Freshman pitcher Tanner Roark will make his first Big Ten start on Saturday against Ohio State.
April 6, 2006
Games 24-27: Illinois (14-9, 2-2) vs. #24 Ohio State (16-6, 3-1)
April 7 5:35 pm
Brian Blomquist (RHP) vs. Dan DeLucia (LHP)
April 9 12:05 pm
Jake Stewart (RHP) vs. J.B. Schuck (LHP)
Live Audio: WDWS AM-1400 (games 1, 3 and 4) and streaming on fightingillini.com (PBP: Dave Loane; Analysis: Ben Taylor)
Live Stats: Gametracker on fightingillini.com
Series: Ohio State leads 87-82-2
Last Season: Illinois won four games in Champaign
Streak: Illinois, 5
...11-4 in day games
...4-1 on Friday
...6-1 when scoring first
...10-1 when ahead through 7 innings
...3-0 when tied through seven innings
...10-2 when out-hitting its opponent
...6-1 when the bullpen gets the decision
...7-1 when making fewer errors than its opponent
...13-3 when scoring four or more runs
Whitmore Honored by League: Closer Matt Whitmore earned his first career Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honor on Monday after earning three saves last week. He did not allow a hit and faced only two batters more than the minimum in three innings of work.
Home Delivery for the Dairyman: First baseman Dave Schultz, who grew up on a dairy farm in Chaseburg, Wis., showed he enjoys Big Ten pitching by hitting .471 against Purdue last weekend. Schultz doubled twice and had 10 total bases in the series. In the last six games, Schultz is hitting .423 with three doubles and seven RBI.
Snow at the Top: After trying a few different players in the spot, leftfielder Ryan Snowden has taken hold of the lead-off role, racking up a .469 on-base percentage and a .528 slugging percentage in the top spot since Spring Trip. He has scored a team-high 17 runs in those 13 games while drawing eight walks and being hit by a pitch five times.
Huisinga Heating Up: Following a slow start to the season, rightfielder Trevor Huisinga has heated up since the beginning of Spring Trip, hitting .500 and slugging a team-best .667 during that time. He has also stolen 4-of-6 bases and has been perfect in 17 chances in the field. In that span, he has scored 12 runs and driven in 11, mostly as the Illini's No. 8 hitter.
Vs. Ranked Teams: Illinois' current roster does not have a large amount of experience playing ranked teams. Last year's games at No. 21 Winthrop and vs. No. 20 Missouri were the only time any of Illinois' current players have faced a ranked opponent in the Orange and Blue. The Illini went 1-1 in those two games in 2005.
We're Going Streaking: Trevor Huisinga currently has a career-best nine game hitting streak going into the Ohio State series, and Dave Schultz is close behind with an eight-game string. Schultz's streak is second in his career only to a 15-game streak he had as a freshman at Creighton. Mike Rohde has also heated up recently, putting together a five-game hitting streak.
Home Field Advantage: Illinois drew 1,012 fans against Purdue on March 31, a school record for a Big Ten home opening crowd. For the series, 2,328 fans came out, the third-best total in a Big Ten home-opening series.
Scouting the Buckeyes
Ohio State comes into the weekend tied for first in the Big Ten with a 3-1 record after taking three games from Iowa last week. The Buckeyes lead the league in hitting (.349) and pitching (3.42 ERA).
Third baseman Ronnie Bourquin leads OSU with a .432 average and leftfielder Jacob Howell is right on his heels at .416. The Buckeyes have six hitters above .300, but their power numbers compare favorably with Illinois. OSU has only seven homers in 21 games, 12 triples and 46 doubles. The Buckeyes are 32-for-37 on the basepaths and reach base at a .423 rate.
Freshman J.B. Schuck has been Ohio State's best arm, going 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA in five starts. He has given up only 18 hits and four earned runs in 32 innings. No. 1 starter Dan DeLucia has been strong as well, holding a 4-1 record with a 3.09 ERA.
Ohio State has had a similar schedule to Illinois, facing top competition in a tournament at Florida. The Buckeyes lost to then-No. 1 Florida and Wake Forest before defeating Missouri 4-2. Illinois and OSU have six common opponents in Western Michigan, Northern Iowa, Illinois-Chicago, Cornell, Vermont and Massachusetts. The Buckeyes went 6-2 against those teams while the Illini were also 6-2. Both teams lost to Western Michigan, Illinois falling twice, and OSU dropped a game to UIC on its Spring Trip.
Ohio State leads the all-time series 87-82-2, but the Illini drew the series closer with a four-game sweep last season to open the Big Ten slate. Much like he did all season, Brian Blomquist got Illinois off to a good start with a complete-game effort, scattering seven hits and giving up only one run while striking out six and walking two. Jake Toohey made two appearances out of the bullpen in the series, picking up a win while allowing only one run in 5 1/3 innings of work. Leading the series 3-0 on Sunday, Drew Davidson broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run walk-off home run on his way to a Big Ten Player of the Week award.
In what figures to become a theme, few current Illini have faced Ohio State. Trevor Huisinga, Mike Rohde, Chase Kliment and Shawn Roof all had at least three at bats in last season's series, but no one else saw action. Roof did have a good series against OSU in 2004, going 4-for-11 (.364) with two doubles, three runs and two RBI. For his career, Toohey is 1-0 in three appearances against the Buckeyes, throwing seven total innings and allowing only one run on four hits.
