Illini Welcome Ohio State to Illinois Field
April 19, 2012
Illini Team Notes
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
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
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
This Weekend's Promotions
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