Illini Welcome Indiana for First Home Big Ten Series

First baseman Jordan Parr leads the Illini and ranks fourth in the Big Ten with a .385 average.
First baseman Jordan Parr leads the Illini and ranks fourth in the Big Ten with a .385 average.

April 5, 2012

 Indiana (13-16, 4-2) at Illinois (15-11, 1-2)
 Game 1 Friday, April 6, 2012 | 6 p.m.
 Game 2 Saturday, April 7, 2012 | 3 p.m.
 Game 3 Sunday, April 8, 2012 | 1 p.m.
 Location Illinois Field (1,500) | Champaign, Ill.
 Live Video Game 1: All-Access (Pete Rizzo & Gordon Voit) | Watch
Game 3: BTDN (Spencer Turkin & Bryce Jakobs) | Watch
 Radio Illini Sports Network (PBP: Dave Loane; Analyst: Loren Tate [Fri], Orion Buckingham [Sat], Scott Beatty [Sun])
 Live Audio Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Gametracker Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Game Notes Illinois
 Game 1 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Kevin Johnson (RHP, Jr., 5-1, 2.86 ERA)
IND: Joey DeNato (LHP, So., 4-1, 2.51 ERA)
 Game 2 Pitching  Matchup ILL: John Kravetz (RHP, Fr., 4-2, 4.78 ERA)
IND: Kyle Hart (LHP, Fr., 1-2, 2.87 ERA)
 Game 3 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Josh Ferry (RHP, Fr., 2-1, 6.04 ERA)
 Series History Illinois leads 108-70-1
 Last Season Illinois swept series 3-0
 Streak Won 3
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook
 Preview Interviews Coach Hartleb | Thomas Lindauer | Kelly Norris-Jones

Illinois Is...
...4-1 in its last 5 games
...3-1 at home
...averaging 6.8 runs per game
...averaging 10.5 hits per game
...7th in the nation in double plays turned per game (1.2)
...7th in the nation in triples per game (0.56)
...29th in the nation in batting average (.306)
...14-4 when scoring 4 or more runs
...12-2 when allowing 4 or fewer runs
...10-3 when scoring first
...10-4 when scoring in the 1st inning
...14-0 when leading after the 4th inning
...13-2 when out-hitting its opponent

Illini Line Drives
• Johnson Silences Opposing Bats:
Illinois' No. 1 starter, Kevin Johnson, has stymied opponents early in 2012, allowing only 14 earned runs in 44 innings for an ERA of 2.86, which ranks 10th in the Big Ten. Johnson has won five consecutive starts, the first time an Illini pitcher has done that since Brian Blomquist won six straight in 2005.

• Argo Attacks Record Book: Center fielder Willie Argo will leave Illinois with his named splashed across the record book. His most recent target was the career stolen bases record, which he broke at Illinois State on March 27 with his 84th career steal. That passed Todd Schmitke's previous record of 83, which had stood since 1982, a span of 30 years. The Davenport, Iowa, native also holds Illinois' single-season steals record with 41 in 2010 and hit the second-most home runs by a freshman with 12 in 2009. He currently has 87 career steals. See page five for a list of records to watch.

• Illini Offense Starts Hot: Despite losing nearly 60 percent of its runs scored from 2011, the Illinois offense has started strong in 2012, averaging 6.8 runs and 10.5 hits per game. It has been a balanced attack, as six regular starters have 29 or more hits and five have 20 or more runs.

• Young Arms Show Promise: The Illini have been bolstered by a crew of young pitchers in 2012, as true-freshmen John Kravetz and Josh Ferry made up two-thirds of Illinois' starting rotation the past two weekends. In addition, one sophomore and one redshirt-freshman have been solid in relief with Luke Joyce (3.18 ERA, 17.0 IP), and Reid Roper (1.59 ERA, 5.2 IP) providing solid bullpen work.

• Leaving 'em Stranded: Three Illini relievers have shown an exceptional ability to strand inherited runners early in 2012, with Drasen Johnson, Luke Joyce and Ronnie Muck taking over on the mound with 34 runners on base and allowing only eight to score (.235). Johnson has stranded 11-of-13 inherited runners, while Joyce is 7-for-12 and Muck is 8-for-9. As a team, Illinois has stranded 65.5 percent of inherited runners (38-of-58).

