#26 Illini Host Indiana in Big Ten Series

Catcher Aaron Johnson currently is hitting .385 with 24 RBIs and a team-best 10-game hitting streak.
Catcher Aaron Johnson currently is hitting .385 with 24 RBIs and a team-best 10-game hitting streak.

April 2, 2009

Illinois-Indiana Series Notes Get Acrobat Reader

#26 Illinois vs. Indiana // Illinois Field
April 3 // 6:05 pm
April 4 // 3:05 pm
April 5 // 1:05 pm

Series Insider
Indiana (10-15, 1-1) at #26 ILLINOIS (17-5, 3-0)
Live Stats:
Gametracker on
Radio: WDWS AM-1400 (PBP: Dave Loane, Color: Eric Loy)
Live Audio: On
Series: Illinois leads 101-62-1
Games in Champaign: Illinois leads 55-24
Last Year: ILL won series, 3-1; IND won in BTT, 14-7
Streak: L1

Game 1 Probables
Blake Monar (LHP, 2-2, 4.88 ERA)
Illinois: Phil Haig (LHP, 3-0, 2.57 ERA)

Game 2 Probables
Eric Arnett (RHP, 5-1, 2.45 ERA)
Illinois: TBA

Game 3 Probables
Matt Bashore (LHP, 1-3, 6.53 ERA)
Illinois: Bryan Roberts (RHP, 2-0, 5.84 ERA)

Illinois is...
...ranked #26 in this week's Collegiate Baseball poll
...8-0 at home
...15-1 when leading after the seventh inning
...12-4 in day games
...11-3 when scoring in the first inning
...14-4 when scoring first
...13-2 when out-hitting its opponent
...11-1 when a starter gets the decision
...14-0 when holding an opponent to 5 or fewer runs
...outscoring its opponents 24-9 in the 1st inning

Illini Line Drives
• Illinois in National Polls: The Fighting Illini jumped into the Collegiate Baseball national poll on March 9 after taking two of three from No. 1 LSU, entering the rankings at No. 21. The Illini moved up to No. 19 in the Collegiate Baseball rankings on March 16 and currently rank No. 26 in CB's Top 30.

• Illini Off to Hot Start: Illinois has started the season 17-5, its best start since going 18-4 to begin 1989. For a list of best 22-game starts in school history, see page 4.

• Streaking Illini: Illinois currently is riding its third five-game winning streak of the season, its most streaks of five or more wins since the 1999 team had two six-game win streaks and a seven-gamer.

• Wikoff Wakes Up: Shortstop Brandon Wikoff is on a tear of late, hitting .409 in Illinois' last 10 games with a .523 slugging percentage, six RBIs and nine runs, raising his season average 30 points in the process. He currently holds a .378 average with a .522 slugging percentage, 13 RBIs and a team-high 23 runs.

• Johnson Catches Fire: Catcher Aaron Johnson has hit a hot streak in his last 10 games, going 16-for-37 (.432) with nine RBIs to raise his average 44 points in that stretch. He's now hitting .385 with 24 RBIs and a .551 slugging percentage. Johnson also is hitting .483 at home with a .690 slugging percentage.

• Martin Finds Role in Relief: Senior pitcher Aaron Martin has taken to his long relief role this season after starting most of his first three years. He has a 1.02 ERA in 17 2/3 innings out of the pen this year, allowing only 11 hits with 13 strikeouts.

• Down Go the Tigers!: The Fighting Illini won their series at consensus No. 1 LSU March 6-8, winning the Friday and Sunday games. It was Illinois' first win over a top-ranked team since 1995 and is believed to be the Illini's first-ever series victory over a No. 1 foe.

• Pitchers Turn it Around: Illinois currently has a 4.19 staff ERA after finishing 2008 with a staff ERA of 6.44. More impressively, the Illini have a 2.22 ERA in games they have won, allowing just 37 earned runs in 17 games. Ben Reeser currently leads the staff and ranks third in the Big Ten with a 2.30 ERA, and the Illini are second as a team in the league ERA race.

• Reeser Has Career Outing: Senior starter Ben Reeser had the game of a lifetime in the series finale at No. 1 LSU on March 8, taking a shutout into the ninth inning and striking out a career-high nine hitters. He earned Big Ten Pitcher of the Week and was named to the College Baseball Foundation National All-Star Lineup for his efforts. Reeser has lasted six or more innings in four of his five starts, and has struck out 29 hitters in 31 1/3 innings.

