Illini Set for Road Big Ten Series at Northwestern

Freshman Ryne Roper and the Illini will play their first Big Ten series on the road at Northwestern from April 4-6.
Freshman Ryne Roper and the Illini will play their first Big Ten series on the road at Northwestern from April 4-6.

April 3, 2014

 Illinois (14-11, 2-1 Big Ten) at Northwestern (4-19, 1-4 Big Ten)
 Game 1 Friday, April 4, 2014 | 3 p.m.
 Game 2 Saturday, April 5, 2014 | 1 p.m.
 Game 3 Sunday, April 6, 2014 | 2 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
 Location Rocky Miller Park | Evanston, Ill.
 Mobile Live Stats Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Gametracker Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Radio WDWS AM 1400 (Dave Loane and Matt Wille)
 Live Audio ($) Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Sunday TV BTN: Watch on BTN2Go (Wayne Randazzo & Danan Hughes)
 Game Notes Illinois | Northwestern
 Game 1 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Drasen Johnson (RHP, r-Jr., 2-4, 3.19 ERA)
NU: Dan Tyson (LHP, Sr., 1-1, 5.57 ERA)
 Game 2 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Ryan Castellanos (RHP, So., 3-1, 3.33 ERA)
NU: Reed Mason (LHP, So., 1-2, 5.45 ERA)
 Game 3 Pitching  Matchup ILL: John Kravetz (RHP, Jr., 2-1, 4.07 ERA)
NU: Brandon Magallones (RHP, Jr., 0-3, 5.34 ERA)
 Series History Illinois leads 163-87
 Games at NU Illinois leads 74-56
 Last Season Illinois won series, 2-1
 Streak W2
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook
 Preview Interviews Coach Hartleb | Jason Goldstein

...will play its first road Big Ten series at Northwestern
...rescheduled the Busch Stadium game for April 23
...went 7-2 during its nine-game homestand
...ranks third in the Big Ten in batting average (.277)
...boasts the second-best ERA (3.07) in the Big Ten

Road Big Ten Series in Evanston
After wrapping up a nine-game homestand with a 7-2 record, Illinois will hit the road for its first away Big Ten series at Northwestern this weekend. All three games are scheduled to be played at Rocky Miller Park in Evanston, Ill. Friday's opener (April 4) will begin at 3 p.m. followed by a 1 p.m. start on Saturday (April 5). Sunday's series finale (April 6) was pushed back one hour to 2 p.m. and will be aired live on the Big Ten Network, with Wayne Randazzo and Danan Hughes on the call.

Know Your Opponent
Illinois enters this weekend's series with Northwestern having won seven of the last nine meetings, including a sweep in 2012 in Evanston and taking two of three last season in Champaign and in 2011 in Evanston. Northwestern comes into this series with a 4-19 overall record and 1-4 mark in the Big Ten after dropping two games to Penn State last weekend in Happy Valley and losing a series against Minnesota to begin conference play. NU's three non-conference wins came against Nebraska-Omaha, Mississippi Valley State and USF.

The Wildcats are led by right fielder Matt Hopfner, who leads the team in batting average (.368), hits (32) and is tied for the team lead in RBI (14). During Big Ten play, shortstop Cody Stevens leads Northwestern with a .500 batting average and a .529 on-base percentage. The pitching staff is ranked 10th in the conference with a 5.34 ERA and .294 opposing batting average. NU will send lefties Dan Tyson (1-1, 5.57 ERA) and Reed Mason (1-2, 5.45 ERA) to the mound for games one and two followed by righty Brandon Magallones (0-3, 5.34 ERA) in the series finale. The Illini will counter with three righties on the weekend in Drasen Johnson (2-4, 3.19 ERA), Ryan Castellanos (3-1, 3.33 ERA) and John Kravetz (2-1, 4.07 ERA). Sunday's Kravetz vs. Magallones match-up is a rematch from last season in which Illinois won 12-3.

Last Time Out
Illinois took two out of three from Purdue to win its first Big Ten series of the season. The Illini nearly completed a ninth-inning comeback but fell 4-3 in the opener. The Orange and Blue bounced back with a 6-2 victory behind a complete game from sophomore Ryan Castellanos and used early scoring to capture the finale 8-3. Sophomore Adam Walton (.545) and junior Will Krug (.500) each shined offensively on the weekend, while the pitching staff only allowed nine runs and turned in a 2.67 ERA.

Big Ten Openers
Since the Big Ten switched from a four-game series format to three games in 2009, Illinois is 10-8 in its conference-opening series. The Illini swept Michigan State in 2009 (3-0), took two of three from Penn State in 2010 (2-1) and dropped two of three at Penn State in 2011 (1-2) and at Nebraska in 2012 (1-2). Last season, the Illini opened Big Ten play at home against Nebraska and went 1-2. Illinois went 2-1 against Purdue to start Big Ten play this season.

Goldstein Lights Up the Midweek
Sophomore catcher Jason Goldstein has dominated during Illinois' first two midweek games, going 7-for-7 with four runs, a homer, six RBI and two walks. He ranks third in the Big Ten with a .383 average and a .457 on-base percentage and 10th with a .481 slugging percentage, which leads the Illini in each category. The Highland Park, Ill., native hit his first collegiate home run as part of a 3-for-3 day against Indiana State (3/18) and went a career-best 4-for-4 against Illinois State (3/26). He has a hit in 19 of 22 games played and turned in the longest hitting streak by an Illini this season at 10 games from Feb. 28 to March 21.

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 58 runs and a .244 average in the last 22 games. For the season, Illinois ranks second in the Big Ten with a 3.07 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 (60) in the Big Ten and ranks 14th in the NCAA with 2.43 walks allowed per nine innings. The Illini defense has committed the fourth-fewest errors (28) in the conference and is sixth in fielding percentage (.971) among Big Ten teams.

Comparing Wins and Losses
In Illinois' 14 wins this year, the Illini are hitting .325 and have a 2.15 ERA, while in their 11 losses, they are batting .209 and have a 4.37 ERA.

Walton Heats Up at Home
After starting the season 0-for-20, sophomore Adam Walton is leading the Illini with a .542 average (13-for-24) over the past seven games, which were all at Illinois Field. The Illini shortstop is on a career-high seven-game hitting streak and has increased his season average to .295.

Castellanos Finds the Zone
Sophomore Ryan Castellanos has not allowed a walk in his four starts (27 IP) this season and leads the nation with a 0.0 walks allowed per nine innings. The Davie, Fla., native improved to 3-1 following his first career complete game against Purdue (3/29) and lowered his ERA to 3.33.

Johnson Not Getting Support
Redshirt-junior Drasen Johnson has made a smooth transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation in 2014, but is not getting much run support. The Illini have only scored 15 runs of support in his seven starts, giving him the lowest average on the team at 2.1. He is 2-4 with a 3.19 ERA in 42.1 IP.

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 ranks third in the Big Ten with 13 stolen bases and fifth in the conference with 34 hits. The Park Ridge, Ill., native doubled in Illinois' first at-bat of the season and ranks third on the Illini with a .312 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.

Illini-Mizzou Rescheduled
The April 2 Illinois-Missouri baseball game at Busch Stadium was postponed due to inclement weather in St. Louis. The Illini and Mizzou, in conjunction with the St. Louis Cardinals, rescheduled the game for Wednesday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m. All tickets purchased for the April 2 game will be honored on April 23. Tickets to the game, which are just $15 and include $5 in Cards Cash, are currently on sale online at, via phone by calling 314-345-9000 and at the Busch Stadium Box Office.