• Offense is Solid...Once It Gets Going: The Illini are scoring an impressive 6.8 runs per game through 26 games, largely thanks to the fact that Illinois hitters have advanced runners at a .540 rate and are hitting .364 with runners in scoring position. But the Orange and Blue have run into some trouble getting innings started as they're hitting only .266 with the bases empty and reaching base when leading off an inning 32.6 percent of the time, compared to a .343 average with runners on base.

• Two Down, None to Go: Illini pitchers have been highly successful with two outs in an inning, holding opponents to a .214 average in the situation. Illinois' bullpen has been even better, allowing only 18 hits in 105 at bats (.171 average) with two outs in an inning. Drasen Johnson has forced opponents into 1-for-9 (.111) hitting with two outs, Matt Milroy is 2-for-13 (.154) as a reliefer, Ronnie Muck is 3-for-17 (.176), Luke Joyce is 4-for-18 (.222), Bryan Roberts is 0-for-2 and Reid Roper is 0-for-4 to lead the relievers. Conversely, the Illini are hitting .300 with two outs and have 62 two-out RBIs.

• Take 2, They're Small: Despite having a pair of new starters up the middle in shortstop Thomas Lindauer and second baseman Reid Roper, Illinois ranks seventh in the nation in double plays per game with 1.2 (through last weekend's games). An interesting twist on the Lindauer/Roper combination is that they both are taking courses in American Sign Language and occasionally use it to communicate on the field. First baseman Jordan Parr has finished all but five of the Illini's twin killings and leads the Big Ten with 27 double plays.

Illini Return to Big Ten Action by Hosting Indiana
The Fighting Illini jump back into Big Ten play this weekend by hosting Indiana, the same team that Illinois faced in the final conference series of 2011. In that three-game set, the Illini came from behind to win all three contests, including two by walk-off home run. The crowning moment was Matt Dittman's two-out, two-run walk-off blast in his final at bat at Illinois Field that gave the Orange and Blue a 7-5 win and a share of the Big Ten title. That series was part of an eight-game winning streak that included a sweep through the Big Ten Tournament.

Illinois is starting to heat up as it welcomes the Hoosiers to Illinois Field this year, having won four of its last five games. Indiana has won three of its last four and seven of its last 10 contests, including a series victory over Iowa last weekend and a 15-inning win over Ball State on Wednesday. The Hoosiers have gotten off to a 4-2 Big Ten start largely in part to improved pitching, as they boast a 2.98 team ERA in conference games. Indiana also is averaging 6.5 runs per Big Ten game and out-scoring opponents by 2.7 runs per game. Some of that disparity can be traced to a 14-2 win over Penn State on the opening night of the Big Ten season, though. Overall, the Hoosiers are hitting .256, which ranks ninth in the league, and have a 4.42 team ERA, which places them seventh. Indiana ranks 11th in fielding percentage with a .946 mark, having made a Big Ten-high 63 errors in 29 games. Illinois is third in the Big Ten with a .303 team average, 11th with a 4.76 team ERA and ninth with a .963 fielding percentage.

This Week's Promotions
The Illini boast a number of promotions throughout the 2012 season, starting with a baseball card giveaway this weekend. Cards for the juniors and seniors will be distributed this weekend in order to tie in with the newly released Virtual Dugout smartphone app.

Throughout the weekend, each home run by an Illini player will entitle the first 10 fans to the marketing table behind the press box to a coupon for a free soft drink. On Friday, fans can play baseball bingo during the game and can purchase a meal deal consisting of a hot dog, chips and a drink for $5. Saturday is Scout Day, where local boy scouts and cub scouts will run on the field with the Illini for the national them. Also on Saturday, lemon and cherry frozen chill treats are just $1. On Sunday, the Easter Bunny will make an appearance at Illinois Field and fans can buy nachos with cheese for only $2. As is tradition on Sundays, the Illini will participate in Wiffle Ball Sunday, where they will play wiffle ball with children eighth grade and under on the field following the game.

Complete series notes available in the above PDF file.