Illini Host Michigan in Weekend Series

Senior Kevin Manson returns to the role of Friday night starter this week when the Illini face Michigan.
Senior Kevin Manson returns to the role of Friday night starter this week when the Illini face Michigan.

April 16, 2010

Illinois-Michigan Series Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Michigan at Illinois
Illinois Field // Champaign, Ill.
April 16 // 6:05 pm //
April 17 // 3:05 pm //
April 18 // 1:05 pm //

Series Insider
Michigan (20-11, 4-2) at Illinois (15-13, 3-3)
Live Stats:
Gametracker on
Live Streaming: Available at (Fri: Eric Steckling & Gina Chinino; Sat: Spencer Turkin & Tim Ditman; Sun: Spencer Turkin & Andrew Selby)
Radio: WDWS AM-1400 (PBP: Dave Loane [Fri/Sat], Brian Barnhart [Sun]; Color: Itch Jones [Fri], Mike Rohde [Sat/Sun])
Live Audio: Available on
Series: Michigan leads 128-97-2
Games in Champaign: Michigan leads 62-52-2
Last Season: Illinois won series 2-1 (4/10-12/09)
Streak: W2

Game 1 Probables
Kevin Manson (RHP, 2.0, 2.35 ERA)
Michigan: Alan Oaks (RHP, 3-4, 4.02 ERA)

Game 2 Probables Illinois: Kevin Johnson (RHP, 2-0, 5.73 ERA)
Michigan: Bobby Brosnahan (LHP, 4-2, 4.54 ERA)

Game 3 Probables Illinois: Lee Zerrusen (RHP, 2-1, 5.96 ERA)
Michigan: Brandon Sinnery (RHP, 3-0, 3.34 ERA)

Illinois is...
...12-5 in their last 17 games
...4-1 at home
...12-4 when scoring first
...11-1 when leading after the seventh inning
...6-1 in one-run games
...13-2 when out-hitting its opponent
...9-2 when holding an opponent to 5 or fewer runs
...4-1 when wearing orange jerseys and pinstripe pants

Illini Line Drives
• Illini Bats Return to Form:
After scoring only six runs and notching only two extra-base hits in the final two games at Iowa last weekend, the Illini offense regained its swagger against Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois this week by scoring 15 runs on 18 hits with seven hits going for extra bases. Illinois also returned to the running game that has served it well this year, stealing 12 bases in those two mid-week games after swiping only two bases in the entire Iowa series.

• The Gloves Work, Too: After committing 28 errors in its first 13 games, Illinois has only made 17 miscues in the last 15 games. The Illini also have only four multiple-error games compared to nine games with two or more errors in their first 13 games. Illinois notched its first consecutive flawless games in the field against EIU and SIU this week.

• Argo Attacks Record Book: Willie Argo, who hit the second-most home runs by a freshman in school history last year, already is approaching Illinois' single-season stolen bases record with 26 in only 28 games. He currently is tied for ninth on the list and the school record is 40 (see page 5).

• Argo Becomes Fastest to 100 Hits: Argo also reached 100 career hits Tuesday against Eastern Illinois in only his 269th career at bat, tying former Illini first baseman Andy Schutzenhofer as the fastest Illinois player to reach 100 hits (see page 5).

• Manson returns to Rotation: Kevin Manson, Illinois' Friday night starter in 2008, will make his return to Friday starter duty this week against Michigan. Manson battled arm trouble throughout the 2009 season, pitching only five innings in two appearances. But Manson has been excellent this year, posting a 2-0 record with a 2.35 ERA in 23 innings of work so far.

• Road Warriors: The Illini have been road warriors for the past week, playing at Bradley on April 6, in St. Louis on April 7, at Iowa from April 9-11 and in Marion, Ill., on April 14. That comes to a total of 1,390 miles round-trip or approximately hours of travel time averaging 65 miles per hour.

• Cappetta Finds His Swing: Pete Cappetta, who hit .384 a year ago but had struggled so far in 2010 - entering the Penn State series with a .148 average - has gone 13-for-38 with five doubles, a triple, nine RBIs and 10 runs in the last 10 games. He raised his average 80 points over that span and has had four multiple-hit games.

• Hohl Does it All: Third baseman Brandon Hohl has had an impressive freshman campaign to this point, hitting .340 with 25 RBIs - second-most on the team - including 13 two-out RBIs. He hit .583 in the Penn State series and stayed hot against Bradley on April 6, hitting his first two career homers and driving in three runs. After going 0-for-10 at Iowa, he rebounded with a 3-for-8 effort in Illinois' two mid-week games this week. He also has made only three errors despite starting every game at the hot corner and has been error-free in Illinois' last eight games.