A Look Back
Illinois won its first two games of Big Ten play last weekend against Purdue, but the Boilermakers fought back to split the series 2-2. The Illini rocked Purdue ace Jay Buente for nine runs - seven earned - on eight hits in only 2 1/3 innings, by far Buente's shortest outing of the year. Dave Schultz went 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs in his Illinois Field debut, and Trevor Huisinga was 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run in the 9-7 Illinois win. The Illini stretched their winning streak to nine with a 3-2 win in the first game of the Saturday doubleheader, as Jake Toohey went six strong innings before Matt Whitmore recorded his sixth save of the season with a perfect ninth inning.
But Purdue struck back in the nightcap, taking advantage of eight walks and two wild pitches by the Illini hurlers on the way to a 10-4 win. Lars Davis and Dominic Altobelli each went 2-for-3 with a run, but Purdue's five-run sixth inning proved too much to overcome. On Sunday, Illinois played as drearily as the weather, committing three errors and giving up seven walks as the Boilers evened the series at two games apiece with a 9-4 win. Mike Rohde went 3-for-5 with two RBI and a double, and Schultz was 2-for-3 with a double, a run and an RBI.
Illinois struggled offensively against Western Michigan on Tuesday, falling 7-2. Ryan Snowden was 3-for-4 with two doubles and a run, and Davis hit a solo homer in the losing effort. The Illini bounced back on Wednesday, winning 16-5 over the Broncos. Snowden added two more doubles, Rohde was 3-for-4 with a triple and three RBI, and Schultz drove in four runs. Shawn Roof went 3-for-4 and Aaron Ifft was 2-for-3 with three RBI and two runs.
Whitmore Saving Them All
Senior closer Matt Whitmore has converted all six of his save chances and was recently named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week after recording three saves last week. Whitmore also earned a mention on the College Baseball Foundation Honor Roll, which recognizes a handful of the top performers across the nation from the past week. Whitmore gave up only one walk and had a runner reach on an error in three innings of work while striking out three. His six saves have already topped the total by last season's save leader, Jake Toohey, who had five.
Trevor Turns It On
After scuffling at the beginning of the season, senior rightfielder Trevor Huisinga has begun to swing the bat like a veteran, hitting 3-for-5 in Illinois' last three games with a double and four runs. In the last eight Illini games, Huisinga is 15-for-26 (.577) with 11 runs and eight RBI. Huisinga announced his presence in the March 24 game against Cornell, going 3-for-4 with a home run, two doubles, four RBI and four runs. He continued his hot streak by going 3-for-4 with a run at Indiana State. He currently is on a career-best nine-game hitting streak and has at least one hit in 17 of 20 games he's played in this season.
"Snowman" Not Frosty
Ryan Snowden, or "Snowman," as coach Ken Westray calls him, has taken off in Illinois' last six games. The junior transfer is hitting .409 in that stretch with six runs, but his power production has been the most remarkable facet of his game, hitting five doubles and a triple for a .727 slugging percentage in the lead-off spot. Against Western Michigan, Snowden had two doubles in each of the two games while hitting .714 with a 1.286 slugging percentage.
Blomquist Solid on Friday
In his second season as Illinois' No. 1 starter, Brian Blomquist has a history of starting off Big Ten series with a bang. The righthander has a 7-2 record in conference Friday games and won his first four Big Ten starts last season. Blomquist also picked up the win in last Friday's 9-7 win over Purdue despite not having his best stuff.
A Little Help From My Friends
Illinois' bullpen has been solid over the last 12 games, earning four wins and five saves. Matt Whitmore and Ben Reeser have been the two most consistent relievers, with Reeser going 2-0 in four appearances and Whitmore collecting four saves while allowing just one earned run. In fact, Whitmore has allowed only two base runners in his last three innings of work and has given up only one earned run on the season.
Chicks Dig the Short Ball
After a power surge on Spring Trip, the Illini have gone back to their "small ball" ways against Purdue and Western Michigan. In those six games, 48 of Illinois' 63 hits have been singles (.762). The Illini have 12 doubles, two triples and a home run in their last six games. Thus far, 76 percent of Illinois' hits have been singles. The Illini have also advanced runners at a .518 clip, with Shawn Roof leading the way moving 31 runners over in 48 chances (.646). Illinois also has driven in a runner from third with less than two outs 55 times in 85 chances (.647).
Load 'em Up, Bring 'em In
Illinois has recorded 16 hits with the bags juiced for a .432 (16-for-37) average. That's a much faster pace than a year ago, when it took 34 games for the Illini to get 16 bases-loaded hits. Two hitters have been especially clutch so far, with Dave Schultz going 4-for-6 (.667) and Shawn Roof going 3-for-5 (.600) in the situation.
Two Down? No Problem
Four Illini hitters seem to excel with two outs, as Lars Davis, Kyle Hudson, Mike Rohde and Dave Schultz are all hitting over .400 with two down. Schultz's .441 average with two outs leads the team, while Rohde is hitting .433 in the situation. Davis and Hudson are both hitting .400 with two down. Schultz has 10 RBI in the situation, Davis has nine and Rohde has eight.
Graduated but Not Gone
Illini pitchers Brian Blomquist and Jake Stewart are unique among college baseball players in that both have finished their undergraduate degrees while still retaining a year of eligibility. Both righthanders finished their B.S. degrees in sport management in December, but they must take courses on a degree path to remain eligible. So Blomquist is pursuing a second B.S. in community health while Stewart works on a master's degree in human and industrial resources.
Complete game notes in the PDF at the top of the page.