Illini Hit the Road for 3-Game Series at Iowa

Freshman Ryne Roper and the Illini will head to Iowa City for a three-game series with the Hawkeyes this weekend.
Freshman Ryne Roper and the Illini will head to Iowa City for a three-game series with the Hawkeyes this weekend.

May 8, 2014

 Illinois (27-17, 13-5 Big Ten) at Iowa (27-17, 8-10 Big Ten)
 Game 1 Friday, May 9, 2014 | 4 p.m.
 Game 2 Saturday, May 10, 2014 | 11 a.m. (Big Ten Network)
 Game 3 Sunday, May 11, 2014 | 1 p.m.
 Location Duane Banks Field | Iowa City, Iowa
 Saturday TV BTN: Watch on BTN2Go (Kevin Kugler and Scott Pose)
 Mobile Live Stats Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Gametracker Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Radio WDWS AM 1400 (Dave Loane and Matt Wille)
 Live Audio ($) Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Game Notes Illinois | Iowa
 Game 1 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Drasen Johnson (RHP, r-Jr., 4-5, 3.25 ERA)
IOWA: Blake Hickman (RHP, So., 2-1, 3.68 ERA)
 Game 2 Pitching  Matchup ILL: John Kravetz (RHP, Jr., 5-1, 3.09 ERA)
IOWA: Sasha Kuebel (LHP, Jr., 6-3, 4.35 ERA)
 Game 3 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Kevin Duchene (LHP, So., 2-1, 1.80 ERA)
IOWA: Tyler Peyton (RHP, r-Fr., 4-0, 4.50 ERA)
 Series History Illinois leads 125-80-2
 Games at Iowa Illinois leads 54-44-1
 Last Meeting Illinois won series in 2011, 2-1
 Streak Won 1
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook
 Preview Interview Coach Hartleb | Casey Fletcher

Illinois... tied for second in the Big Ten with Nebraska at 13-5 on a four-game winning streak and receiving votes in the NCBWA Poll 6-0 on the road in Big Ten play (sweeps at Northwestern and Penn State)
...clinched a berth into the 2014 Big Ten Tournament with the sweep of Michigan State ...has three Big Ten sweeps for the first time since 2009
...hasn't faced Iowa since 2011 and doesn't have a player on the roster that has played against the Hawkeyes
...will play final six games on the road (at Iowa, Nebraska) 10 games over .500 for the first time this season
...has the Big Ten Player of the Week and a Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week in Casey Fletcher
...will play on the Big Ten Network on Saturday

Illinois Road Trip to Iowa
Illinois, which is receiving votes in the latest NCBWA poll, will close out the regular season with its final six games on the road, beginning with a three-game series at Iowa (May 9-11). Game times have been altered since the original schedule release, with Friday's game beginning at 4 p.m. followed by an 11 a.m. start on Saturday on the Big Ten Network and a 1 p.m. series finale on Sunday. The Illini are on a four-game winning streak and currently tied for second place in the Big Ten with Nebraska at 13-5. The Hawkeyes are in a three-way tie for sixth place in the conference with Michigan State and Ohio State at 8-10. Illinois and Iowa have not played a series since 2011 and no current Illini has entered a game against the Hawkeyes.

Weekend Game Coverage
Friday and Sunday's games will be streamed live via the Big Ten Digital Network, which can be seen through Hawkeye All-Access, while Saturday's contest will be televised live on the Big Ten Network with Kevin Kugler and Scott Pose calling the action. Illinois game audio, courtesy of Dave Loane and Matt Wille, will be aired on the radio on WDWS AM 1400 and streamed live online via Fighting Illini All-Access at

Know Your Opponent
Iowa (27-17) is currently tied for sixth place in the Big Ten with an 8-10 mark in conference play. The Hawkeyes are coming off of a 1-2 series loss at Ohio State in their last conference action. Iowa carries a potent offense that ranks second in the Big Ten in batting average (.303), slugging percentage (.404), runs scored (297), home runs (21), and leads the Big Ten in on-base percentage (.391). The Hawkeye lineup has six starters hitting over .300 and is powered by right fielder Taylor Zeutenhorst`s nine home runs and second baseman Jake Mangler's 39 RBI. The Hawkeyes will send Blake Hickman, Sasha Keubel and Tyler Peyton, who have a 12-4 combined record, to the mound this weekend against the Illini.

Series History with Iowa
Illinois leads the all-time series with the Hawkeyes by a 125-80-2 margin and is 54-44-1 in games in Iowa City. The Illini haven't played Iowa since 2011 when they won a series in Champaign, 2-1. The last time the two teams met at Banks Field was in 2010 when the Hawkeyes took two out of three. Illini head coach Dan Hartleb is 9-7 against Iowa, taking three of four games in 2006 before dropping three of four at Iowa in 2007. Illinois then won the season-opener against the Hawkeyes in 2009, dropped a series in Iowa City in 2010 and won a series in Champaign in 2011. The two teams have played an even series since 2000, with a 20-20 mark in the last 40 games. Illinois won series in 2000, 2006 and 2011, Iowa took series in 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2010, and the teams split series in 2001, 2003 and 2004. The Illini also earned wins in the 2007 Big Ten Tournament and the 2009 season-opener at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge.

