Baseball
Illini Travel to #28 Nebraska for Final Big Ten Series

 
Sophomore Adam Walton is leading the Illini with a .522 average during their current seven-game winning streak.
Sophomore Adam Walton is leading the Illini with a .522 average during their current seven-game winning streak.
 

May 14, 2014

 Illinois (30-17, 16-5 Big Ten) at #28 Nebraska (35-17, 16-5 Big Ten)
 Game 1 Thursday, May 15, 2014 | 6:35 p.m.
 Game 2 Friday, May 16, 2014 | 6:35 p.m.
 Game 3 Saturday, May 17, 2014 | 1:05 p.m.
 Location Hawks Field at Haymarket Park | Lincoln, Neb.
 Live Stats Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Radio WDWS AM 1400 (Dave Loane and Matt Wille)
 Live Audio ($) Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
 Live Video ($) Huskers.com (Thursday) | BTDN (Friday) | Watch on BTN2Go (Saturday)
 Game Notes Illinois | Nebraska
 Game 1 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Drasen Johnson (RHP, r-Jr., 5-5, 3.11 ERA)
NEB: Chance Sinclair (RHP, Jr., 8-1, 1.93 ERA)
 Game 2 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Kevin Duchene (LHP, So., 2-1, 1.88 ERA)
NEB: Aaron Bummer (LHP, Jr., 6-3, 3.95 ERA)
 Game 3 Pitching  Matchup ILL: John Kravetz (RHP, Jr., 6-1, 2.88 ERA)
NEB: Kyle Kubat (LHP, Jr., 4-2, 4.84 ERA)
 Series History Illinois leads 5-4
 Games in Lincoln Nebraska leads 2-1
 Last Season Nebraska won series, 2-1
 Streak Lost 1
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook
 Preview Interviews Coach Hartleb | Reid Roper

Illinois...
...is tied for second in the Big Ten with Nebraska at 16-5
...will be the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament with a series victory and the No. 3 seed with a series loss at Nebraska
...is on a season-long seven-game winning streak
...is receiving votes in the NCBWA Poll for the second week in a row
...is 9-0 on the road in Big Ten play (sweeps at Northwestern, Penn State and Iowa)
...has a school-record four Big Ten sweeps
...has its best Big Ten record through 21 games under ninth-year head coach Dan Hartleb
...is ranked No. 54 in the NCAA RPI

Final Big Ten Series at Nebraska
Illinois, which is receiving votes in the latest NCBWA poll for the second straight week, will end the regular season with a three-game series at No. 28 Nebraska (May 15-17). The Illini, who are tied for second with the Huskers in the Big Ten standings at 16-5, will play at 6:35 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 1:05 p.m. on Saturday at Hawks Field at Haymarket Park in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Big Ten Tournament Seeding
Illinois will have an extended stay in the state of Nebraska, as it will remain in the Cornhusker State following the Nebraska series for the 2014 Big Ten Tournament, which will be played at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, from May 21-25. The Illini, who are riding a season-long seven-game winning streak, have already clinched a top three seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The Orange and Blue will be the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament with a series victory at Nebraska and the No. 3 seed with a series loss. The Illini also are still in contention to clinch a share of the Big Ten regular season title. Illinois would need to sweep Nebraska and have Minnesota sweep Indiana in Bloomington to share the top spot in the conference with the Hoosiers. The Illini cannot be the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament because IU holds the tiebreaker in that scenario due to its series victory in Champaign.

Series Coverage
All three games at Nebraska will be streamed online. Thursday's game can be found on huskers.com, Friday's contest will be on the Big Ten Digital Network and Saturday's finale will be streamed live on BTN2Go along with being aired tape delayed at 5 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. 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 fightingillini.com.

Know Your Opponent
Nebraska (35-17), which is ranked No. 28 in the NCBWA Poll, is also on a seven-game winning streak and coming off its fourth Big Ten series sweep, just like the Illini. The Huskers boast the best batting average (.302) and fielding percentage (.977) in the Big Ten along with the sixth-best ERA (3.61). The Huskers also own the most runs (321), hits (540), RBI (294), triples (17), walks (196) and saves (15) in the conference.

Series History with Nebraska
Illinois leads the all-time series 5-4 over Nebraska, but the Huskers have won both series since joining the Big Ten in 2012. The Illini opened Big Ten play at home against Nebraska last season and dropped two out of three, with their lone win coming on a walk-off suicide squeeze. In 2012 at Hawks Field at Haymarket Park, the Huskers won the series, 2-1, during their inaugural season in the Big Ten. Before meeting in 2012 in Lincoln, Illinois and Nebraska had not played since 1905 when the Illini won 3-0. The Orange and Blue also won games against Big Red in 1903 (7-3) and 1897 (16-9).

Last Time Out
With its three wins at Iowa, Illinois earned its school-record fourth Big Ten series sweep, improved to 9-0 in conference road games and clinched a top three seed in the 2014 Big Ten Tournament. The Illini pitching staff, which had 26 strikeouts and seven walks on the weekend, held the Hawkeyes in check with four runs allowed and just three earned runs for a 1.00 ERA. Illinois fell behind 1-0 in the opener before battling back for a 4-1 victory. The Illini never trailed over the final 21 innings of the series, winning game two, 5-1, and sealing the sweep with a 4-2 victory on Sunday.

