Illini to Play Final Home Series against Michigan State

Junior Michael Hurwitz and the Illini will host Michigan State for three games at Illinois Field this weekend.
Junior Michael Hurwitz and the Illini will host Michigan State for three games at Illinois Field this weekend.

May 1, 2014

 Illinois (24-17, 10-5 Big Ten) vs. Michigan State (24-17, 8-7 Big Ten)
 Game 1 Friday, May 2, 2014 | 6 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
 Game 2 Saturday, May 3, 2014 | 1 p.m. (Honor & Serve Day)
 Game 3 Sunday, May 4, 2014 | 1 p.m. (Senior Day)
 Location Illinois Field | Champaign, Ill.
 Friday TV BTN: Watch on BTN2Go (Eric Collins and Jerry Kindall)
 Mobile Live Stats Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Gametracker Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Radio WDWS AM 1400 - Dave Loane and Loren Tate (Fri.), Former Players (Sat.), Lee Zerrusen (Sun.)
 Live Audio ($) Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Game Notes Illinois | Michigan State
 Game 1 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Drasen Johnson (RHP, r-Jr., 4-5, 3.06 ERA)
MSU: Mick VanVossen (RHP, Jr., 6-2, 2.72 ERA)
 Game 2 Pitching  Matchup ILL: John Kravetz (RHP, Jr., 5-1, 2.75 ERA)
MSU: Justin Alleman (RHP, So., 5-1, 2.53 ERA)
 Game 3 Pitching  Matchup ILL: TBA
MSU: Cam Vieaux (LHP, r-Fr., 6-3, 2.06 ERA)
 Series History Illinois leads 70-62
 Games in CU Illinois leads 41-26
 Last Season Michigan State won series, 2-1
 Streak Lost 1
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook
 Preview Interview Coach Hartleb

Illinois... tied for second in the Big Ten with Nebraska at 10-5
...head coach Dan Hartleb is tied with Tom Dedin for the fourth-most wins in school history
...will play on the Big Ten Network on Friday night
...will host third annual Honor & Serve Day on Saturday hosting its Illinois Baseball Reunion Weekend
...will honor Chase Hainline, Luke Joyce & Ronnie Muck as part of Senior Day on Sunday

Final Home Series Against MSU
Illinois will host Michigan State for the final home series of the season this weekend (May 2-4) before hitting the road for the final two weekends (at Iowa, at Nebraska). The Illini are tied with Nebraska for second place in the Big Ten at 10-5, while the Spartans are right behind in fourth place at 8-7. The two teams will square off on the Big Ten Network at 6 p.m. on Friday with Eric Collins and Jerry Kindall on the call. Honor and Serve Day will be held on Saturday at 1 p.m. followed by Senior Day on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Third Annual Honor & Serve Day
The University of Illinois baseball team will host its third annual "Honor and Serve Day" at Illinois Field on Saturday. The event is designed to honor University of Illinois student veterans and all of America's heroes, and to serve the Champaign-Urbana community. The Fighting Illini Dugout Club donated special camouflage jerseys, which will be worn by the players and auctioned off during the game, with all proceeds from the auction going to Champaign County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).

On game day, the University of Illinois navy ROTC will present the colors for the national anthem and children from military families can run onto the field with the team during the anthem. Military veterans will receive special recognition during the game, and a special concession stand deal (hot dog and drink for $2) will be offered for those presenting a military ID.

CASA is a not-for-profit organization which recruits, trains and monitors volunteers who advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children. CASA volunteers work through the juvenile court system to facilitate prompt delivery of services and make independent recommendations to the court concerning the child's well-being.

Know Your Opponent
Michigan State (24-17) currently stands alone in fourth place in the Big Ten with an 8-7 mark in conference play. The Spartans are coming off a sweep of Northwestern and enter this weekend's series at Illinois with a four-game winning streak. Starting pitchers Mick VanVossen, Justin Alleman and Cam Vieaux have combined for 19 quality starts, going 14-1 with four no-decisions in outings where they have gone at least six-complete innings and yielded three or fewer earned runs. The team ERA of 2.85 ranks second in the Big Ten.

Series History with Michigan St.
Illinois leads the all-time series with the Spartans by a 70-62 margin and is 41-26 in games in Champaign. The Illini have gone 1-2 against MSU each of the past two seasons and last won the series in 2011, which sparked their Big Ten title run. Illinois and Michigan State have faced each other in each of the past 15 seasons, with the Illini holding a 34-21 advantage in that span.

Last Time Out
Junior Casey Fletcher hit three home runs to lead Illinois past Southern Illinois, 10-1, in the final midweek game of the season. Starter Rob McDonnell, who improved to 4-0, retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, notching four strikeouts and allowing one hit in three scoreless innings as part of a staff day.

