Illini Welcome Ohio State to Illinois Field

Illini ace Kevin Johnson looks for his sixth win of the year when he starts the opener of this weekend's series against Ohio State.
Illini ace Kevin Johnson looks for his sixth win of the year when he starts the opener of this weekend's series against Ohio State.

April 19, 2012

 Ohio State (21-16, 6-6) at Illinois (20-16, 3-6)
 Preview Interviews Coach Hartleb | John Kravetz | Reid Roper
 Game 1 Friday, April 20, 2012 | 6 p.m.
 Game 2 Saturday, April 21, 2012 | 3 p.m.
 Game 3 Sunday, April 22, 2012 | Noon
 Location Illinois Field (1,500) | Champaign, Ill.
 Radio WDWS AM-1400 (PBP: Dave Loane; Analyst: Loren Tate [Fri], Scott Beatty [Sat], Brian Moline & Lee Zerrusen [Sun]
 Live Video Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Live Audio Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Gametracker Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Game Notes Illinois | Ohio State
 Game 1 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Kevin Johnson (RHP, Jr., 5-3, 3.95 ERA)
OSU: Jaron Long (RHP, So., 3-1, 2.27 ERA)
 Game 2 Pitching  Matchup ILL: John Kravetz (RHP, Fr., 5-3, 4.69 ERA)
OSU: Brian King (LHP, Jr., 3-3, 4.96 ERA)
 Game 3 Pitching  Matchup ILL: TBA
OSU: John Kuchno (RHP, So., 5-3, 4.89 ERA)
 Series History Ohio State leads 96-90-2
 Last Season Illinois won series 2-1 & won game in Big Ten Tournament, 5-4
 Streak Won 2
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook

Illinois Is...
...2nd in the nation in double plays turned per game (1.27)
...2nd in the nation in double plays turned (46)
...averaging 6.3 runs per game
...averaging 9.9 hits per game
...14th in the nation in triples per game (0.47) (as of 4/16)
...18-3 when scoring 5 or more runs
...15-4 when allowing 4 or fewer runs
...12-3 when scoring first
...11-5 when scoring in the 1st inning
...20-0 when leading after the 6th inning
...18-2 when out-hitting its opponent

Illini Team Notes
• Hartleb Captures 200th Win:
Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb nabbed his 200th career win when the Illini topped Illinois State, 7-5, on April 17. Hartleb currently ranks seventh on the Illinois all-time wins list with 201, eight away from tying Carl Lundgren's 209

• Illini Win Mid-week Pair: The Orange and Blue snapped a four-game skid by topping Illinois State and Eastern Illinois this week to split the season series with the Redbirds and sweep the series from the Panthers. That means Illinois will do no worse than split with every in-state foe this year, as the Illini won the first two games of the series with Southern Illinois and split with Bradley. It's the first time since Illinois began scheduling mid-week home-and-home series with in-state opponents that the Illini have won or split all series.

• Take 2, They're Small: Despite having a pair of new starters up the middle in shortstop Thomas Lindauer and second baseman Reid Roper, Illinois leads the nation in double plays per game with 1.32 (through Sunday's games) and sharing the national lead in total double plays with North Florida (45). An interesting twist on the Lindauer/Roper combination is that they both are taking courses in American Sign Language and occasionally use it to communicate on the field. First baseman Jordan Parr has finished all but five of the Illini's twin killings and leads the Big Ten with 41 double plays and Lindauer is tied for second in the league with Ohio State first baseman Josh Dezse (31).

• Illini Enjoy Home Cooking: Illinois has posted a 7-2 record at home, including a series win over Indiana two weeks ago. The Illini are hitting .349 as a team and have made only nine errors for a .976 fielding percentage. Reid Roper (.467) and Kelly Norris-Jones (.440) are hitting over .400, while Matt Milroy has pitched seven scoreless innings over five appearances and Saturday starter John Kravetz is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in two starts.

• Illini Offense Starts Hot: Despite its recent struggles, the Illinois offense has been solid in 2012, averaging 6.3 runs and 9.9 hits per game. It has been a balanced attack, as five regular starters have 40 or more hits and five have 27 or more runs.

• Young Arms Show Promise: The Illini have been bolstered by a crew of young pitchers in 2012, as true-freshmen John Kravetz has been Illinois' No. 2 starter all season and Josh Ferry made his fifth start against Eastern Illinois on April 18. In addition, two sophomores and one redshirt-freshman have been solid in relief with Luke Joyce (3.57 ERA, 22.2 IP), Ronnie Muck (4.05 ERA, 20.0 IP), and Reid Roper (1.12 ERA, 8 IP as a reliever) providing solid bullpen work.

• Pen Picks It Up: The Illinois bullpen has performed well lately, posting a 2.70 ERA in 12 games in April. Matt Milroy is 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA with 15 strikeouts over 10 1/3 innings in April, and Drasen Johnson is 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in nine innings of work. Ronnie Muck also has pitched well, posting a 2.70 ERA with two saves in 10 innings over seven appearances.

• Leaving 'em Stranded: Three Illini relievers have shown an exceptional ability to strand inherited runners in 2012, with Drasen Johnson, Luke Joyce and Ronnie Muck taking over on the mound with 47 runners on base and allowing only 11 to score (.234). Johnson has stranded 13-of-17 inherited runners, while Joyce is 11-for-17 and Muck is 12-for-13. As a team, Illinois has stranded 69 percent of inherited runners (52-of-75).