School-Record Four Big Ten Sweeps
Illinois has posted a school record four Big Ten sweeps in 2014. The Illini broke out the brooms at Northwestern and Penn State followed by a home sweep of Michigan State and a road sweep of Iowa. The Orange and Blue also have three road Big Ten series sweeps for the first time in school history. Illinois' previous record for Big Ten series sweeps was three, which it last accomplished in 2009.

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). At 30-17 this season, Hartleb has his sixth 30-win season in nine years 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 274-216 (9 seasons: 2006-present)
5. Tom Dedin 268-234-6 (9 seasons: 1979-87)

Best Big Ten Mark under Hartleb
After sweeping Michigan State and Iowa, Illinois sits at 16-5 in the conference, ranking as the best record through 21 Big Ten games under head coach Dan Hartleb. The previous top mark under Hartleb after 21 games was 15-6 in 2009. He also has equaled his most Big Ten victories in a year with 16. He achieved it once before during the 24-game Big Ten schedule in 2009 (16-8) and twice during the 32-game Big Ten schedule in 2007 (16-14) and 2008 (16-15).

Setting School Records
Illinois is primed to break multiple school records in 2014. The Illini have tied their most wins (16) and strikeouts (135) in a 24-game Big Ten season while already tallying their most saves (8). Illinois' current Big Ten ERA of 3.55 is nearly half a run less than its previous top mark from 2009 (4.16 ERA). Overall, the Illini also could break the school record for season ERA from 1976 (3.43 ERA), as their current mark is a 3.21 ERA.

Streaking at Times
Illinois has five winning streaks of four or more games during the 2014 season. Following a 2-4 start, UI won all four games it played in the state of Florida against FGCU and Florida. After falling to 8-10, Illinois won 10 of its next 11 games that included a four-game winning streak and 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 for its third four-game streak. Illinois went 1-3 in the next four games before starting its current season-long seven-game winning streak. The Illini enter the final series at 30-17 overall, marking its best record this season. The Illini's current seven-game winning streak is their longest since 2011 when they rolled off eight straight on their way to the Big Ten regular season and tournament title.

Comparing Wins and Losses
In Illinois' 30 wins this year, the Illini are hitting .301 and have a 2.12 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 15 comeback victories on the year.

UI Pitching in NCAA Stat Rankings
In the latest NCAA stat rankings, Illinois ranked seventh in walks allowed per nine innings (2.35), eighth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.88), 29th in WHIP (1.26) and 51st in ERA (3.21), which is the third-best earned run average in the Big Ten. The Illini lead the Big Ten with 110 walks allowed followed by Penn State in second at 132.

Jay's 4-0 with Nine Saves
Sophomore Tyler Jay leads the Illini with a 1.51 ERA and has a perfect 4-0 record with nine saves in a team-high 21 appearances. He has not allowed a run in 16 of 21 appearances and is holding opponents to a .197 average. His nine saves are tied for third in the Big Ten and part of a four-way tie for the second-most saves in a season in school history. Bryan Roberts (2010), Mike Munson (1986) and Jeff Innis (1982) also notched nine saves in a season. The school record is held by Jeff Richards with 13 in 1989.

Johnson Not Getting Support
Thursday'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 13 runs in his next five starts: one against Michigan (4/11), two at Penn State (4/18) three against Indiana (4/25), two against Michigan State (5/2) and three at Iowa (5/9). The Illini have scored 34 runs of support in his 13 starts, which is the lowest average among regular starters at 2.6. The Chillicothe, Ill., native is 5-5 with a 3.11 ERA and a team-high 64 strikeouts, which is ranked second in the Big Ten.

Kravetz Shines in Big Ten Play
Junior John Kravetz leads the starting staff with a 4-0 record and 2.18 ERA in six Big Ten starts. Overall, he is a team-best 6-1 with a 2.88 ERA, which is ranked 11th in the conference. The Lansing, Illinois, native 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 is one of two Illini honored with the award this season along with sophomore Kevin Duchene (March 3). College Sports Madness also named Kravetz its Big Ten Player of the Week for his performance in Evanston.

Kravetz Nears Career Record Lists
Junior John Kravetz boasts a 19-7 career record, putting him one win shy of a five-way tie for eighth in school history. Pitching coach Drew Dickinson (1999-02) and Mark Dressen (1989-92) are tied for the school record with 30 wins. He has made 40 starts and one relief appearance while totaling 244 career innings, placing him nine innings shy of the top-10 list in the Illini record books. Kevin Johnson (2010-13) owns the school record with 334 career innings pitched.

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 (5/4). He pitched for the first time since March 14 and allowed one run and four hits in three innings (44 pitches) to receive a no decision. He also started the finale against Iowa (5/11) and allowed two runs (1 ER) in three innings (58 pitches). The Joliet, Ill., native is 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA in seven starts 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 NCAA.com 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

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 seventh in the Big Ten in hits (63) and third in stolen bases (19). The Park Ridge, Ill., native has a team-high 21 multi-hit games and ranks second on the Illini with a .317 average. He also leads the team in Big Ten games with a .352 mark and hit his first collegiate home run on the first pitch of the game against Iowa (5/11). 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.

McDonnell Steps Up in Starts
Redshirt-junior Rob McDonnell has stepped up in his five midweek starts this season and is 4-0 with a 3.67 ERA in nine total appearances this year. He has 30 strikeouts in 27 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.

HEADLINES