Joe Bonadonna and the Illini welcome Northwestern to Illinois Field for a four-game series.
April 13, 2006
Illinois vs. Northwestern
(15-13, 3-5) (9-18, 6-2)
April 14 6:05 pm
April 15 3:05 pm (DH)
April 16 1:05 pm
Game 1 Probables
Brian Blomquist (RHP) vs. Ryan Myers (RHP)
2-3, 4.40 ERA 1-3, 8.36 ERA
Game 2 Probables
Jake Toohey (RHP) vs. Dan Brauer (LHP)
2-3, 5.92 ERA 2-1, 3.72 ERA
Game 3 Probables
Tanner Roark (RHP) vs. George Kontos (RHP)
1-0, 4.50 ERA 1-6, 5.33 ERA
Game 4 Probables
Jake Stewart (RHP) vs. Julio Siberio (RHP)
1-2, 6.41 ERA 1-0, 2.84 ERA
Live Audio: WDWS AM-1400 and streaming on fightingillini.com
(PBP: Dave Loane; Analysis: Eric Loy and Steve Layman)
Live Stats: Gametracker on fightingillini.com
Series: Illinois leads 151-79
Last Season: Illinois swept the four-game series
Streak: Illinois, 4
...7-2 when scoring first
...11-1 when ahead through 7 innings (5 in DH games)
...10-3 when out-hitting its opponent
...7-2 when the bullpen gets the decision
...7-2 when making fewer errors than its opponent
...14-4 when scoring four or more runs
Chase Takes the Lead: Designated hitter Chase Kliment was Illinois' best hitter last weekend against Ohio State as he hit .400 with four RBI and two doubles. He added a double, a run and an RBI against Bradley to raise his season average to .306 and put him third on the team with 19 RBI.
Make It a Double: Despite being inconsistent at Ohio State, the Illinois infield managed to turn five double plays in the series, four that ended innings. They also rolled four double plays at Bradley, a season high, including two inning-ending DPs.
Roof Off and Running: Shawn Roof has been a demon on the basepaths in the Big Ten, stealing six bases in as many attempts. He leads the league in steals and has a pair of two-steal games in conference play.
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 .465 on-base percentage and a .507 slugging percentage in the top spot since Spring Trip. He has scored a team-high 22 runs in those 18 games while drawing nine walks and being hit by a pitch six times.
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.
Party In the Park Highlights Weekend
Illinois begins its eight-game Big Ten homestand with a bang on Friday, hosting the second annual Party in the Park. Admission will be free for all fans, there will be a fireworks display in the seventh-inning stretch and many groups will be on hand, including the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Illini Pride and the Illinois Kids Club. Saturday, Illini head football coach Ron Zook and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley will be in attendance throwing out the first pitch. And the weekend wraps up on Easter Sunday as all children in attendance will receive candy.
Scouting the Wildcats
Northwestern enters the weekend series the winner of six of its last eight games after losing 12 straight from Feb. 25 to March 31, including an 0-11 month of March. But the Wildcats have come on strong in Big Ten play, currently holding a 6-2 conference mark. In Big Ten games only, NU ranks fifth in batting with a .267 average, first in pitching with a 2.29 ERA and sixth with a .953 fielding percentage.
Rightfielder Antonio Mule leads Northwestern with a .388 batting average, 17 runs and 14 RBI. However, the Wildcats do not have another player with a batting average over .300 who meets the stat minimum of two plate appearances per game. As a result, Mule already has four intentional walks on the season.
Junior lefthander Dan Brauer has been the Wildcats' top pitcher, with a 2-1 record and 3.72 ERA. However, senior righthander Julio Siberio has made a push into the rotation after earning the save with 2/3 of an inning in NU's' first game against Indiana last weekend and throwing eight strong innings in the series finale against the Hoosiers. Siberio will start Sunday against Illinois.
If Illinois seems to lack pop from time to time, Northwestern fans rarely see anything other than base hits as the Wildcats have only 33 extra-base hits on the season. That means 86 percent of NU's 235 hits have been singles.
Northwestern and Illinois have one common opponent in South Floria. The Wildcats lost two of three to the Bulls on their opening weekend before Illinois swept USF the following weekend.
Illinois leads the all-time series 151-79, including a four-game sweep of the Wildcats in 2005. The Illini set a school record for runs scored in a four-game series, pasting NU pitching for 58 runs, including a 21-4 shellacking on Friday, May 6. Illinois blasted 14 homers in the series, including four each by J.R. Kyes and Drew Davidson. Kyes won NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball Player of the Week honors after hitting .529 and slugging 1.471 in the series with 13 RBI and nine runs.
