Joe Bonadonna takes a .361 average in the last 10 games into this weekend's series at Minnesota.
April 27, 2006
Games 39-42: Minnesota
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
April 28 6:30 pm
Matt Whitmore (RHP) vs. Cole DeVries (RHP)
April 30 1:00 pm
Jake Stewart (RHP) vs. Brian Bull (LHP)
Television: Fox Sports North (Sunday's game)
Live Audio: WDWS AM-1400 (Gms 1,3,4 - live, Gm 2 - joined in progress) and streaming on fightingillini.com (All Games)(PBP: Dave Loane; Analysis: Ben Taylor)
Live Stats: Gametracker on fightingillini.com
Series: Minnesota leads 95-84-1
Last Season: Minnesota won the series 3-1
Streak: Minnesota, 3
...11-3 when scoring first
...16-3 when ahead through 7 innings (5 in DH games)
...14-4 when out-hitting its opponent
...7-4 when the bullpen gets the decision
...10-3 when making fewer errors than its opponent
...18-7 when scoring four or more runs
...7-2 when the final margin is two runs
...8-1 when not making an error
...7-2 when hitting a triple
Chase Takes the Lead: Designated hitter Chase Kliment has been Illinois' hottest hitter in the last 13 games. In that span, Kliment has hit .422 with 6 doubles and a homer for a .622 slugging pct and driven in 11 runs to go along with 10 runs scored. Kliment is currently leading the Big Ten with a .438 batting average in conference games only.
Make It a Double: While they have had their share of errors this season, the Illini infield has also been among the nation's best in turning the double play. Illinois was 23rd in the nation in fielding double plays through April 23 with 1.05 per game. On the season, the Illini now have 40 DPs, 24 that have ended innings.
And They're Off: Through 38 games, Illinois has averaged 1.58 steals per game. Illinois has stolen 7-of-8 bases in each of the past two Big Ten series, plus a 6-for-9 effort on 4/18 at ISU and 2-for-2 at EIU on Tuesday. Roof is the somewhat-surprising steals leader for the Illini, taking 18 bases in 22 tries. In Big Ten play, Roof is a perfect 11-for-11 on the basepaths and is on pace halfway through the conference season to break the league record of 18 steals.
Snow at the Top: After trying a few different players in the spot, leftfielder Ryan Snowden has taken hold of the lead-off role, racking up a .459 on-base percentage and a .491 slugging percentage in the top spot since Spring Trip. He has scored a team-high 33 runs in those 28 games with a team-best 14 doubles, while drawing 16 walks and being hit by a pitch seven times.
Impact Frosh: Three freshmen pitchers have made their presence felt with the Illini this season, Tanner Roark, Ben Reeser and Aaron Martin. Roark and Reeser combined to win both games of Saturday's doubleheader and Martin is 1-1 in three starts and has a save.
No Steals For You: While Illinois has torn up the basepaths lately, catchers Lars Davis and Aaron Ifft have been holding opponents to the base they occupy. Davis has thrown out the last 3-of-6 basestealers and Ifft is nearly as good in limited action, gunning down his last two and 2-of-4 vs. Northwestern. In the last 10 games, Illini runners have swiped 22-of-27 bags while opponents are 11-of-18.
Rohde Goes Five-Hole: Since moving to the No. 5 spot in the batting order in the April 14 game against Northwestern, Mike Rohde has caught fire. Rohde is hitting .448 (13-for-29) in the 10 games since being moved down in the order, with a team high-tying 11 RBI and seven runs. He has also rediscovered his pop, slugging .621 with a .529 OBP in that span.
Illini on the Tube
Illinois will have three games on television this season, the April 30 game at Minnesota and the May 20th doubleheader at Michigan State. The Minnesota game will be broadcast on Fox Sports North and the Michigan State twinbill will be broadcast by Comcast Sports Net in Chicago.
Scouting the Golden Gophers
Illinois faces Minnesota after the Gophers split a four-game series with Michigan State last week and defeated South Dakota State 9-2 on Wednesday. Minnesota enters the weekend tied for fourth in the conference at 8-8 despite ranking fifth in hitting, third in pitching and second in fielding in Big Ten games.
The Gophers have struggled to find a consistent lineup, meaning only six players meet the statistical minimum of 2.5 plate appearances per game. Of that group, Andy Hunter is the only Minnesota hitter over .300, currently holding a .331 mark with a team-high 27 RBI and .492 slugging percentage. After starting on Sunday in every Big Ten series so far, Golden Gopher junior righthander Cole DeVries is slated to get the start in game one against Illinois. DeVries is 4-2 with a 2.20 ERA in 57 1/3 inning so far this season.
Illinois and Minnnesota have six common opponents in Notre Dame, Vermont, Illinois State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Northern Iowa and Iowa. The Illini went 7-2 against that group, while Minnesota was 8-4. The Gophers defeated Notre Dame 8-0, lost two of three games at UL, split two games with UNI, beat ISU 9-0 and took three of four games from Iowa.