Last Time Out
Illinois clinched a berth into the 2014 Big Ten Tournament with a sweep of Michigan State at Illinois Field behind the heroics of junior Casey Fletcher. The Illini won all three games by one run and in dramatic fashion with comeback victories, capped off by consecutive walk-off wins. MSU took a 4-2 lead with a three-run eighth in game one but Illinois responded with three runs in the bottom half and pulled out a 5-4 victory in the opener. Fletcher homered twice on Saturday before giving Illinois a 5-4 victory with a bases-loaded, walk-off RBI single in the 10th. Senior Ronnie Muck earned his first win of the year following four scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Illinois overcame an 8-3 deficit with four runs in the seventh and three in the ninth to win 10-9 in the finale. Fletcher poked a game-winning two-run single the opposite way with two outs in the bottom of the ninth for his second walk-off hit in as many days.

Three Big Ten Sweeps in 2014
Illinois has posted three Big Ten sweeps in a season for the first time since 2009. The Illini broke out the brooms at home against Michigan State, at Penn State and at Northwestern five years ago, while they repeated the feat in reverse order this season by winning in Evanston and Happy Valley before closing out against the Spartans at home.

Hartleb Moves Up Career Wins List
Ninth-year head coach Dan Hartleb tied Tom Dedin on the all-time career wins list with his victory against Southern Illinois (4/30) and moved alone into fourth place during the sweep of Michigan State (5/2). Hartleb is coming off his most wins in a season at Illinois with 35 victories in 2013 and has taken Illinois to an NCAA Regional in two of the last three seasons. 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 271-216 (9 seasons: 2006-present)
5. Tom Dedin 268-234-6 (9 seasons: 1979-87)

Big Ten Records under Hartleb
After sweeping Michigan State, Illinois sits at 13-5 through 18 Big Ten games, which is the second-best record at this point in the conference season under head coach Dan Hartleb - behind the 14-4 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. Illinois went 1-3 in the next four games before rolling off four consecutive wins. The Illini enter this weekend at 27-17 overall after its midweek win over Southern Illinois and sweep of Michigan State, marking the first time they have been 10 games over .500 this season.

Casey Fletcher Week
Junior Casey Fletcher collected multiple national and conference weekly laurels following his stellar week at the plate from April 30 to May 4. The Oakwood, Illinois, native headlined the Louisville Slugger National Players of the Week list from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and was recognized as a Week 12 Top Performer on along with being selected as the Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time.

Fletcher turned in a phenomenal week, beginning with three home runs against Southern Illinois on Wednesday (4/30). He finished 3-for-4 with a career-high five RBI and became the seventh Illini in school history to hit three home runs in a game. He followed it with two homers and a walk-off RBI single on Saturday (5/3) against Michigan State before being clutch again on Sunday (5/4) with a walk-off two-run single against MSU. For the week, the Illini right fielder hit .471 (8-for-17) with two walk-off winners, five home runs, 10 RBI and a 1.353 slugging percentage to lead Illinois to a perfect 4-0 record against SIU and Michigan State.

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)

*school record

Comparing Wins and Losses
In Illinois' 27 wins this year, the Illini are hitting .303 and have a 2.24 ERA, while in their 17 losses, they are batting .232 and have a 5.29 ERA.

Winning the Close Ones
After starting the season 3-6 in one-run games, Illinois has won its last eight games decided by one run. The Illini are now 11-6 in one-run games and have 14 comeback victories on the year.

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) three against Indiana (4/25) and two against Michigan State (5/2). The Illini have scored 31 runs of support in his 12 starts, which is still the lowest average among regular starters at 2.6. The Chillicothe, Ill., native is 4-5 with a 3.25 ERA and a team-high 57 strikeouts (T-4th 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 3.09 ERA, which is ranked 12th in the conference. He has been even better in four Big Ten starts, leading the team with a 3-0 record and 2.38 ERA.

Duchene Returns to Rotation
After missing six weeks with forearm tightness, sophomore Kevin Duchene returned to action with a start in the series finale against Michigan State. He pitched for the first time since March 14 and allowed one run and four hits in three innings to receive a no decision. The Joliet, Ill., native is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in six starts this season.

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 sixth in the Big Ten in hits (60) and ranks third in stolen bases (18). The Park Ridge, Ill., native has a team-high 20 multi-hit games and ranks second on the Illini with a .321 average. He also leads the team in Big Ten games with a .368 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 .257 average and just 3.5 runs per game (145 runs) in the last 41 games. In the latest NCAA stat rankings, Illinois ranked seventh in walks allowed per nine innings (2.35), 13th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.83) and 62nd in ERA (3.36), which is the third-best earned run average in the Big Ten. The Illini lead the Big Ten with 103 walks allowed followed by Penn State in second at 125.

Jay's 4-0 with Seven Saves
Sophomore Tyler Jay leads the Illini with a 1.67 ERA and has a perfect 4-0 record with seven saves in a team-high 19 appearances. He has not allowed a run in 14 of 19 appearances and is holding opponents to a .194 average. He pitched the final two innings in Illinois' second game of the year and notched his first career save with five strikeouts in the 19-13 slugfest with Georgia State. He has consistently been called upon late in games since then and his seven saves are tied for fourth in the Big Ten and tied for the eighth-most in a season in school history.