Illini Open Second Half of Big Ten Slate at Northwestern
April 28, 2011
Illinois at Northwestern
Game 1 Starters
Game 2 Starters
Game 3 Starters
Illini Line Drives
Argo Displays Power Surge: Center fielder Willie Argo enjoyed a power surge against Michigan State, slugging 1.222 over the three-game series, and earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors because of it. He blasted two home runs and a double, driving in seven runs and hitting .444 in the series.
Joyce Hits his Spots: Freshman pitcher Luke Joyce was magnificent last week, tossing 6 1/3 scoreless innings of relief over three appearances. He pitched a scoreless 1 2/3 innings against Eastern Illinois on April 20, retired all seven hitters he faced against Michigan State in the opener of the doubleheader on April 23, and tossed 2 1/3 scoreless frames in the series finale on April 24. He lowered his ERA 1.56 in the three outings and hasn't allowed an earned run since April 5 at Bradley.
Streaking Through 2011: The Fighting Illini have had four losing streaks of three games or more this year and two winning streaks. 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 17-23. The Illini put together a five-game winning streak from March 19-April 1 and are currently riding a three-game winning streak.
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 .451 (32-for-71) in the last 18 games with six doubles, a triple, seven RBIs and 11 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 12 games. He currently leads the Big Ten with a .467 average in conference games, ranks third in on-base percentage (.500) and seventh in slugging (.600), while standing tied for the conference lead in hits (21). He is second on the team with 13 multiple-hit games and is hitting .425 with two outs.
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 22 games, going 30-for-84 (.357) with seven doubles, a triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and 11 runs while making only two errors.
Anderson Far Above Average: Senior starting pitcher John Anderson has been exceptional of late, allowing only five runs while pitching consecutive complete games. He is tied with Penn State's Steven Hill for the Big Ten lead with three complete games, all three in conference action. In Big Ten games, he has a 3.45 ERA and is 1-3 after receiving 10 runs of support in his four conference starts. In starts at Penn State, at Michigan and against Michigan State, Anderson has allowed only seven earned runs in 25 innings. He has struck out 17 hitters in Big Ten play, tied for ninth in the league, ranks sixth in opponent batting average (.240), sixth in innings pitched (28 2/3) and sixth in batters struck out looking (7). He also has walked only three hitters in Big Ten play, tied for second-fewest in Big Ten play.
Johnson A Real Ace: Illinois sophomore Kevin Johnson has shown the ability to take on the role of staff ace so far, posting a 3.99 ERA while going 2-4. He has a 1.44 WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched), second-best among regular pitchers, and 70 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 sixth in the Big Ten in strikeouts. Johnson has been given only 37 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 119 hits in 125 innings of work, less than one hit per inning. Additionally, closer Wes Braun has given up only six hits in 13 innings and Will Strack has allowed only 25 hits in 27 2/3 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 .257 batting average with two outs. Kevin Johnson has a .271 average with two outs, John Anderson has a .238 mark and Corey Kimes has posted a .259 average.
Relievers Regularly Rock Opponents: Three 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 3.25 ERA (among regular pitchers), including a 3.66 mark as a reliever, and freshman Luke Joyce at 2.30 but below the minimum number of innings to be considered a regular pitcher.
Parr Flashes the Leather: Shortstop Josh Parr has been greatly improved defensively in 2011, committing only four errors in 132 chances for a .971 fielding percentage. He has the fewest errors of any Big Ten shortstop and is dramatically better than last season, when he made 26 errors on the season.
Illini Start Second Half at Northwestern
The series will feature live video on FightingIllini.com thanks to a media sharing agreement with Northwestern, so the games will be broadcast by Northwestern announcers. Illinois fans also can listen to the live audio broadcasts with veteran play-by-play man Dave Loane and baseball SID Ben Taylor. Both the audio and video feeds can be purchased through the All-Access platform on FightingIllini.com at http://www.fightingillini.com/allaccess.
Series History Against Northwestern
In the last five years, Illinois is 15-7 against the Wildcats, with Northwestern winning the 2010 and 2006 series in Champaign. The Illini have won six of the last 11 series, with the Wildcats earning series wins in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2010. The last time Northwestern won a series against the Illini in Evanston was 2004 when the 'Cats took three of four games.
*Complete series notes available in the above PDF file