Illini Travel to MSU for Weekend Series

Center fielder Willie Argo and the Fighting Illini will travel to East Lansing, Mich., to take on Michigan State in a Big Ten weekend series.
Center fielder Willie Argo and the Fighting Illini will travel to East Lansing, Mich., to take on Michigan State in a Big Ten weekend series.

April 22, 2010

Illinois-MSU Series Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Illinois at Michigan State
McLane Baseball Stadium at Kobs Field // East Lansing, Mich.
April 23 // 11:05 am (DH)
April 24 // 11:05 am

Series Insider
Illinois (17-16, 4-5) at Michigan State (24-10, 5-4)
Live Stats:
Gametracker on
Radio: WDWS AM-1400 [games 2 & 3] (PBP: Dave Loane; Color: Ben Taylor)
Live Audio: Available on [all 3 games]
Series: Illinois leads 63-55
Games in East Lansing: Michigan State leads 31-24
Last Season: Illinois swept the series (3/27-29/09) and won 16-5 in the Big Ten Tournament (5/20/09)
Streak: W4

Game 1 Probables
Lee Zerrusen (RHP, 2-3, 5.68 ERA)
Michigan State: A.J. Achter (RHP, 4-2, 3.30 ERA)

Game 2 Probables
Kevin Johnson (RHP, 3-1, 5.21 ERA)
Michigan State: Kurt Wunderlich (RHP, 6-1, 3.23 ERA)

Game 3 Probables
Will Strack (RHP, 1-2, 6.75 ERA)
Michigan State: Tony Bucciferro (RHP, 5-3, 4.72 ERA)

Illinois is...
...12-8 in their last 20 games
...13-4 when scoring first
...11-1 when leading after the seventh inning
...7-1 in one-run games
...14-2 when out-hitting its opponent
...11-3 when holding an opponent to 5 or fewer runs
...5-1 when wearing orange jerseys and pinstripe pants

Illini Line Drives
• 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 33 games. He currently is tied for ninth on the list and the school record is 40.

• Argo Becomes Fastest to 100 Hits: Argo also reached 100 career hits on April 13 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.

• Road Warriors: The Illini were road warriors from April 6-14, 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 22 hours of travel time. This weekend's trip to Michigan State wraps up the last long road trip of the season, as Illinois' only remaining road games are series at Ohio State and Indiana.

• Hohl Does it All: Third baseman Brandon Hohl has had an impressive freshman campaign to this point, hitting .311 with 28 RBIs - second-most on the team - including 16 two-out RBIs. He also has made only five errors despite starting every game at the hot corner and has had error-free stretches of 10 and 13 games already this year.

• Braun Brings it: Illini junior Wes Braun, who entered the year with a career ERA of 8.72, hasn't given up an earned run in 8 1/3 innings over six appearances dating back to April 7. He started the streak with 3 2/3 scoreless innings against Missouri on April 7, then pitched 2/3 of an inning at Iowa on April 10. He tossed a scoreless inning against Southern Illinois on April 14 and against Michigan on April 16, striking out two hitters. He allowed three unearned runs against the Wolverines on April 18 in 1/3 of an inning then pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings against EIU on April 21 to drop his season ERA to 4.22. He has allowed only 12 base runners during the streak.

• Illini Are Repeat Offenders: The Fighting Illini have stolen 76 bases in 97 attempts so far this season, ranking 12th in the country in steals per game (through April 18 games). In addition, center fielder Willie Argo ranks sixth in steals per game with 0.84 per game.

• Argo Attacks Opponent Arms: Center fielder Willie Argo is showing his freshman season wasn't a fluke. He currently is tied with Casey McMurray for the team lead in on-base percentage (.463) and ranks second with a .361 average and a .533 slugging percentage. He also has stolen 26-of-29 bases, being thrown out for the first time on April 4 against Penn State.

• Lutes Lives It Up: Senior right fielder Craig Lutes has enjoyed a hot start to his final year, hitting .322 with 18 RBIs, after going 4-for-7 in the final two games against Michigan. He has been much more consistent this year than in the past, getting at least one hit in 22 of 33 games and having only three multi-game hitless stretches, none longer than three games. Lutes already has surpassed career highs for RBIs and hits with 18 and 37, 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.

• 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 has pitched at least six innings in four of his six starts and also has allowed three earned runs or fewer in four starts.

• Davis Shines Behind Dish: Sophomore catcher Adam Davis has started to prove himself behind the plate, guiding the Illini pitching staff to a 4.15 ERA with only 42 earned runs in the 91 innings that he has caught this season. Comparatively, primary backstop Aaron Johnson has a 6.54 ERA.

• R-O-B-E-R-T-S Spells Relief: Sophomore closer Bryan Roberts has thrived in that role this year after being Illinois' Sunday starter as a freshman. Roberts leads the team and has the third-most saves in the Big Ten with five. Has is 5-for-5 in save chances, with all but one of them lasting more than one inning. He also recorded his first win of the year at EIU on April 21, pitching two scoreless innings with three strikeouts.

Illini Head to East Lansing for Weekend Series
Illinois finishes up its second-longest road swing of the season by traveling to East Lansing for a weekend series at Michigan State. Both teams have scuffled lately, as each are 5-5 in their last 10 games. Illinois is 4-3 in its last seven games, while MSU is only 2-5, including a series loss to Ohio State last weekend.

The Spartans are 24-10 overall with series wins over Iowa and Minnesota, both of which rank in the bottom four of the Big Ten heading into the fourth conference series of the year. They dropped early games to No. 11 Louisville, No. 15 Clemson and a pair to Mississippi State prior to the conference season, but have since lost to Central Michigan (April 21) and Western Michigan (April 14).

Illinois Against the Spartans
Illinois has a 63-55 advantage in the all-time series and has found success against the Spartans recently, winning seven of the last eight games the teams have played. The Illini won three of four games in 2008 before sweeping last year's series and topping MSU 16-5 in the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament. Illinois is 11-5 against Michigan State under head coach Dan Hartleb, splitting series with the Spartans in 2006 and 2007.

*Complete series notes in above PDF