Minnesota leads the all-time series 95-84-1 after taking three of four games last season at Siebert Field. The Illini took game one 8-7 behind a gutsy save performance from Jake Toohey in the ninth, but dropped the next three, including a Sunday doubleheader after game three was postponed because of persistent rain. Minnesota also sent the Illini into the elimination bracket of the Big Ten Tournament with an 11-8 Gopher win on May 26. Trevor Huisinga doubled, homered and drove in a pair, and Drew Davidson and Mike Rohde each had two RBI as the Illini led 6-2 before being outscored 9-2 in the final five innings.
Shawn Roof was one of the only Illini to enjoy Gopher pitching in 2005, going 6-for-15 (.400) with four RBI, two runs, a double and two walks in five starts against Minnesota.
Huisinga has also had a solid career against the Gophers, going 9-for-27 with three RBI, six walks, two doubles and a homer in 10 games.
This will be the first time Illinois has played in the Metrodome since 1995. Notorious for its white roof that disguises fly balls, the dome hasn't been used much during the Big Ten season in recent years. But when Minnesota was required by the Big Ten to choose a home field, the Gophers picked the Metrodome over Siebert Field. They play just one game at Siebert all year - a 9-6 loss to Northern Iowa on April 19.
A Look Back
Illinois rebounded from a 3-7 stretch by winning its first Big Ten series of the season, 3-1 over Iowa. The Illini pounded Hawkeye pitching on Friday and got a strong 6 1/3-inning outing from Matt Whitmore in his first start since 2005, winning 12-3. Mike Rohde hit a three-run homer and Ryan Hastings had a two-run bomb. Hastings was 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs, Ryan Snowden went 3-for-5, and Dave Schultz and Chase Kliment each had two hits.
Saturday's doubleheader started well for Illinois as Ben Reeser controlled the game in his first collegiate start, going six innings and giving up three runs on five hits while striking out three and not allowing a walk. Shawn Roof was 2-for-2 and seven of the nine Illini starters had at least one hit in a 4-3 win. Tanner Roark got Illinois off to a good start in the nightcap, lasting five innings and giving up two runs on four hits. the offense picked up as the sun set, lifting the Illini to a 10-2 win. Schultz was 2-for-4 with five RBI, two runs and a homer, and Kliment was 2-for-3 with a solo homer. Rohde, Roof and Snowden each had two hits and Aaron Saving and Brian Long pitched two scoreless innings to finish the game for the Illini.
Sunday didn't go as smoothly for Illinois as Iowa closer-turned-starter Tim Gudex no-hit the Illini for five innings. Trevor Huisinga broke up the no-no with a solo homer in the sixth, but the damage had been done as the Hawkeyes led 16-3 at that point. Iowa went on to win 17-3 and prevent the sweep.
The Illini fell at Eastern Illinois on Tuesday, 10-6 after stranding 12 runners and eight in scoring position. Illinois left the bases loaded in the second and fourth innings, and EIU jumped on Illini reliever Omar Kadir in the fifth to the tune of six runs. That proved to be the difference as the Panthers held on for the four-run win.
Roof is on Fire
After coming into the season without a stolen base, Shawn Roof has shocked opponents by taking 18 bags in 22 attempts. He has been on a base-stealing tear lately, swiping 14-of-17 bags in Illinois' last 20 games. Roof stole a career-high three bases at Illinois State and leads the Big Ten in conference games with 11 steals in as many attempts, on pace to smash Charlie Nelson's Big Ten record of 18 steals set in 1994. He has also stolen 8-of-9 bases since moving to the No. 2 hole in the batting order in the first game against Northwestern. Roof had a streak of seven steals without being caught from March 24-April 9. He currently has stolen five straight without being thrown out.
Kliment Chase-ing Away Bench
After not playing in the last two games of the Purdue series, Chase Kliment has come on strong. In the Illini's last 13 games, the junior DH is hitting 19-for-45 (.422) with six doubles, 11 RBI and 10 runs. He currently leads the Big Ten in batting average with a .438 mark in conference games only.
Freshman Duo Delivers
Freshman starting pitchers Ben Reeser and Tanner Roark combined to accomplish a rare feat in Illinois history, winning both games of a doubleheader as rooking starters on April 22 against Iowa. It was only the second time in Illinois' Big Ten history that two freshman have combined to sweep a doublehader, with the other happening in 1989. Against the Hawkeyes, Reeser went six innings in the first game against Iowa on April 22 to get his third win of the season, and Roark earned his second career win with five solid innings in the nightcap. In 1989, true-freshmen Bubba Smith and Jason Moler paired up to sweep Michigan State on April 9, 1989, the only other time two freshmen have swept a Big Ten opponent in Illinois history.
"Snowman" Not Frosty
Ryan Snowden, or "Snowman," as coach Ken Westray calls him, has been strong since taking over the lead-off spot on Spring Trip but has really had a hot bat in Illinois' last seven games. The junior transfer is hitting .458 in that stretch with nine runs to go along with a .625 slugging percentage and .567 OBP in that span. Tuesday at EIU marked the second time this season he has reached base in every plate appearance in a game, going 2-for-2 with two walks against the Panthers. He also was 4-for-4 with two walks against Cornell on March 24.