Illini Host Penn State to Start Big Ten Play

Mike Giller is 6-for-13 in his last four games.
Mike Giller is 6-for-13 in his last four games.

April 1, 2010

Illinois-Penn State Series Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Penn State at Illinois
Illinois Field // Champaign, Ill.
April 2 // 6:05 pm
April 3 // 3:05 pm
April 4 // 12:05 pm

Series Insider
Penn State (10-13) at Illinois (9-9)
Live Streaming:
Available at (Fri/Sun)
Live Stats: Gametracker on
Radio: WDWS AM-1400 (PBP: Dave Loane; Color: Mark Johnson [Fri], Mike Rohde [Sat/Sun])
Live Audio: Available on
Series: Tied 22-22
Games in Champaign: Tied 10-10
Last Season: Illinois swept the series
Streak: W4

Game 1 Probables
Will Strack (RHP, 1-0, 4.28 ERA)
Penn State: Mike Wanamaker (RHP, 1-2, 5.62 ERA)

Game 2 Probables
Kevin Johnson (RHP, 1-0, 5.00 ERA)
Penn State: Ryan Ignas (RHP, 2-1, 5.34 ERA)

Game 3 Probables
Penn State: Neal Herring (RHP, 2-1, 5.20 ERA)

Illinois is...
...7-4 when scoring first
...6-1 when leading after the seventh inning
...3-1 in one-run games
...8-1 when out-hitting its opponent
...5-2 when making fewer errors than its opponent
...6-3 when a starter gets the decision
...6-1 when holding an opponent to 5 or fewer runs

Illini Line Drives
• Illini Earn Weekly Honors:
Two Fighting Illini already have earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors, with Matt Dittman sharing the award with Indiana's Micah Johnson on March 15 and Willie Argo sharing the honor with Indiana's Alex Dickerson on March 29. Last year, Illinois earned Player or Pitcher of the Week honors a school-record seven times.

• Dittman Dominates Early Foes: Junior first baseman Matt Dittman started the season with a 3-for-4 effort and hasn't let up on opposing pitching, hitting at a .500 clip through 16 games. He currently leads the Big Ten in average and on-base percentage (.617) and ranks fourth in slugging percentage (.705). In the NCAA statistical rankings released on March 29, his .500 average ranked third in the country and his .617 on-base percentage is second.

• Argo Catches Fire: Sophomore center fielder Willie Argo has hit a hot streak lately, raising his batting average 195 points after starting the year 4-for-19 (.211). Since March 12, Argo has gone 22-for-45 (.489) with 10 RBIs, 14 runs, four doubles, a triple, a home run and 10-for-10 stolen bases. Argo now ranks third on the team and seventh in the Big Ten with his .406 average.

• Hohl Heats Up: Freshman third baseman Brandon Hohl began to heat up on Spring Trip, going 9-for-15 (.600) over Illinois' last four games of the trip with six RBIs, four runs and three doubles. Hohl has been clutch this season as well, hitting a team-best .423 and driving in eight runs with two outs. Hohl's 18 RBIs rank second on the team and he leads the team with seven multiple-RBI games.

• Zerrusen Shifts Gears: Junior pitcher Lee Zerrusen entered the year as Illinois' closer, but after four appearances out of the pen, he moved into a starter role and has flourished. Zerrusen pitched seven innings against Ball State on March 14, allowing three runs and striking out four, then only gave up one run in seven innings against North Dakota State on March 20, striking out a career-high six. He earned wins in both starts and lowered his ERA from 6.23 to 3.44.

• Sterk Stymies Opposing Sticks: Senior reliever Mike Sterk has been excellent so far this season, leading the Illini with a 3-0 record and a team-best 2.38 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. He has posted five scoreless outings in his seven appearances and earned two wins on Spring Trip - in Illinois' 7-6 win over Akron and its 4-3 win over Dartmouth. He also earned the win in the Illini's 11-10 win over No. 12 Coastal Carolina on March 12.

Illini Open Big Ten Slate Against Penn State
After six weeks of non-conference action, the Fighting Illini open Big Ten play by hosting Penn State in a three-game series at Illinois Field. The Illini are coming off a mid-week split at Illinois State and against Chicago State, while PSU split a home-and-home series with Kent State on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Friday and Sunday games of the series will be streamed live on and will be re-aired on the television network the following day. Friday's game will be shown on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT, while Sunday's game will be aired on Monday at 5 p.m.

The Nittany Lions have been similar to the Fighting Illini early in the year in that both have been inconsistent. Penn State won four of its first five games, including a pair of extra-inning contests at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. But the Lions lost their next seven games over their Spring Trip to Texas. After a pair of wins against Kent State and Columbia, PSU lost four in a row before winning the final three games of a four-game series against Hofstra last weekend and splitting a pair with Kent State this week to reach their 10-13 record. The Lions only have two regulars with batting averages over .300 in first baseman Joey DeBernardis (.365) and catcher/DH Ben Heath (.348), and they're hitting .280 as a team. PSU also carries a team ERA of 6.55 into the weekend.

Illinois Against the Nittany Lions
Oddly enough, Illinois is an even 22-22 all-time against Penn State with games in both Champaign and University Park split 10-10. The teams are 2-2 at neutral sites. The Illini have won four in a row over PSU after sweeping last year's series at Medlar Field and taking the final game of the 2008 series.

This Week: Illini Split with Redbirds, Cougars
Illinois split a pair of mid-week games at Illinois State and against Chicago State this week, falling 13-8 to the Redbirds and blasting the Cougars 18-2. The Illini gave up a 10-run fourth inning to ISU on the way to a 13-0 deficit, and a furious rally that included a five-run eighth inning fell just short. Craig Lutes, playing his final game in his hometown of Normal, Ill., led the Illini by going 2-for-5, and Casey McMurray hit his third home run of the year.

On Wednesday, the Illini scored nine runs in the first two innings and cruised from there to blast Chicago State, 18-2. Freshman Matt Milroy only gave up one run in a five-inning start to capture his first collegiate victory, and the Illini got scoreless innings of relief from Kevin Manson, Corey Kimes and Bryan Roberts. Aaron Johnson went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and three RBIs, and redshirt-freshman Doug Schumacher homered in his first collegiate at bat. McMurray also went 2-for-3 with a triple, two RBIs and three runs.

*Complete series notes in the above PDF.