Freshman DH Willie Argo is 7-for-12 with four RBIs and two runs in Illinois' last three games.
April 16, 2009
#23 Minnesota at Illinois
Illinois Field // Champaign, Ill.
April 17 // 6:05 pm
April 18 // 3:05 pm
April 19 // 12:05 pm
#23 Minnesota (22-10, 6-2) at Illinois (21-10, 6-3)
Live Stats: Gametracker on fightingillini.com
Radio: WDWS AM-1400 (PBP: Dave Loane, Color: Mike Rohde (Fri/Sat), Itch Jones (Sun)
Live Audio: On fightingillini.com
Series: Minnesota leads 100-92-1
Games at Illinois: Minnesota leads 46-43-1
Last Year: Illinois won the series at Minnesota, 3-1
Game 1 Probables
Minnesota: Chauncy Handran (RHP, 6-1, 2.73 ERA)
Illinois: Phil Haig (RHP, 3-2, 3.92 ERA)
Game 2 Probables
Minnesota: Tom Buske (RHP, 5-2, 2.15 ERA)
Illinois: Ben Reeser (RHP, 3-0, 2.61 ERA)
Game 3 Probables
Minnesota: Seth Rosin (RHP, 2-1, 4.62 ERA)
Illinois: Bryan Roberts (RHP, 3-0, 5.89 ERA)
...10-3 at home
...8-0 in the final game of a series or weekend trip
...18-3 when leading after the seventh inning
...13-4 when scoring in the first inning
...15-6 when scoring first
...16-2 when out-hitting its opponent
...13-3 when a starter gets the decision
...16-3 when holding an opponent to 5 or fewer runs
...outscoring its opponents 35-13 in the 4th inning
...17-3 when making equal or fewer errors than its opponents
Illini Line Drives
Illini Off to Hot Start: Illinois has started the season 21-10, the sixth-best 31-game start to a season since the schedule expanded to 40+ games in 1975. For a list of best 31-game starts since 1975, see page 4.
Dittman Snags Weekly Honor: First baseman Matt Dittman, playing in just his second Big Ten series as a full-time member of the lineup, hit .545 (6-for-11) with a .909 slugging percentage, a homer, a double, four RBIs and four runs at Michigan last weekend to earn his first career Big Ten Player of the Week honor. Dittman hit his first career homer in Saturday's 10-8 win and finished the weekend by going 3-for-4 with three runs in Illinois' 11-5 victory.
Argo Breaks Out of Slump: DH Willie Argo has gone 7-for-12 (.583) with four RBIs and two runs in Illinois' last three games to break out of a 9-for-46 slump over the previous 12 games. Argo has raised his season average 41 points in those three games.
Parr Finds the Green: Second baseman Josh Parr has bounced back from the sprained knee that sidelined him for the final two games of the Indiana series, hitting 6-for-16 (.375) with two doubles, three RBIs and two runs in the last four games. He had gone 0-for-8 in the previous four games.
Dittman Earns Lineup Spot: Since entering the second game of the Indiana series for an injured Josh Parr, Matt Dittman has earned his spot in the lineup by hitting 12-for-28 (.429) with six RBIs and five runs in the last eight games, collecting a hit in each contest for a career-best eight-game hitting streak. He's raised his average 94 points in that span.
Wikoff Makes History: Brandon Wikoff became the first Illini to hit for the cycle since 1990 on April 7 when he accomplished the feat against Bradley. He popped out in the first inning before singling in the third, homering in the fourth, doubling in the fifth and tripling in the seventh. Sean Mulligan was the last Illini to hit for the cycle, doing it against Michigan on Feb. 25, 1990.
Is That Weapon Registered?: Sophomore left fielder Casey McMurray has had his powerful right arm on full display in the last week, collecting four outfield assists in Illinois' last four games. He caught Michigan's Alan Oaks trying to stretch a single into a double in the first inning on April 11 then threw out UM's Ryan LaMarre at the plate in the eighth inning of that game. On April 14, he caught Eastern Illinois' Richie Derbak trying to turn a single into a double, and on April 15 he threw out Southern Illinois' Aaron Roberts at the plate to end an SIU rally. He leads the team with six outfield assists on the season; Joe Bonadonna and Nick Stockwell each have two.
Illini Face Tough Early Big Ten Slate: Illinois has the second-toughest first half of the Big Ten schedule behind, by opponents' winning percentage. The Illini have faced a schedule with a .559 percentage, tied for second with Minnesota. Penn State has had the toughest schedule, with a .618 opponents' winning percentage. For a full list, see page 5.