Both Brian Blomquist and Jake Stewart threw complete games against Northwestern last season, Blomquist allowing four runs on eight hits and Stewart giving up three runs on 10 hits while striking out a career-high six Wildcats. Aaron Saving also threw six strong innings of relief, giving up only two runs on four hits. Offensively, Mike Rohde hit .500 in the series with six runs and four RBI, and Trevor Huisinga hit .462 with five runs. Shawn Roof also went 4-for-5 with four runs in three games but only one start.
A Look Back
The Illini struggled offensively at Ohio State, putting up only 11 runs in the four-game series. Illinois managed only six hits in the first game, played Saturday because of rain on Friday night, against OSU starter Dan DeLucia, who struck out a career-high nine Illini. The Buckeyes notched 12 hits against Illinois starter Brian Blomquist, accounting for all four runs in a 4-1 win. The second game Saturday wasn't much better for the Illini as OSU starter Cory Luebke allowed just one run on three hits in a seven-inning complete game, winning 5-1. Shawn Roof had two of those hits and scored the only run for Illinois.
But the Illini came out fired up on Sunday behind Tanner Roark, who made the first Big Ten start of his career. Roark pitched five solid innings, giving up two runs on five hits and three walks, but the Buckeyes scored a run and loaded the bases off reliever Ben Reeser in the sixth before closer Matt Whitmore entered the game. Whitmore threw his first wild pitch of the season and catcher Lars Davis made a throwing error, allowing two runs to score in what was a four-run inning for OSU to tie the game 6-6. It was Whitmore's first blown save of the year, but he settled down and threw three shutout innings to record his first win of the season as Illinois scored twice in the ninth for an 8-6 win. But OSU charged back in the series finale with a 9-1 win that included four unearned runs on four Illinois errors. Kliment and Snowden each had two hits and Joe Bonadonna scored the lone Illini run.
Illinois looked to recover in a midweek game at Bradley, taking an early 4-0 lead and a 7-2 lead after six innings. But the Braves scored five seven-inning runs off Illini relievers Andy Sigerich and Aaron Saving to tie the game. Bradley then scored in the bottom of the ninth when Mike Rohde's throw to second on a grounder went over Ryan Hastings' head and into center field, allowing a runner to score from second on the play and giving the Braves an 8-7 win.
"Snowman" Not Frosty
Ryan Snowden, or "Snowman," as coach Ken Westray calls him, has taken off in Illinois' last 11 games. The junior transfer is hitting .375 in that stretch with six runs, but his power production has been the most remarkable facet of his game, hitting seven doubles and a triple for a .600 slugging percentage and a .479 on-base 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.
Whitmore Saves the Day
Senior closer Matt Whitmore has converted six of seven save chances and was recently named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week after recording three saves on April 3. 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 against Indiana State and Purdue. His six saves have already topped the total by last season's save leader, Jake Toohey, who had five.
Twice as Nice
Illinois' infielders, despite being inconsistent with their gloves, have turned nine double plays in the last five games, including four at Bradley. The Illini's seasoan average of 1.14 DPs per game ranks ninth in the nation through April 12's games. Ryan Hastings, Shawn Roof and Dave Schultz combined for six of the twin killings in the last five games, five of which finished frames. Mike Rohde combined with Hastings and Schultz on the other inning-ending DP, a 5-4-3 play that finished Illinois' lone win in the series at OSU. Illinois now has 32 double plays on the season and 18 that have ended innings.
Chicks Dig the Short Ball
After a power surge on Spring Trip, the Illini have gone back to their "small ball" ways. In those 11 games, 74 of Illinois' 97 hits have been singles (.753). The Illini have 20 doubles, two triples and a home run in their last 11 games. Thus far, 76 percent of Illinois' hits have been singles. The Illini have also advanced runners at a .502 clip, with Shawn Roof leading the way moving 34 runners over in 57 chances (.596). Illinois also has driven in a runner from third with less than two outs 59 times in 92 chances (.641).
Load 'em Up, Bring 'em In
Illinois has recorded 17 hits with the bags juiced for a .405 (17-for-42) average. That's a much faster pace than a year ago, when it took 35 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
Three Illini hitters seem to excel with two outs, as Lars Davis, Mike Rohde and Dave Schultz are all hitting near .400 with two down. Schultz's .421 average with two outs leads the team, while Rohde is hitting .394 in the situation. Davis currently has a .406 average with two down. Schultz has 10 RBI in the situation, Davis has nine and Rohde has eight.