Taylor will be on the call on WDWS AM 1400.
Due to the location change, Illinois (11-10) is in the midst of a nine-game homestand. The Illini went 4-1 last week after a midweek win over Indiana State and taking three out of four from Xavier. Illinois will host its first Big Ten series this weekend at Illinois Field, as the Illini are scheduled to play Purdue on Friday, March 28, at 4 p.m., Saturday, March 29, at 3 p.m. and Sunday, March 30, at 1 p.m.
The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announced parking changes to begin the year. The grass parking lots surrounding Illinois Field will be closed for the start of the 2014 season due to effects of the winter weather. Fans attending games at Illinois Field should park in either the Northeast State Farm Center quadrant or the parking lot at the Bielfeldt Athletic Administration Building (weekend only) with entrance off Fourth Street.
Know Your Opponent
Illinois State has won six of its last seven games and sits at 15-6 overall. The Redbirds offense is hitting .307, led by second baseman Paul DeJong with a .400 average. ISU boasts a 3.65 team ERA and averages over nine strikeouts per game. The Illini lead the all-time series 46-31 and have won the last two meetings.
Last Time Out
Illinois took three out of four from Xavier in its first home series of the season. The Illini outscored the Musketeers 17-11 and boasted a 2.47 ERA with 29 strikeouts. After dropping the opener, 6-2, the Illini swept the doubleheader on Saturday by scores of 6-1 and 6-2 followed by a dramatic walk-off suicide squeeze in the 13th inning for a 3-2 victory in the finale. Illinois' five pitchers combined for a season-high 18 strikeouts while holding the Musketeers scoreless over the final 12 innings on a 30-degree day at Illinois Field on Sunday. Junior Casey Fletcher excelled during the series, hitting .500 with three runs, three doubles, a home run and two RBI. Sophomore Adam Walton had a run and an RBI in his best weekend as an Illini in which he hit .500 (6-for-12).
Pitching Gets Better and Better
After struggling with a 9.11 ERA in the season-opening series at Georgia State, the Illini pitching staff has been nearly lights out since then with a 2.25 ERA. They allowed 28 runs and a .388 average in the first three games followed by just 48 runs and a .248 average in the last 18 games. For the season, Illinois ranks second in the Big Ten with a 3.23 ERA.
Limiting the Walks and Errors
Pitching and defense have been key for Illinois at the start of the 2014 season. Illinois' pitching staff has allowed the fewest walks (52) in the Big Ten and ranks 19th in the NCAA with 2.51 walks allowed per nine innings. The Illini defense has committed the second-fewest errors (22) in the conference and boasts the third-best fielding percentage (.973) among Big Ten teams.
Comparing Wins and Losses
In Illinois' 11 wins this year, the Illini are hitting .319 and have a 2.18 ERA, while in their 10 losses, they are batting .203 and have a 4.52 ERA.
Goldstein Catches Fire
Sophomore catcher Jason Goldstein ranks fourth in the Big Ten with a .373 average, fifth with a .440 on-base percentage and 12th with a .478 slugging percentage, which leads the Illini in each category. The Highland Park, Ill., native had a career day against Indiana State in which he went 3-for-3 with his first collegiate home run and career highs in runs (3) and RBI (3). He has a hit in 16 of 18 games and turned in the longest hitting streak by an Illini this season at 10 games from Feb. 28 to March 21.
Krug's Speed Sparks the Illini
Junior Will Krug has sparked the Illini offense in the leadoff spot and has showcased his speed when he gets on base. He is tied for first in the Big Ten with 12 stolen bases and 10th in the conference with 27 hits. The Park Ridge, Ill., native doubled in Illinois' first at-bat of the season and ranks third on the Illini with a .293 average. 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.
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 cardinals.com/illini, 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.