Illini Break Out Bats in Ann Arbor: After scoring only 10 runs in its previous four Big Ten games, Illinois exploded for 10 and 11 runs in the final two games of the Michigan series last weekend. The Illini rapped out 28 hits and took advantage of four Wolverine errors over those two games to win both contests and the series. The 21 runs in the two games were the most in consecutive contests since the Illini scored 24 in the final two games of the Akron series.
Zerrusen Finds Work: Sophomore pitcher Lee Zerrusen has made the most of his opportunities lately, pitching 26 innings over seven appearances in the last 17 games after throwing only two innings in Illinois' first 14 games this year. He allowed only one unearned run in a start against Southern Illinois on Wednesday after throwing 5 1/3 solid innings of relief on Saturday at Michigan. He also tossed six innings of relief against Indiana and had a six-inning start against Michigan State on March 27 for his first career Big Ten win.
M-A-R-T-I-N Spells Relief: Senior pitcher Aaron Martin has taken to his relief role this season after starting most of his first three years. He has a 0.76 ERA in 23 2/3 innings out of the pen this year, allowing only 18 hits with 19 strikeouts.
Penn State Game Time Changed: Illinois' game at Penn State on Sunday, April 26, has been moved up to the bright-and-early time of 10:05 a.m. (CT) to accomodate Illinois' travel plans. It will be the sixth Illini game to start before noon Central time this season. Illinois is 3-2 so far in early games.
Strack Swipes Big Ten Honor: Freshman pitcher Will Strack got a spot start in the series finale against Michigan State and was spectacular, earning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors after throwing a four-hit shutout against the Spartans. Strack currently leads the Big Ten in ERA in all games and conference games.
Pitchers Turn it Around: Illinois currently has a 4.51 staff ERA after finishing 2008 with a staff ERA of 6.44. More impressively, the Illini have a 2.85 ERA in games they have won, allowing just 59 earned runs in 21 games. The Illini are second as a team in the league ERA race.
4 is the Magic Number: The Illini have had four players collect six four-hit games this season, with Brandon Wikoff doing it three times and Dominic Altobelli, Josh Parr and Willie Argo each getting four hits in a game once. Wikoff and Altobelli both had four hits in the series-opener against Indiana, Wikoff had four hits in the second game at No. 1 LSU and also against Bradley on April 7. Parr collected four hits at Texas-Pan American on Feb. 27, and most recently, Willie Argo had four hits in the series finale at Michigan on April 12.
Down Go the Tigers!: The Fighting Illini won their series at consensus No. 1 LSU March 6-8, winning the Friday and Sunday games. It was Illinois' first win over a top-ranked team since 1995 and is believed to be the Illini's first-ever series victory over a No. 1 foe.
Reeser Has Career Outing: Senior starter Ben Reeser had the game of a lifetime in the series finale at No. 1 LSU on March 8, taking a shutout into the ninth inning and striking out a career-high nine hitters. He earned Big Ten Pitcher of the Week and was named to the College Baseball Foundation National All-Star Lineup for his efforts.
Argo Makes Splash: Willie Argo will always remember his collegiate debut. He became what is believed to be the second player in major-college baseball to homer three times in his collegiate debut with three dingers against No. 1 LSU on March 7. Argo homered in the second, fourth and seventh innings, and also drew a walk in the sixth.
Johnson Showcases All-Around Game: Junior catcher Aaron Johnson was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on March 9 after hitting .500 at No. 1 LSU, including a game-winning two-run homer in the top of the ninth of the March 6 game. He also threw out 4-of-6 would-be base-stealers against an LSU team that had swiped 30 bags in nine games prior to that series, and was credited for calling an excellent series behind the plate by head coach Dan Hartleb.
Kimes Hits High Note: Freshman left-handed reliever Corey Kimes struck out the side in the eighth inning of Illinois' 3-1 win over No. 1 LSU on March 6, using just 12 pitches to retire the only three hitters he faced.
Rookie Above Parr: Freshman second baseman Josh Parr was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week and to the College Baseball Foundation National All-Star Lineup after hitting .700 with five RBIs and a four-hit game at the Al Ogletree Classic. For the season, he's hitting .365.
We're Going Streaking!: Sophomore Casey McMurray lost a career-long 17-game hitting streak in the second game of the Michigan State series and Junior Brandon Wikoff's 14-gamer fell by the wayside in the second game of the April 4 doubleheader.
