The Fighting Illini host Big Ten-leading Michigan State in a three-game series this weekend.
April 21, 2011
Michigan State at Illinois
April 22 // Illinois Field // 6:05 pm // Big Ten Network // Champaign, Ill.
April 23 // Illinois Field // 3:05 pm // FightingIllini.com // Champaign, Ill.
April 24 // Illinois Field // 1:05 pm // BigTenNetwork.com // Champaign, Ill.
Michigan State (23-10, 6-3 Big Ten) at Illinois (12-20, 4-5 Big Ten)
Television: Friday - Big Ten Network (PBP: Dan Kelly; Color: Scott Pose)
Live Video: Saturday - FightingIllini.com // Sunday - BigTenNetwork.com
Radio: WDWS AM-1400 (PBP: Dave Loane; Color: Loren Tate [Fri], Scott Beatty [Sat/Sun])
Live Audio: Available on fightingillini.com
Live Stats: Gametracker on fightingillini.com
Series: Illinois leads 64-57
Games in Champaign: Illinois leads 38-23
Last Year: Michigan State won series
Game 1 Starters
Michigan State: Kurt Wunderlich (RHP, 6-1, 2.59 ERA)
Illinois: Kevin Johnson (RHP, 2-3, 3.34 ERA)
Game 2 Starters
Michigan State: Tony Bucciferro (RHP, 6-1, 3.12 ERA)
Illinois: John Anderson (RHP, 3-5, 4.09 ERA)
Game 3 Starters
Michigan State: David Garner (RHP, 3-4, 3.92 ERA)
Illinois: Corey Kimes (LHP, 1-4, 6.26 ERA)
...10-3 when out-hitting its opponent
...9-1 when tied or ahead after the 7th inning
...10-1 when scoring 7 or more runs
...8-3 when scoring 4 or more runs in an inning
Illini Line Drives
Workin' for the Weekend: The Illini seem to be a different team on the weekend, going 1-5 in mid-week non-conference games and 4-5 in Big Ten games. Statistics back up that trend, as Illinois is averaging 5.1 runs in conference games, compared to 4.5 in mid-week contests. Excluding the Illini's 14-2 win over Illinois State on March 30, the Orange and Blue are averaging 2.6 runs per non-conference game. Illinois is hitting .277 in Big Ten games, compared to .261 mid-week, and has a 4.91 ERA on the weekend, compared to 5.19 in non-conference games.
Bullpen Bolsters Illini: Despite a recent offensive cool-down, the Illini bullpen has been extremely stingy in the last six games. Seven pitchers have combined to allow only six run in 17 innings of relief, a 3.18 ERA. Will Strack, Wes Braun, Luke Joyce and Ronnie Muck all have at least one scoreless inning, while Chris Pack has allowed only one run in four innings over three appearances.
Streaking Through 2011: The Fighting Illini have had four losing streaks of three games or more this year and one five-game winning streak. Illinois lost five straight games from Feb. 27-March 11, four straight from April 2-6 and three in a row from March 13-18 and April 17-present. The Illini put together a five-game winning streak from March 19-April 1.
Justin Playing Above Parr: Justin Parr has thrived after being reinserted into the starting lineup at designated hitter against Illinois State on March 30, hitting a blistering .472 (25-for-53) in the last 15 games with four doubles, a triple, six RBIs and nine runs. He hit ninth in the order at Penn State but was moved up to the No. 7 spot at Bradley on April 5, hit sixth on April 6 and has hit second in Illinois' last nine games.
Hohl Does it All: Third baseman Brandon Hohl, who saw his batting average dip to .256 after the game against Northern Illinois on March 17, has been extremely solid over the last 19 games, going 26-for-70 (.371) with six doubles, a triple, four home runs, 21 RBIs and eight runs while making only two errors.
Pack Pours it On: Senior reliever Chris Pack has been exceptional of late, allowing only one run in 8 1/3 innings over five appearances, allowing only seven base runners while striking out eight. He has lowered his ERA by 2.07 and brought his WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched) down to 1.55, fourth-best on the team.
Johnson A Real Ace: Illinois sophomore Kevin Johnson has shown the ability to take on the role of staff ace so far, posting a 3.34 ERA while going 2-3 in eight starts. He has a team-best 1.33 WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) and 70.9 percent of his outs from contact have come on ground balls. He also has turned into a strikeout pitcher, fanning 11 against Northern Illinois and eight at Michigan, and ranking fifth in the Big Ten in strikeouts. Johnson has been given only 32 runs of support, with 19 of those runs coming in starts against Florida Gulf Coast, Central Michigan and Michigan.
Hits Hard to Come by Against Illini: Kevin Johnson and John Anderson, the first two pitchers in Illinois' weekend rotation, have allowed only 101 hits in 110 innings of work, less than one hit per inning. Additionally, closer Wes Braun has given up only six hits in 11 1/3 innings and Will Strack has allowed only 24 hits in 27 innings.
Starters Hold Opponents with 2 Outs: The Illini's three weekend starters have excelled once they've recorded two outs this year. In 2011, Illinois' weekend rotation has held opponents to a .249 batting average with two outs. Kevin Johnson has a .263 average with two outs, John Anderson has a .245 mark and Corey Kimes has posted a .229 average.
Relievers Regularly Rock Opponents: Four Illini relievers have posted ERAs under 4.00 thus far, with fifth-year senior Wes Braun notching a perfect 0.00 mark, junior Will Strack holding a team-best 3.00 ERA (among regular pitchers), including a 3.63 mark as a reliever, freshman Luke Joyce at 3.27 and No. 1 starter Kevin Johnson sitting at 3.34.
Illini Host Michigan State This Weekend
Illinois will attempt to snap a three-game losing streak when it hosts league-leading Michigan State in a Big Ten series. It is the fourth conference series of the year, marking the end of the first half of the Big Ten slate. MSU currently is tied atop the standings with Indiana at 6-3, while Illinois is 4-5 and tied for sixth with Michigan and Northwestern. But the Spartans and Illini both are coming off a weekend series loss, as MSU dropped two of three at Ohio State last weekend and Illinois lost two of three at Michigan despite both teams winning last Friday.
Series History Against Michigan State
Illinois leads the all-time series against the Spartans 64-57 and holds a 38-23 margin in games played in Champaign. Last season, Michigan State took two of three in East Lansing after the Illini won the series-opener, 4-3 in 10 innings. But MSU out-scored Illinois 26-3 over the final two games of the series. The teams have faced each other each of the past 12 seasons, with the Illini holding a 28-16 advantage in that span, including a 13-8 margin at home. Illinois last lost a home series to MSU in 2003, when the Spartans took two of three in a rain-shortened series.
*Complete series notes available in the above PDF