Shortstop Josh Parr takes a career-best eight-game hitting streak into Illinois' series at Penn State.
March 31, 2011
Illinois at Penn State
Medlar Field at Lubrano Park // University Park, Pa.
April 1 // 2:35 pm
April 2 // 1:05 pm
April 3 // 12:05 pm
Illinois (8-10, 0-0) at Penn State (15-7, 0-0)
Live Stats: Gametracker on fightingillini.com
Live Video: Friday's game on BigTenNetwork.com
Radio: WDWS AM-1400 (Fri: Tape delay, Sat/Sun: Live) (PBP: Dave Loane; Color: Ben Taylor)
Live Audio: Available on fightingillini.com
Series: Illinois leads 24-23
Games in University Park: Tied 10-10
Last Year: Illinois won series
Game 1 Starters
Illinois: Kevin Johnson (RHP, 1-3, 2.72 ERA)
Penn State: Heath Johnson (RHP, 0-1, 4.81 ERA)
Game 2 Starters
Illinois: John Anderson (RHP, 3-1, 3.76 ERA)
Penn State: Steven Hill (RHP, 3-1, 2.36 ERA)
Game 3 Starters
Illinois: Corey Kimes (RHP, 1-2, 5.13 ERA)
Penn State: John Walter (RHP, 2-3, 2.70 ERA)
...7-0 when out-hitting its opponent
...on a 4-game win streak, longest since March 19-24, 2010
...6-2 when allowing 4 or fewer runs
...8-3 when making 0 or 1 error
...4-1 on Saturday
Illini Line Drives
Illinois on Win Streak: After scuffling through its first 14 games with a 4-10 record, the Fighting Illini have won four straight games, outscoring its opponents 36-14 in that stretch. The Orange and Blue also have shown a flair for the dramatic in those four games, scoring a 12-inning win at Southern Illinois on March 20 and using a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Indiana State on March 25. The four-game winning streak is Illinois' longest since a five-game streak on March 19-24, 2010.
Weather Plays Havoc with Schedule: The Illini have had five consecutive games that have been canceled, postponed or have had the start time changed because of cold and wet weather in the Midwest. The final two games of the Indiana State series were canceled because of extremely cold conditions in Champaign and the Missouri game at St. Louis' Busch Stadium was postponed because of cold and potentially wet conditions. Wednesday's game against Illinois State was moved up to a 3 p.m. start to play more of the game in daylight and Friday's game at Penn State was moved up to a 2:35 p.m. CT start for the same reason.
Makeup Games Added to Schedule: Because of the recent nasty weather that has canceled and postponed games, head coach Dan Hartleb has added three home games to the schedule. The Illini will host Benedictine University at Springfield - which current Illini Pat Sheehan attended from 2006-08 when it was called Springfield College in Illinois - on April 6 at 4:05 p.m. Illinois also will host sister school Illinois-Springfield at 6:05 p.m. on April 26 and will welcome Illinois College to Illinois Field at 6:05 p.m. on May 4.
Bats Begin to Warm Up: After notching only three hits against Northern Illinois on March 17 and seeing the team average dip to .239, the Illinois bats have warmed up as the Illini have hit .323 in the last five games to raise the team average 25 points to .264. Illinois has averaged 12.4 hits and 10.0 runs per game in that stretch - recording double-digit hits four times and double-digit runs twice - with eight doubles, one triple and three home runs. The Illini also were very active on the base-paths, stealing 16-of-19 bases while holding their opponents to only 5-of-5 stolen bases. Illinois has had 21 players post multiple-hit games and 13 notch multiple-RBI games in the last five games.
Lindauer Earns Honor: Freshman Thomas Lindauer, who stepped in at second base against Saint Louis on March 19, was named the Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week on March 21 after hitting .429 in two starts. He went 3-for-7 with two RBIs and three runs, and ripped the game-winning hit in the twelfth inning against Southern Illinois on March 20.
Two Out of Three Isn't Bad: Since the first weekend of the season, Illinois has received at least two quality starts from its pitching staff every weekend. At Florida Gulf Coast, the Bright House Invitational and Western Kentucky, Kevin Johnson and John Anderson both produced solid efforts. Last weekend, Johnson, Corey Kimes and Will Strack all put forth quality starts on the four-game Spring Trip. On Spring Trip, the Illini posted a 2.10 team ERA in the three games outside the 15-14 loss to Northern Illinois on March 18.
Starters Hold Opponents with 2 Outs: The four Illini pitchers who have started games have excelled once they've recorded two outs this year. In 2011, Illinois' starting pitchers have held opponents to a .223 batting average with two outs. Kevin Johnson has a .300 average with two outs, John Anderson has a .160 mark, Corey Kimes has posted a .200 average and Will Strack had a .111 average in his start against Southern Illinois on March 20.
Relievers Regularly Rock Opponents: Four Illini relievers have posted ERAs under 4.00 thus far, including a perfect 0.00 marks by fifth-year senior Wes Braun and a 2.25 ERA by fifth-year hurler Bill Barrett. But freshmen Ronnie Muck (2.45) and Luke Joyce (3.63) also have been solid in relief, with Joyce shining as the most-used reliever with eight appearances. Will Strack also has a 3.86 ERA, with his best outing coming as a starter.