Hartleb on All-Time Wins List
Ninth-year head coach Dan Hartleb is coming off his most wins in a season at Illinois with 35 victories in 2013. Hartleb has taken Illinois to an NCAA Regional in two of the last three seasons and is tied with Tom Dedin for fourth in school history with 268 career wins. The top-five winningest coaches in school history are listed below:

1. Lee Eilbracht 518-395-6 (27 seasons: 1952-78)
2. Itch Jones 474-373-1 (15 seasons: 1991-05)
3. George Huff 314-97-4 (23 seasons: 1896-19)
4. Dan Hartleb 268-216 (9 seasons: 2006-present)
Tom Dedin 268-234-6 (9 seasons: 1979-87)

Big Ten Records under Hartleb
After dropping two of three to Indiana, Illinois sits at 10-5 through 15 Big Ten games, which is the second-best record at this point under head coach Dan Hartleb - behind the 11-4 start in 2009. The Illini were 9-3 in conference play following the sweep at Penn State, marking the best 12-game Big Ten start in nine years under Hartleb. The Illini's previous best mark after 12 games under Hartleb was 8-4 in 2009.

Streaking at Times
Following an 8-10 start, Illinois won 10 of its next 11 games and improved to 18-11 following its season-long six-game winning streak from March 29-April 11. The Illini dropped their next three games before rebounding with a sweep of Penn State and a win over EIU to move to 22-14, which ranks as their best mark over .500 this year. Illinois enters this weekend at 24-17 overall after its midweek win over Southern Illinois.

Fletcher Blasts 3 HR Against SIU
Junior Casey Fletcher hit three home runs to right field against Southern Illinois (4/30). The Oakwood, Ill., native finished 3-for-4 with five RBI and became the seventh Illini with three home runs in a game and first since Willie Argo hit three at No. 1 LSU on March 7, 2009. Former Illini Bubba Smith set the Illinois record with four home runs in a game against UIC exactly 23 years before on April 30, 1991. Casey's father, former Illini Darrin Fletcher, is tied for fifth in school history with 38 career home runs, but never had a three home run game. A full list of all seven occurrences is listed below.

Illinois Baseball Players with Three Home Runs in a Game
2014 - Casey Fletcher vs. Southern Illinois (4/30/14)
2009 - Willie Argo at LSU (3/7/09)
2005 - Drew Davidson vs. Northwestern (5/8/05)
1998 - Kevin Rudden vs. Michigan (3/27/98)
1991 - Bubba Smith: 4 HR vs. UIC (4/30/91)*
1987 - Brad Wentz vs. Missouri (5/6/87 - DH Game 2)
1961 - Ernie Kumerow at Minnesota (5/13/61 - DH Game 1)

Comparing Wins and Losses
In Illinois' 24 wins this year, the Illini are hitting .305 and have a 1.87 ERA, while in their 17 losses, they are batting .232 and have a 5.29 ERA.

Johnson Not Getting Support
Friday's starter Drasen Johnson has made a smooth transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation in 2014, but has not been getting much run support. After only scoring 15 runs in his first seven starts, Illinois put up a season-high eight runs for Johnson against Northwestern (4/4) but only one run against Michigan (4/11), two at Penn State (4/18) and three against Indiana (4/25). The Illini have scored 29 runs of support in his 11 starts, which is still the lowest average among regular starters at 2.6. The Chillicothe, Ill., native is 4-5 with a 3.06 ERA and a team-high 52 strikeouts (T-3rd in Big Ten).

Kravetz Shines in Big Ten Play
Saturday's starter John Kravetz was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for the first time in his career on April 7. Kravetz tossed a career-high eight scoreless innings, equaled a career-high seven strikeouts and did not issue a walk in Illinois' 1-0 victory that completed the sweep at Northwestern. Kravetz led the Illini to their first 1-0 victory since Feb. 24, 2008, against Lamar at the Al Ogletree Classic. He becomes the second Illini honored with the award this season, joining sophomore Kevin Duchene (March 3). College Sports Madness also named Kravetz its Big Ten Player of the Week for his performance in Evanston. The Lansing, Ill., native is 5-1 with a 2.75 ERA, which is ranked 10th in the conference. He has been even better in four Big Ten starts, leading the team with a 3-0 record and 1.61 ERA.

Goldstein Lights Up Midweek
Sophomore catcher Jason Goldstein dominated during Illinois' first six midweek games, going 13-for-24 (.542) with five runs, a homer, 10 RBI and two walks. The Highland Park, Ill., native hit his first collegiate home run as part of a 3-for-3 day against Indiana State (3/18), went a career-best 4-for-4 against Illinois State (3/26), finished 3-for-5 with two doubles at Illinois State (4/15) and tallied two RBI while going 1-for-4 vs. EIU (4/22). He had his first hitless midweek game against Missouri (4/23) but went 2-for-4 with two RBI in the final midweek game against Southern Illinois (4/30).