• Argo Makes Splash: Freshman outfielder Willie Argo will always remember his collegiate debut. He became what is believed to be the second player in major-college baseball to homer three times in his collegiate debut with three dingers against No. 1 LSU on March 7. Argo homered in the second, fourth and seventh innings, and also drew a walk in the sixth. He stayed hot against Akron, hitting .583 with a homer, two doubles and six RBIs.

• Johnson Showcases All-Around Game: Junior catcher Aaron Johnson was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on March 9 after hitting .500 at No. 1 LSU, including a game-winning two-run homer in the top of the ninth of the March 6 game. He also threw out 4-of-6 would-be base-stealers against an LSU team that had swiped 30 bags in nine games prior to that series, and was credited for calling an excellent series behind the plate by head coach Dan Hartleb.

• Kimes Hits High Note: Freshman left-handed reliever Corey Kimes struck out the side in the eighth inning of Illinois' 3-1 win over No. 1 LSU on March 6, using just 12 pitches to retire the only three hitters he faced.

• Rookie Above Parr: Freshman second baseman Josh Parr was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week and to the College Baseball Foundation National All-Star Lineup after hitting .700 with five RBIs and a four-hit game at the Al Ogletree Classic. For the season, he's hitting .388 and is second on the team with 31 hits and eight stolen bases.

• We're Going Streaking!: Sophomore Casey McMurray lost a career-long 17-game hitting streak in Sunday's first game against Michigan State and Junior Brandon Wikoff's 14-gamer fell by the wayside in Sunday's second game. Currently, Aaron Johnson has the longest streak on the team at 10 games.

• Wikoff Won't Go Down Swinging: Shortstop Brandon Wikoff defies the cliché, as he won't go down swinging. Heading into this week, he ranked as the seventh-toughest hitter to strike out in the nation with two strikeouts in 73 at bats.

Illini Host Indiana in Weekend Series
The No. 26 Fighting Illini host Big Ten rival Indiana this weekend, looking to continue their hot start to the season and the Big Ten campaign. Illinois is 17-5 with a 3-0 league record and on a five-game winning streak, while the Hoosiers are 10-15 and 1-1 in the Big Ten and enter the weekend winners of their last three. The Illini took three of four in Bloomington last year but Indiana exacted revenge with a 14-7 win in an elimination game at the Big Ten Tournament.

Illinois/Indiana Series History
Illinois leads the all-time series with Indiana 55-24 and is 8-5 against the Hoosiers in head coach Dan Hartleb's three years at the helm. The Illini won three of four games in last year's series at Indiana, but the Cream and Crimson grabbed a 14-7 win in an elimination game at the Big Ten Tournament. Illinois is 7-1 against Indiana in the last two series the teams have played, with the Hoosiers winning the 2006 series.

Last Week: Illini Sweep Spartans, Beat SIUE
After a tough week in Florida, the No. 25 Fighting Illini responded in a big way, sweeping three games from Michigan State to start the Big Ten season. Illinois rode a solid six-inning start from Lee Zerrusen and three shutout innings of relief by Aaron Martin and John Anderson to win Friday's game, 10-3. The Illini scored eight runs in the first three innings and never looked back. The top of the Illinois order (Bonadonna, McMurray, Wikoff) combined to go 9-for-13 with eight RBIs and six runs and Casey McMurray hit his first career home run.

After being rained out on Saturday, the Illini fought hard for a 3-2 win in Sunday's first game when Dominic Altobelli drove in the game-winning run with a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. He was plunked three times in the game and Josh Parr was 2-for-3 with an RBI double. Freshman Bryan Roberts allowed only two runs on seven hits in eight innings, but Nick Chmielewski got the win with a scoreless ninth inning of work. In the second game of the day, Will Strack sparkled, tossing a four-hit shutout and using only 101 pitches in his complete game. The freshman from Sycamore, Ill., induced 13 groundouts and only allowed five base runners. Altobelli went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and McMurray added a 2-for-3 effort.

Following a rainout on Tuesday, the Illini scratched and clawed their way back to grab a 7-6 win over SIUE in 10 innings on Wednesday. Willie Argo hit a one-out triple in the bottom of the 10th and Josh Parr's single to right-center brought him home for the winning run. Aaron Johnson was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and Nick Chmielewski got the win with two perfect innings of relief and three strikeouts.

*Complete notes in attached PDF file