Illini Head to Ohio State for Pivotal Series

Illinois heads into the Ohio State on a high note after a resounding 19-0 win over Butler on Wednesday
Illinois heads into the Ohio State on a high note after a resounding 19-0 win over Butler on Wednesday

May 6, 2010

Illinois-Ohio State Series Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Illinois at Ohio State
Bill Davis Stadium // Columbus, Ohio
May 7 // 5:35 pm
May 8 // 12:05 pm
May 9 // 12:05 pm

Series Insider
Illinois (21-21, 6-9) at Ohio State (24-17, 8-7)
Live Stats:
Gametracker on
Radio: WDWS AM-1400 (PBP: Dave Loane; Color: Ben Taylor)
Live Audio: Available on
Series: Ohio State leads 94-86-2
Games in Columbus: Ohio State leads 44-35-2
Last Year: OSU won series 2-1 and won in the Big Ten Tournament
Streak: L3

Game 1 Starters
Lee Zerrusen (RHP, 2-4, 5.94 ERA)
Ohio State: Drew Rucinski (RHP, 4-2, 3.97 ERA)

Game 2 Starters
Kevin Johnson (RHP, 3-2, 6.14 ERA)
Ohio State: Dean Wolosiansky (RHP, 3-6, 5.45 ERA)

Game 3 Starters
Ohio State: TBA

Illinois is...
...15-5 when scoring first
...12-4 when scoring in the first inning
...13-1 when leading after the seventh inning
...9-2 in one-run games
...16-2 when out-hitting its opponent
...17-6 when holding an opponent to 6 or fewer runs
...7-3 when wearing orange jerseys and pinstripe pants

Illini Line Drives
• Illini Endure Scoring Slump:
After averaging 7.8 runs per game over their first 27 contests, the Illini has slumped to an average of 4.8 runs per game over their last 15 contests, with 19 of those 72 runs coming against Butler on May 5. Illinois has scored more than six runs only twice in that span and the Illini have posted double-digit hits in only five games during those 15 games. That is a significant drop-off after the Illini scored eight or more runs 15 times in the season's first 27 games.

• 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, is approaching Illinois' single-season stolen bases record with 34 in 42 games, including eight steals in the last six games. He's stolen eight in a row and 16 of his last 17 attempts. He has nine multiple-steal games and he currently ranks fourth on the school record list (see page 5).

• 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 5).

• 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' 19-0 win over Butler on May 5 was only its 15th home game compared to 27 contests away from Illinois Field.

• Sterk Returns to Form: Illini senior Mike Sterk has returned to form after a pair of rough outings at Michigan State and against Bradley in which he allowed three of the eight earned runs that he's given up this year. All eight of those runs have come in five of his 17 appearances, giving him 12 scoreless outings. He has been a reliable ground-ball pitcher this year, inducing 35 groundouts out of the 70 outs he's recorded (50 percent), the highest percentage of any Illini pitcher this year.

• Illini Are Repeat Offenders: The Fighting Illini have stolen 96 bases in 119 attempts so far this season, ranking 13th in the country in steals per game (through May 2 games). In addition, center fielder Willie Argo ranks sixth in steals per game with 0.83 per game.

• Argo Attacks Opponent Arms: Center fielder Willie Argo is showing his freshman season wasn't a fluke. He leads the team in on-base percentage (.443) and ranks second in average (.338) and slugging percentage (.519). He also has stolen 34-of-37 bases, being thrown out for the first time on April 4 against Penn State. The only other times he's been caught were at Iowa on April 9 and against Michigan on April 17.

• Lutes Lives It Up: Senior right fielder Craig Lutes has enjoyed a strong final year, hitting .313 with 20 RBIs, including a walk-off homer against Northwestern on May 1. He has been much more consistent this year than in the past, getting at least one hit in 28 of 42 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 20 and 45, respectively, in 2010. He's also hitting .333 in Big Ten play, second-best on the team.

• Illini Earn Weekly Honors: Two Fighting Illini have earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors this year, 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 six of his eight 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 4.38 ERA with only 63 earned runs in the 131 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 fourth-most saves in the Big Ten with seven, and is second in conference games with four. He ranks sixth on both Illinois' single-season saves and Big Ten single-season record list. He's 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 Travel to OSU for Pivotal Series
Coming off four consecutive Big Ten series losses, the Illini look for their first conference series victory since the first league weekend (April 2-4) when they travel to Ohio State. With only three games separating first-place Michigan and Northwestern from ninth-place Illinois and Iowa, and only three conference series remaining, the Illini need to start to make their move. The good news is that Illinois is only one game out of a three-way tie for sixth place, which represents the final spot in the Big Ten Tournament.

The Buckeyes, who were picked to win the Big Ten by Baseball America heading into the season, are stuck in the middle of the conference standings with an 8-7 record in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes are 24-17 overall after losing eight of their last 11 games, including conference series to Penn State and Michigan the last two weekends. OSU has faced an offensive drop-off similar to the Illini, scoring only 4.7 runs over the last nine games after averaging 7.5 in the first 32 games of the year.

Illinois Against The Buckeyes
Ohio State holds a 94-86-2 advantage in the all-time series between the two teams and is 44-35-2 in games played in Columbus. OSU won three of four games between the teams last year, earning a series victory at Illinois Field in the regular season and scoring a 7-4 victory in the Big Ten Tournament at Columbus' Huntington Park. Illinois has lost three of the last four series to the Buckeyes, with a doubleheader split in 2007 in a series shortened by extremely cold weather on Easter weekend as the only outlier.

Argo Approaches Season Steals Record
Center fielder Willie Argo has had a phenomenal season on the basepaths, stealing 34-of-37 bases in 42 games. He currently stands in fourth place on Illinois' single-season stolen bases record list, only six from tying the record. Below is the list:

1.	Kyle Hudson (2008)40
 	Shawn Roof (2007).40
3.	Todd Schmitke (1981)35
4.	Willie Argo (2010)34

*Complete series notes available in the above PDF