• Offense is Solid...Once It Gets Going: The Illini are scoring a solid 6.3 runs per game through 36 games, largely thanks to the fact that Illinois hitters have advanced runners at a .528 rate and are hitting .336 with runners in scoring position. But the Orange and Blue have run into some trouble getting innings started as they're hitting only .250 with the bases empty and reaching base when leading off an inning 33.2 percent of the time, compared to a .336 average with runners on base.

• Two Down, None to Go: Illini pitchers have been highly successful with two outs in an inning, holding opponents to a .225 average in the situation. Illinois' bullpen has been even better, allowing only 29 hits in 154 at bats (.188 average) with two outs in an inning. Ronnie Muck has forced opponents into 3-for-25 (.120) hitting with two outs, Matt Milroy is 3-for-22 (.136) as a reliever, Drasen Johnson is 5-for-22 (.227), Anthony Milazzo is 3-for-13 (.231) and Reid Roper is 0-for-7 out of the pen. Conversely, the Illini are hitting .294 with two outs and have 79 two-out RBIs, 39.5 percent of their total RBIs.

• Rally on Two: Illinois' two-out hitting has been such a key that it could be seen as a predictor of success. In the Illini's 18 wins, they are hitting .356 with two outs and 68 two-out RBIs. In their 13 losses, the Orange and Blue are hitting only .206 with 11 two-out RBIs.

Illini Player Notes
• Argo Attacks Record Book:
Center fielder Willie Argo will leave Illinois with his named splashed across the record book. His most recent target was the career stolen bases record, which he broke at Illinois State on March 27 with his 84th career steal. That passed Todd Schmitke's previous record of 83, which had stood since 1982, a span of 30 years. He currently has 91 career steals, which ranks seventh in Big Ten history with three other players. The Davenport, Iowa, native also holds Illinois' single-season steals record with 41 in 2010 and hit the second-most home runs by a freshman with 12 in 2009. See page five for a list of records to watch.

• Roper Catches Fire: Redshirt-freshman Reid Roper is one of the hottest hitters in the Big Ten of late, going 8-for-16 with three doubles in Illinois' last five games and 14-for-33 (.424) with four doubles and a triple in the last 10. When you add his previous three games, which were all 2-for-4 efforts, Roper is hitting .444 over his last 13 games. He ranks second on the team with 13 multiple-hit games with eight in the last 13 games.

Illini Welcome Buckeyes to Illinois Field This Weekend
Illinois hits the halfway point of its Big Ten schedule this weekend when it hosts Ohio State this weekend. Five conference schools, including the Buckeyes, already have 12 Big Ten games under their belts, but the Illini are one of six squads to already have had the open week in the conference schedule.

Like the Illini, OSU has faced a tough early league slate as they lost a series at home to Purdue, lost a series at Michigan State, swept Minnesota at home and dropped a home series to Nebraska to reach its 6-6 conference record. As the standings are now, the Illini have played three of the top six teams and will face the other three over the remainder of the season.

The Buckeyes have been inconsistent through much of the season, but have quietly posted an impressive No. 49 RPI according to Boyd's World, which has Illinois at No. 70. OSU has lost four straight games after winning seven in a row and 10 of 12. Ace Jaron Long has been a consistent force at the top of the rotation, going 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA in seven starts, and David Fathalikhani has dominated out of the bullpen with a 1-0 mark and 0.55 ERA in 16 1/3 innings. Only two Buckeyes are hitting above .300, however, in Joe Ciamocco (.341) and Josh Dezse (.331), as the team is hitting .272. The staff ERA is 4.52 and OSU is fielding at a .965 clip, which ranks ninth in the Big Ten.

Series History Against Ohio State
Ohio State leads the all-time series 96-90-2, but the series is tied, 48-48, in games played in Champaign. Illinois is 5-2 against OSU over the past two seasons, winning both series and earning a dramatic 5-4 comeback win in the opening game of the 2011 Big Ten Tournament. The series is all square since 2000 at 21-21, with the teams playing each season except for 2002 (2003 was a non-conference series played in Florida). Illinois is 10-6 against the Buckeyes in Champaign since 2000, winning two series, splitting two and losing one.

 Series History against Ohio State since 2000
 Year RecordSite
 2011 2-1Champaign
 2011 1-0Columbus (Big Ten Tournament)
 2010 2-1Columbus
 2009 1-2Champaign
 2009 0-1Columbus (Big Ten Tournament)
 2008 1-2Columbus
 2008 1-0Ann Arbor (Big Ten Tournament)
 2007 1-1Champaign
 2006 1-3Columbus
 2005 4-0Champaign
 2004 1-3Columbus
 2003 2-1Bradenton, Fla.
 2001 1-3Columbus
 2001 0-1Columbus (Big Ten Tournament)
 2000 2-2Champaign
 2000 1-0Minneapolis (Big Ten Tournament)

This Weekend's Promotions
This weekend will feature a number of great promotions at Illinois Field, starting with Friday's $5 meal deal and the chance to win prizes by playing baseball bingo. The winner of the auction will throw out Friday's first pitch and athletic director Mike Thomas will present Coach Hartleb with a gift to commemorate his 200th win. On Saturday, kids eighth grade and under will be able to play Wiffleball with the Illini after the game and all fans can enjoy $1 frozen chills.

Sunday features the Spring Scramble for the Illini Pride student support group, a scavenger hunt between the Illinois men's tennis match, and softball and baseball games. Nachos are only $2 and fans can stick around to watch a slow-pitch softball game between Worden-Martin employees, a Champaign-Urbana car dealership. Also during Sunday's game, Illini Pride members will be collecting athletic equipment for local youth sports leagues. Everyone who donates equipment will be entered into a raffle.

Complete series notes available in the above PDF