Illini Host Purdue in Final Home Series
May 13, 2010
Purdue at Illinois
Game 1 Starters
Game 2 Starters
Game 3 Starters
Illini Line Drives
...But Look to be Coming Out of It: Despite their recent scoring woes, the Illini appeared to be on the cusp of breaking out of them by posting double-digit hits in their last four games and averaging 34 runs over that span. Illinois is averaging 13 hits per game and four extra-base hits per game in its last four. Also helping the cause is an increase in walks, as Illinois has taken 21 free passes over the past four games (5.25 per game).
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 37 in 45 games, including 11 steals in the last nine games and four multiple-steal games. He's stolen 11 in a row and 19 of his last 20 attempts. He has 10 multiple-steal games and he currently ranks third 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 30 contests away from Illinois Field.
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 second-most saves in the Big Ten with nine, and leads the league with six saves in conference games. He's tied for second on Illinois' single-season saves list and is tied for third on the Big Ten single-season record list. He's 9-for-9 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 run in a save situation yet this year.
Lutes Lives It Up: Senior right fielder Craig Lutes has enjoyed a strong final year, hitting .321 with 22 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 31 of 45 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 22 and 50, respectively, in 2010. He's also hitting .349 in Big Ten play, second-best on the team, and went 5-for-12 at Ohio State last weekend.
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 nine earned runs that he's given up this year. All nine of those runs have come in six of his 18 appearances, giving him 12 scoreless outings. He has been a reliable ground-ball pitcher this year, inducing 37 groundouts out of the 75 outs he's recorded (49.3 percent), the highest percentage of any Illini pitcher this year.
Illini Are Repeat Offenders: The Fighting Illini have stolen 101 bases in 127 attempts so far this season, ranking 12th in the country in steals per game (through May 9 games). It marks the third time in the last four years that Illinois has stolen more than 100 bases in a year (also in 2007, 2008) and is the fourth-most steals in a season in school history. In addition, center fielder Willie Argo ranks fifth in steals per game with 0.82 per game. Argo also has the highest success rate among players with 35 or more steals, swiping 92.5 percent of bases he attempts (37 out of 40).
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 (.435) and ranks second in average (.333) and slugging percentage (.512). He also has stolen 37-of-40 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.
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 has missed the last 31 games 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 nine 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 4.11 ERA with only 64 earned runs in the 140 innings that he has caught this season. Comparatively, primary backstop Aaron Johnson has a 6.72 ERA.
Illini Return Home to Face Purdue
Purdue has won five of its last seven games, including consecutive conference series against Indiana and Michigan State, to move into a tie for the Big Ten lead at 10-8. The Boilermakers have played a bunch of tight games in conference play, with 15 of their 18 games decided by three or fewer runs, including their last 11 Big Ten games. Purdue has bounced back from a 3-8 start to the season by going 25-10 in its last 35 games, including a 14-7 mark in games decided by three or fewer runs. Conversely, Illinois has played only nine close games in the Big Ten, going 6-3 in games decided by three or fewer runs.
Illinois Against The Boilermakers
This Weekend's Promotions
Johnson and Manson are still in the thick of the job hunt but Lutes, Sterk and fellow senior Mike Giller know their plans for the following year. Lutes has accepted a job with Northwestern Mutual in his hometown of Bloomington-Normal and will work alongside former Illini All-American Brian McClure, the managing partner of McClure Financial Group. Sterk is applying to law schools and Giller will complete an internship with the Champaign Police Department to fulfill his degree requirements in community health. Giller is planning a December 2010 graduation.
*Complete series notes available in the attached PDF