• The Pen is Mightier: Illinois' bullpen has been very solid over the past seven games, posting a 3.54 ERA. If you subtract the three runs in 1/3 of an inning that Billy Barrett allowed in his first appearance since Tommy John surgery, the bullpen's ERA is a paltry 2.90 over that span. Leading the way for the pen in that stretch is closer Bryan Roberts, who had three saves in 6 2/3 scoreless innings of work over four appearances prior to a rough outing against SIU. Wes Braun also has pitched 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball in that span, and Kevin Manson had two scoreless innings against Missouri on April 7. In the last nine games, Braun, Manson, Tanner Libby, Will Strack and John Anderson all have pitched at least one scoreless inning out of the pen.

• Illini Are Repeat Offenders: The Fighting Illini have stolen 71 bases in 88 attempts so far this season, ranking 19th in the country in steals per game (through April 11 games). In addition, center fielder Willie Argo ranks 13th in steals per game with 0.73 per game.

• Argo Attacks Opponent Arms: Center fielder Willie Argo is showing his freshman season wasn't a fluke. He's currently leading the team in average (.396) and on-base percentage (.500) with a .554 slugging percentage that ranks second. He also has stolen 26-of-28 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 10 times in the last 22 games.

• Lutes Lives It Up: Senior right fielder Craig Lutes has enjoyed a hot start to his final year, hitting .314 with 16 RBIs. Lutes already has surpassed career highs for RBIs and hits with 16 and 32, 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 broke his right wrist against Southeastern on March 20 and likely will miss the remainder of the season after having surgery on April 16.

• Argo Catches Fire: Sophomore center fielder Willie Argo has hit a hot streak lately, raising his batting average 178 points after starting the year 4-for-19 (.211). Since March 12, Argo has gone 36-for-82 (.439) with 16 RBIs, 25 runs, six doubles, a triple, two home runs and 23-for-25 stolen bases. Argo leads the Big Ten with 26 steals, is tied for the Big Ten OBP lead at .500 and is seventh in average (.396).

• 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 struggled in starts at ISU and against Penn State, allowing 13 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings, before giving up only three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings at Iowa.

• 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 3.00 ERA that is second-best on the team in 15 innings. He has posted eight scoreless outings in his 12 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 Host Michigan in Weekend Series
After playing six of its last seven games on the road, the Fighting Illini return home for four consecutive games at Illinois Field, starting with a weekend series against Michigan. The Wolverines are tied for the Big Ten lead with Michigan State and Ohio State, all with a 4-2 conference record, while the Illini are tied with Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern at 3-3 in the league.

Both teams have played well of late, as the Illini have won 12 of their last 17 games and the Wolverines are 14-2 in their last 16 contests. Michigan also welcomed back left fielder Ryan LaMarre on April 7 after the junior was sidelined with a broken thumb on Feb. 20 and LaMarre proceeded to hit .692 with a 1.077 slugging percentage against Purdue last weekend to earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors.

This Week's Promotions
Continuing the annual tradition at Illinois Field, Illini fans will be treated to a number of creative promotions throughout the 2010 season. Since this weekend is Mom's Weekend on the UI campus, any mother of an Illinois student can accompany her child to Friday's and Saturday's game for free. Sunday is Dog Day, meaning each fan in attendance can bring a dog to the ballpark free of charge. Friday also will feature the popular Baseball Bingo promotion in which fans can win a variety of prizes for getting a bingo according to certain plays that happen in the game. Saturday and Sunday are Little League Days as well, where Little League baseball players can wear their uniform to the Illini game and receive free admission.

Verizon Wireless also will have representatives at Illinois Field this weekend, handing out promotional items, and Sunday's game will feature the very popular Wiffleball Sunday promotion where kids eighth grade and under can play Wiffleball with the Illini players on the field after the game. Illinois' sophomore players also will be signing autographs following Sunday's game, with this weekend featuring baseball cards of the sophomore class as well.

Illinois Against The Wolverines
Michigan is one of only three Big Ten foes that Illinois is below .500 against all-time, with the Wolverines holding a 128-97-2 lead in the series. Michigan is up 62-52-2 in games played in Champaign, but Illinois has won or tied every series with the Wolverines except for a UM series sweep in 2008. The Illini won two of three games in Ann Arbor last year despite dropping the first game of the series.

*Complete series notes available in the above PDF file.