Illini Host Gophers in Final Big Ten Series
May 16, 2012
Illini Team Notes
Take 2, They're Small: Despite having a pair of new starters up the middle in shortstop Thomas Lindauer and second baseman Reid Roper, Illinois leads the nation in total double plays turned (66) and double plays per game (1.32). An interesting twist on the Lindauer/Roper combination is that they both are taking courses in American Sign Language and occasionally use it to communicate on the field. First baseman Jordan Parr has finished all but seven of the Illini's twin killings and leads the Big Ten with 59 double plays, 15 more than Ohio State first baseman Josh Dezse's second-place total of 44. Lindauer ranks third with 43 and Roper is fourth (41).
Hartleb Captures 200th Win: Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb nabbed his 200th career win when the Illini topped Illinois State, 7-5, on April 17. Hartleb currently ranks seventh on the Illinois all-time wins list with 207, two shy of tying Carl Lundgren's 209 career victories.
Defense Gets It Done: Illinois' defense has been solid for most of the season, ranking third in the Big Ten with a .972 fielding percentage and tying for the second-fewest errors (53) with Minnesota. In conference games, the Illini have picked it at a .981 rate, second-best in the league to Minnesota, and equaling the Gophers for the fewest errors (15) while turning the most double plays (29). The school record for fielding percentage for a season is .973, which was set by the 2011 squad.
Staff Shows Improvement: Illinois' pitching staff has shown improvement in the first year under pitching coach Drew Dickinson and volunteer assistant Jason Anderson, posting a 4.76 ERA to this point. That's 0.21 lower than the final figure in 2011 and currently stands as the Illini's best team ERA since posting a 4.60 mark in 2005. Illinois also has greatly improved its hits-to-innings pitched ratio, which currently stands at 438 hits in 437 innings. A year ago, the Illini allowed 533 hits in 499 2/3 innings. The last time an Illinois team approached a 1:1 ratio in those categories was 2003, when the Illini had 454 hits in 423 1/3 innings.
Illini Give Boys & Girls Club a Hand: As its second major fundraiser of the year, the Illini wore special orange-and-blue camouflage jerseys against Michigan State on May 6. The jerseys were auctioned off during the game, with the Fighting Illini Dugout Club donating over $5,000 to the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club of Champaign-Urbana. Special-edition T-shirts featuring a camouflage design are still being sold at Gameday Spirit locations in Champaign and at Illinois' final three home games, proceeds from those sales also being donated to the Boys and Girls Club.
Two Down, None to Go: Illini pitchers have been highly successful with two outs in an inning, holding opponents to a .222 average in the situation. Illinois' bullpen has been even better, allowing only 37 hits in 206 at bats (.180 average) with two outs in an inning. Ronnie Muck has forced opponents into 3-for-33 (.091) hitting with two outs, Matt Milroy is 8-for-48 (.167) as a reliever, Drasen Johnson is 5-for-26 (.192) out of the pen, Anthony Milazzo is 4-for-17 (.235) and Reid Roper is 0-for-9 as a reliever. Conversely, the Illini are hitting .279 with two outs and have 103 two-out RBIs, 39.6 percent of their total RBIs.
Rally on Two: Illinois' two-out hitting has been such a key that it could be seen as a predictor of success. In the Illini's 26 wins, they are hitting .336 with two outs and 83 two-out RBIs. In their 24 losses, the Orange and Blue are hitting only .206 with 20 two-out RBIs.
Illini Player Notes
Argo Aims Higher: After breaking Illinois' career steals record, Argo has turned his sights to the Big Ten record book. He currently has 97 career steals, which ranks fifth in Big Ten history behind a third-place tie at 103 steals. His total marks the most career stolen bases by a Big Ten player since 1988, when Indiana's Mickey Morandini wrapped up his career with a conference-record 127 and Hoosier teammate Jeff Stout finished with 105 bags.
Johnson Approaches Record: Junior starting pitcher Kevin Johnson has pitched 149 1/3 innings in Big Ten games in his three-year career to this point, just two innings shy of tying Brett Weber's Illinois record. Johnson has been Illinois' Friday starter the past two years and was the Illini's No. 2 pitcher as a freshman in 2010. He has made all 23 possible Big Ten starts in his career with five complete games and his 92 career strikeouts in conference play rank sixth in school history.
Kravetz Follows in Johnson's Footsteps: Freshman John Kravetz has followed in junior ace Kevin Johnson's path this season, with both pitchers sitting on seven wins for the year. Kravetz broke Illinois' record for wins by a freshman with his seventh victory against Northwestern on April 28. Johnson has pitched 84 innings with 42 strikeouts, while Kravetz has 80 2/3 and 42, respectively. The similarities go even farther as the pair hail from the same high school: Mount Carmel High School in suburban Chicago. No Illini pitcher has finished with more than eight wins since Brian Blomquist won 10 games in 2005.
Illini Make Final Push for Postseason Against Gophers
Minnesota is 28-25 on the season but has only played 14 games away from the friendly confines of the Metrodome and Target Field. The Gophers are only 2-9 in true road games and 1-8 in Big Ten road games, having been swept at Ohio State and Nebraska. However, all three games last weekend against the Huskers were decided by a single run. Minnesota is hitting .266 as a team, which ranks seventh in the Big Ten, and ranks sixth in both doubles and triples, while standing 10th in home runs with 10 dingers on the year. However, the Gophers have a 3.10 team ERA, which ranks third in the league, and a .975 fielding percentage, which ranks second.
In games against common Big Ten opponents, the Illini lost two of three at Nebraska and won a series against Ohio State, while Minnesota was swept by the Huskers and the Buckeyes. Both the Gophers and Illini swept Northwestern and lost series to Michigan State. Illinois was swept by Penn State, while Minnesota lost two of three.
Series History Against Minnesota
The Illini's series win in 2009 was their first over Minnesota in Champaign since 1991 as the Gophers hold a 22-11 edge in games in Champaign and a 5-1-2 series advantage during that time frame. Illinois has gone 21-16 in Minneapolis during that stretch and 1-6 at neutral sites.
Big Ten Race Goes Down to the Wire
*Complete series notes available in the attached PDF file