Illini Host Wildcats, Bleacher Bum Barbecue
April 29, 2010
Northwestern at Illinois
Game 1 Starters
Game 2 Starters
Game 3 Starters
Illini Line Drives
Consistency, Your Table is Ready: Since returning from Spring Trip on March 24, the Illini have struggled to find consistency, never winning more than three consecutive games or losing more than two in a row.
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 28 in 37 games. He currently ranks seventh on the list and the school record is 40 (see page 4).
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 (see page 4).
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. Illinois' 8-5 win over Bradley on Tuesday was only its 10th home game compared to 27 contests away from Illinois Field.
Braun Brings it: Illini junior Wes Braun, who entered the year with a career ERA of 8.72, didn't give up an earned run in 11 1/3 innings over six appearances from April 7-23 before giving up one earned run on April 27 against Bradley. Braun allowed only 14 base runners and struck out eight during the streak, lowering his ERA 16 full runs from 19.29 to 3.29.
Illini Are Repeat Offenders: The Fighting Illini have stolen 85 bases in 106 attempts so far this season, ranking 13th in the country in steals per game (through April 25 games). In addition, center fielder Willie Argo ranks 14th in steals per game with 0.72 per game.
Argo Attacks Opponent Arms: Center fielder Willie Argo is showing his freshman season wasn't a fluke. He ranks second on the team in average (.343), on-base percentage (.442) and slugging percentage (518). He also has stolen 28-of-31 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 strong final year, hitting .315 with 18 RBIs. He has been much more consistent this year than in the past, getting at least one hit in 24 of 37 games and having only three multiple-game hitless stretches, none longer than three games. Lutes already has surpassed career highs for RBIs and hits with 18 and 40, respectively, in 2010.
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 five of his seven starts and also has allowed three earned runs or fewer in five starts.
Davis Shines Behind Dish: Sophomore catcher Adam Davis has started to prove himself behind the plate, guiding the Illini pitching staff to a 4.50 ERA with only 53 earned runs in the 106 innings that he has caught this season. Comparatively, primary backstop Aaron Johnson has a 6.83 ERA.
R-O-B-E-R-T-S Spells Relief: Sophomore closer Bryan Roberts has thrived in the closer's 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 seven, and is tied for the lead in conference games with four. Has is 7-for-7 in save chances, with four 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. He hasn't allowed a base runner in a save situation yet this year.
Illini Continue Longest Home-Stand with Big Ten Series Against Northwestern
Illinois' current home-stand, a six-game stretch, includes Tuesday's win over Bradley, this weekend's three-game Big Ten series against Northwestern and next week's mid-week games against Southern Illinois and Evansville. All three games this weekend will be aired live on the Big Ten Network with Brian Barnhart and former Major Leaguer Jerry Kindall on the call.
This Weekend's Promotions
On Saturday, any children who have participated in Fighting Illini baseball camps can receive free admission by RSVPing to Kelly O'Neill prior to Saturday's game. Sunday's game will be highlighted by Little League Day, where Little League baseball players can wear their uniforms to Illinois Field and receive free admission. The ceremonial first pitch on Sunday will be thrown out by MIX 94.5 morning show personality Kevin Lambert and his son, Mitchell.
Illinois Against the Wildcats
Illini Finish Season Sweep of Bradley
* Complete game notes available in the above PDF