Defense Makes the Difference: The Orange and Blue have shown that defense is the key to their success this season, as Illinois is 8-3 when making zero or one error and 0-7 when making two or more errors.
Johnson A Real Ace: Illinois sophomore Kevin Johnson has shown the ability to take on the role of staff ace so far, posting a team-best 2.72 ERA while going 1-3 in six starts. He pitched seven scoreless innings against Central Michigan but received a no-decision, dropped a 3-1 game at Western Kentucky and lost a 3-0 contest despite striking out 11 against Northern Illinois. He has been given only 26 runs of support, with 10 of those runs coming in starts against Florida Gulf Coast and Central Michigan. He didn't get any run support against Western Kentucky or Northern Illinois, and left the Indiana State game with a 4-3 lead before the Sycamores scored two runs in the sixth inning.
Parr Starts Strong in 2011: Shortstop Josh Parr, who started 2010 by hitting 15-for-71 (.211) in the first 18 games, has opened the 2011 season much stronger. He's hitting .313 (25-for-80) with 13 RBIs, is 9-for-11 stealing bases and has made only two errors in the field. Last year, he made 12 errors in Illinois' first 18 games.
Hits Hard to Come by Against Illini: Kevin Johnson and John Anderson, the first two pitchers in Illinois' weekend rotation, have allowed only 60 hits in 62 2/3 innings of work, less than one hit per inning. Additionally, reliever Chris Pack has given up only 23 hits in 21 innings and Will Strack has allowed only 16 hits in 17 1/3 innings.
Illini Open Big Ten Play at Penn State
Illinois starts Big Ten play this weekend by traveling to Penn State for a three-game series. The Illini carry a four-game winning streak into the series against the Nittany Lions, which have won three in a row and five of their last six to reach 15-7 on the young season. PSU has series wins over North Carolina State and Wichita State, which are 15-11 and 17-9, respectively. The Lions also went 2-1 at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge with wins over Seton Hall and West Virginia, and a loss to Notre Dame. They dropped a three-game series at Eastern Kentucky, swept a pair from Old Dominion and won three of four at Norfolk State. They also won two of three from LeMoyne and a game over Albany. PSU's game against Kent State on Wednesday was canceled because of snow.
Series History Against Penn State
Illinois is 24-23 all-time against Penn State and the series is tied 10-10 in games played in University Park. The Illini have won back-to-back series against the Lions, taking of two of three at Illinois Field in 2010 and sweeping all three games in State College in 2009. PSU last won a series against the Illini in 2004 when they swept all four games at Illinois Field. The Orange and Blue are 9-5 against the Lions since 2005, splitting two four-game series (2005 and 2008), winning a three-game series (2010) and sweeping a three-game set (2009).
Unprecedented Illini Coverage in 2011
The Fighting Illini will enjoy a wealth of coverage in 2011 thanks to an expanded schedule by the Big Ten Network and on FightingIllini.com. Illinois will appear three times on the Big Ten Network and will have eight games streamed live on BigTenNetwork.com. FightingIllini.com's All-Access player will carry at least another six games with the possibility of adding more games. The full schedule can be found on page 1 of game notes.
The BigTenNetwork.com games are a paid service with four levels of service: Conference Pass Annually ($99.95), School Pass Annually ($64.95), Conference Pass Monthly ($12.95) and School Pass Monthly ($7.95). Sign up at http://video.bigtennetwork.com. The games streamed live on FightingIllini.com can be purchased for a $9.95 monthly fee or a $79.95 annual fee. Sign up at http://www.fightingillini.com/allaccess/. Subscription to the All-Access service also will provide fans access to live audio of Illini games where video is not provided.
Illini Run Rampant
Willie Argo's school-record 41 stolen bases led an Illini base-stealing crew that ranked second all-time in school history in 2010. Illinois' 114 steals last season also represents the third time in the last four years that Illinois has topped 100 steals in a season. The Illini also nabbed 101 bases in 2008 and 109 in 2007. Illinois has started the season well on the basepaths, swiping 32-of-44 bags. Argo is 7-of-9 so far this season, while Josh Parr leads the team with 9-of-11 steals. At this time last year, Illinois was 41-of-50 stealing bases and Argo led the team with 12-of-12 steals.
Orange and Blue Hammer Redbirds, 14-2
Illinois used a seven-run fifth inning, solid pitching and flawless defense to hammer Illinois State 14-2 at Illinois Field on March 30, extending the Illini's winning streak to four games. It is the team's longest winning streak since March 19-24, 2010. Designated hitter Justin Parr went 3-for-4 and third baseman Brandon Hohl notched three RBIs, while five Illinois pitchers combined to limit the Redbirds to five hits. Illinois improves to 8-10 on the season while ISU falls to 15-7. The Illini snap a two-game skid against the Redbirds and now have won four of the last six in the series. Illinois has out-scored ISU 59-20 in the last six games between the two teams.
*Complete game notes available in the above PDF