Wikoff Won't Go Down Swinging: Shortstop Brandon Wikoff defies the cliché, as he won't go down swinging. In the latest NCAA stats, he ranked as the seventh-toughest hitter to strike out in the nation, whiffing once every 29.8 at bats.
Illini Faces Second Ranked Foe This Week
Illinois welcomes No. 23 Minnesota to Illinois Field for a three-game Big Ten series on Friday, marking the second ranked opponent the Illini have faced this week after hosting No. 29 Eastern Illinois on Tuesday. The Gophers have won five in a row and seven of their last eight after sweeping Northwestern last weekend and defeating Wisconsin-Milwaukee and South Dakota State on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Minnesota currently is tied for the Big Ten lead with Indiana at 6-2, but Illinois is only a half-game back at 6-3. Minnesota and Indiana weren't able to play the final game of their series earlier in the year.
Friday is '80s Night at Illinois Field, meaning anyone who wears gear from the 1980s decade receives free admission to the game. There also will be music from the '80s as well as Illinois baseball trivia from the 1980s. Saturday will be Team Day, where teams eighth grade and under get in free. On Sunday, fans eighth grade and under can play Wiffleball with Illini players following the game and anyone can get autographs from a group of Illinois players.
Illinois/Minnesota Series History
Minnesota leads the all-time series 100-92-1 and holds a 46-43-1 advantage in games played in Champaign. Illinois took three of four games at Siebert Field in 2008 to snap a four-game Gopher winning streak against the Illini after Minnesota won the season series in Champaign and beat Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament in 2007. In fact, the Gophers are 7-2 at Illinois Field since 2000, splitting the series in 2003, winning series in 2004 and 2007, and defeating the Illini in the 2005 Big Ten Tournament in Champaign.
Illini Face Tough Early Big Ten Slate
Illinois has the second-toughest first half of the Big Ten schedule based on the winning percentage of the first four conference opponents for each school. The Illini's four opponents (Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota) have a combined winning percentage of .559, which is equal to Minnesota's opponents (Indiana, Ohio State, Northwestern, Illinois). Penn State has faced the toughest league slate at a .618 opponents' winning percentage, and Ohio State is fourth at .529. Indiana is the only other team to face a group of opponents totaling over a .500 winning percentage, as their foes have gone 18-17. Below is a listing of each team's opponents' winning percentage and four first-half opponents:
Team Opp. Winning Pct. Opponents 1. Penn State .618 // 21-13 OSU, MICH, PUR, IND 2. Illinois .559 // 19-15 MSU, IND, MICH, MINN Minnesota .559 // 19-15 IND, OSU, NU, PUR 4. Ohio State .529 // 18-16 PSU, MINN, MSU, PUR 5. Indiana .514 // 18-17 MINN, ILL, IOWA, PSU 6. Michigan St. .486 // 17-18 ILL, NU, OSU, MICH 7. Iowa .485 // 16-17 MICH, PUR, IND, NU 8. Northwestern .471 // 16-18 PUR, MSU, MINN, IOWA 9. Michigan .417 // 15-21 IOWA, PSU, ILL, MSU 10. Purdue .371 // 13-22 NU, IOWA, PSU, OSU
Last Week: Illini Win Series in Michigan, Drop Pair of Midweek Games
After a big series win at Michigan last weekend, the Illini struggled in a pair of midweek games, losing to No. 29 Eastern Illinois, 5-1, and falling 9-6 to Southern Illinois at Rent One Park in Marion, Ill. The Illini led or were tied through seven innings in both games, as EIU scored four runs in the final two innings and SIU scored four in the eighth on Wednesday. Illinois made four errors in the two games, allowing eight unearned runs. Offensively, Willie Argo went 3-for-7 with a run and an RBI, and Josh Parr was 3-for-8 with a double and an RBI.
Illinois dropped its Friday game at Michigan, 4-2, thanks to a stellar outing by Wolverine starter Chris Fetter, but bounced back to win the final two games of the series and win the weekend. On Saturday, Matt Dittman hit his first career homer to bring the Illini within 6-5 in the fifth inning and doubles by Joe Bonadonna, Dominic Altobelli and Aaron Johnson led to a five-run sixth inning that put the Illini ahead for good in a 10-8 win. On Sunday, Michigan grabbed an early lead but Illinois used 19 hits and a four-run eighth inning to take the rubber game of the series, 11-5.
*Complete series notes available in attached PDF file