Illini Head To Iowa City To Take On Hawkeyes
April 8, 2010
Illinois at Iowa
Game 1 Probables
Game 2 Probables
Game 3 Probables
Illini Line Drives
The Gloves Work, Too: After committing 27 errors in its first 12 games, Illinois has only made 14 miscues in the last 11 games. The Illini also have only three multiple-error games compared to nine games with two or more errors in their first 12 games.
Cappetta Finds His Swing: Pete Cappetta, who hit .384 a year ago but had struggled so far in 2010 - entering last weekend with a .148 average - has gone 9-for-19 with five doubles, eight RBIs and seven runs in the last five games. He raised his average 85 points over that span and has had three multiple-hit games.
Hohl Does it All: Third baseman Brandon Hohl has had an impressive freshman campaign to this point, hitting .375 with 23 RBIs - second-most on the team - including 11 two-out RBIs. He hit .583 in the Penn State series and stayed hot against Bradley on Tuesday, hitting his first two career homers and driving in three runs. He also has made only three errors despite starting every game at the hot corner.
The Pen is Mightier: Illinois' bullpen was a big reason it has won three of its last four games. Bryan Roberts pitched two scoreless innings on Saturday for his second save of the year, then Corey Kimes and Kevin Manson combined for five shutout innings on Sunday to keep the Nittany Lions at bay. At Bradley on Tuesday, Brian de la Torriente allowed only one earned run over four innings of work, Kimes retired two batters in the eighth inning and Roberts earned a four-inning save to lock down the victory. On Wednesday, Wes Braun pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief and Mike Sterk recorded the final two outs of the eighth inning against Missouri.
Argo Attacks Opponent Arms: Center fielder Willie Argo is showing his freshman season wasn't a fluke. He currently leads the Illini with a .415 average and a .510 on-base percentage. He also has stolen 18-of-19 bases, being thrown out for the first time on April 4 against Penn State. The key for Argo lately has been cutting down on his strikeouts. After fanning 11 times in Illinois' first six games this year, he has struck out only six times in the last 16 games.
Lutes Lives It Up: Senior right fielder Craig Lutes has enjoyed a hot start to his final year, hitting .325 with 16 RBIs. He has hit even better in his last 10 games, going 16-for-39 (.410) to raise his average 75 points while driving in 11 runs and score 10. He also has four doubles in that span. Lutes already has surpassed career highs for RBIs and hits with 16 and 27, respectively, so far this year.
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 14 games. But he injured his right wrist against Southeastern on March 20 and hasn't played in Illinois' last nine games.
Argo Catches Fire: Sophomore center fielder Willie Argo has hit a hot streak lately, raising his batting average 204 points after starting the year 4-for-19 (.211). Since March 12, Argo has gone 30-for-63 (.476) with 12 RBIs, 18 runs, four doubles, a triple, a home run and 15-for-16 stolen bases. Argo now leads the team and ranks fifth in the Big Ten with his .415 average.
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 been solid. 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. He's struggled a bit in his last two starts, though, allowing 10 earned runs in 7 1/3 innings.
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 3.46 ERA that is second-best on the team in 13 innings. He has posted six scoreless outings in his 10 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 Travel to Iowa for Big Ten Weekend
All three games will be streamed live on BigTenNetwork.com with Iowa students producing the events. Friday's game will be shown on the Big Ten Network Saturday at 9 a.m., Saturday's game will be aired Sunday at 8 p.m. and Sunday's game will be shown Monday at 9 p.m.
Iowa has won six of its last nine games despite dropping two of three games to Michigan State last weekend in East Lansing. After starting the season 4-12, the Hawkeyes won the final game of their series at Texas-Pan American before coming home to sweep three games from Western Illinois. Iowa then split two games with South Dakota State before losing the series to the Spartans. The Hawks have had two games canceled this week as they were supposed to play Western Illinois again on Tuesday then face the Iowa Cubs on Wednesday. Iowa is led by pitcher Jared Hippen, their Friday starter, with a 2.62 ERA, but only one other pitcher on their staff has an ERA under 5.00. The Hawkeyes are hitting just .284 as a team and have made 53 errors in 25 games for a .944 fielding percentage.
Illinois Against the Hawkeyes
This Week: Illini Split Pair of Midweek Games
In Wednesday's game, the Illini scored four runs in the second inning on two walks, four hits and a double-steal to go ahead 4-1. Missouri scored three in the third when Illini reliever Bill Barrett allowed a double and three walks. Three of those runs came home to post the Tigers to a 5-4 lead before reliever Wes Braun twirled 3 2/3 shutout innings of work to keep the Illini in the game. Illinois couldn't muster a hit in the final seven innings of the wooden-bat game, though, and Missouri added two runs in the eighth on a hit and three walks for the 7-4 win.
*Complete series notes are available in the above PDF