Illini Face Minnesota in Metrodome
April 27, 2006
Games 39-42: Minnesota
April 28 6:30 pm
April 30 1:00 pm
Television: Fox Sports North (Sunday's game)
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.
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Scouting the Golden Gophers
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.
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
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
Kliment Chase-ing Away Bench
Freshman Duo Delivers
"Snowman" Not Frosty