Krug's A Hitting Machine
Junior Will Krug has sparked the Illini offense in the leadoff spot and has showcased his speed when he gets on base. He is tied for third in the Big Ten in hits (56) and ranks third in stolen bases (18). The Park Ridge, Ill., native has a team-high 19 multi-hit games and ranks second on the Illini with a .316 average. He also leads the team in Big Ten games with a .364 mark. Krug has picked up where he left off last year, where he hit .305 in 25 games before missing the second half of the season due to an arm injury.

Pitching Keeps Improving
After struggling with a 9.11 ERA in the season-opening series at Georgia State, the Illini pitching staff has been dominant with a 2.55 ERA. They allowed 9.3 runs per game (28 runs) and a .388 average in the first three games followed by a .254 average and just 3.4 runs per game (128 runs) in the last 38 games. In the latest NCAA stat rankings, Illinois ranked sixth in walks allowed per nine innings (2.34), 11th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.91) and 55th in ERA (3.22), which is the third-best earned run average in the Big Ten. The Illini are the only Big Ten team yet to allow 100 walks, ranking first in the category at 95, with Penn State in second at 109.

McDonnell Steps Up in Starts
Redshirt-junior Rob McDonnell has stepped up in his five starts this season and is 4-0 with a 3.96 ERA in eight total appearances this year. He has 28 strikeouts in 25 innings pitched. The Barrington, Ill., native has wins over Indiana State (3/18), Purdue (3/30), Eastern Illinois (4/22) and Southern Illinois (4/30). Prior to 2014, he made two starts in 2012 before being shut down due to Tommy John surgery and started for Illinois at Busch Stadium last season, throwing the first inning in the win over Mizzou.

Consecutive 1-0 Shutouts
Illinois pitched back-to-back 1-0 shutouts (at Northwestern, 4/6 and vs. Michigan, 4/11) for the first time since May 16, 1969, which was part of a doubleheader against Michigan State and the only other time it has been done.

Ryne Roper: B1G Freshman of Week
Illinois third baseman Ryne Roper was tabbed Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the first time in his career after leading the Illini with a .417 average (5-for-12) during the sweep of Penn State in Happy Valley. The Harrisburg, Ill., native scored three runs and notched three RBI on the weekend. Roper posted two-hit games in the series opener and finale, boosting his average in Big Ten play to .340. He also had a perfect fielding percentage at the hot corner with four assists and three putouts. Roper is the first Illini to win the award this season, with Illinois' last Big Ten Freshman of the Week going to Kevin Duchene (May 13, 2013). He is hitting .339 with 11 runs scored during Big Ten games.

Walton's Streak Snapped at 18
After starting the season 0-for-20, sophomore Adam Walton went on career-high 18-game hitting streak from March 22 to April 22. He led Illinois with a .397 average (27-of-68) during that stretch, which ended against Missouri on April 23. His streak is the longest by an Illini this season and equaled shortstop Thomas Lindauer for the longest streak since Justin Parr's school-record 33-game mark in 2013. The Buffalo Grove, Ill., native is hitting .271 overall and ranks second on the Illini with 10 stolen bases.

Castellanos Finds the Zone
Sophomore Ryan Castellanos has only allowed four walks in his eight starts (44.2 IP) this season and ranks ninth in the nation with 0.81 walks allowed per nine innings. The Davie, Fla., native is 4-3 with a 5.24 ERA this year.

Jay's 7 Saves, Sedlock's First Win
In Illinois' first victory of the season at Georgia State (2/15), a pair of pitchers achieved notable firsts. Freshman Cody Sedlock earned his first collegiate win in his first appearance after taking over on the mound with two outs in the first inning. Sedlock has started three times and is 1-3 with a 2.45 ERA in seven appearances. Sophomore Tyler Jay pitched the final two innings and notched his first career save with five strikeouts in the 19-13 slugfest. Jay leads the team with seven saves, which is tied for the eighth-most in a season in school history, and is 2-0 on the year with a team-best 1.63 ERA.

Roper Repeats Home Run History
Redshirt-junior Reid Roper belted the first Illini home run of the season with a two-out, two-run bomb in the sixth inning of the season opener at Georgia State. The Harrisburg, Ill., native hit his second career Opening Day home run, as he also homered in his first career game as an Illini against Notre Dame on Feb. 17, 2012. The UI infielder also went deep in the second game of the year against GSU (2/15) and against Xavier (3/21), Northwestern (4/4) and Indiana (4/26), giving him a career-high five home runs. Roper has the most career home runs (9) on the Illini roster, as he belted one homer in 2012 and a three in 2013.