Illini Host Indiana in Final Big Ten Series
May 18, 2011
Indiana at Illinois
Game 1 Starters
Game 2 Starters
Game 3 Starters
Illini Line Drives
Illini Heating Up for Stretch Run: After scuffling for much of the season, Illinois is hitting its stride heading into the stretch run. The Illini have won 10 of their last 14 games after losing 11 of their first 15 games in the month of April. Their current 22-25 record is the closest the Orange and Blue have been to the .500 mark since they were 9-12 after the Penn State series on April 3.
Illini Tied for Most Series Wins in History: Illinois has won five of its seven Big Ten series with one three-game set remaining in the 2011 season, tying the school record for Big Ten series victories, which was set in 1990. No Illinois team has ever won six Big Ten series in a season.
April Struggles Bring May Success: The Illini struggled throughout the month of April, going 8-12 with a .280 team batting average and 5.15 team ERA. But that has changed as the calendar has turned to May, with Illinois holding a 6-3 record so far in May with a .308 team average and 5.13 team ERA. No players have responded to the new month better than Josh Parr and Chris Pack, as Parr is hitting .387 in May compared to .229 in April and Pack has a 0.00 ERA in 11 1/3 IP in May after posting an 8.10 mark in 10 IP in April.
Bats Come Around Recently: Illinois' offense has started to click in the last 13 games, as the team batting average has jumped 14 points to .280. In that span, the Illini have averaged 11.0 hits and 7.0 runs per game, recording double-digit hits eight times and double-digit runs four times. Illinois has recorded more than nine hits 11 times in its last 13 games and more than six runs 10 times.
`Pistol Pete' Becomes Automatic: Second baseman Pete Cappetta has nearly become automatic at the top of the Illini order lately, raising his average 120 points by hitting .481 (26-for-54) in the last 13 games. He earned Big Ten Co-Player of the Week honors on May 2 after hitting .667 with a .714 on-base percentage at Northwestern and went 6-for-12 in the Purdue series. He has nine multiple-hit games in the last 13, including a four-hit day and three three-hit games, and has a 16-game hit streak in Big Ten play (see page 6 of PDF). Cappetta currently ranks second in the Big Ten in average in conference games at .431, second in steals (9), third in OBP (.500) and sixth in slugging (.600).
Justin Playing Above Parr: Justin Parr has thrived after being reinserted into the starting lineup at designated hitter against Illinois State on March 30, hitting a blistering .412 (47-for-114) in the last 27 games with eight doubles, a triple, 15 RBIs and 17 runs. He had three hits in each game of the Ohio State series, posting a .600 series average with six RBIs and two runs. He currently leads the Big Ten with a .438 average in conference games, ranks fifth in on-base percentage (.484) and second in hits (35).
Illini Win 4 Consecutive Series: Illinois has caught fire in Big Ten play lately, winning four straight series over Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue. It is the first time since 2009 that the Illini have won three consecutive series, when Illinois took series at Michigan, against Minnesota, at Penn State and at Northwestern. The final game of each series has been a rubber game every weekend, as Illinois has neither been in a position to sweep or be swept in a Big Ten series this season, and the Illini are 5-2 in Big Ten series finales.
Streaking Through 2011: The Fighting Illini have had four losing streaks of three games or more this year and two winning streaks. Illinois lost five straight games from Feb. 27-March 11, four straight from April 2-6 and three in a row from March 13-18 and April 17-23. The Illini put together a five-game winning streak from March 19-April 1 and a three-game winning streak from April 23-26.
The Difference Between Winning and Losing: Coaches always talk about the fine line between winning and losing, but the difference has been quite obvious for Illinois in 2011. In wins, the Illini have averaged 8.3 runs, 12.0 hits, 7.5 hits allowed and 0.82 errors. In losses, Illinois has averaged 3.4 runs, 7.5 hits, 10.8 hits allowed and 1.4 errors. The Illini are out-scoring their opponents 8.3-4.0 in victories, compared to a 3.4-7.3 deficit in losses. Head coach Dan Hartleb often refers to "moving runners" and Illinois has advanced runners at a .560 rate in wins compared to a .391 rate in defeats.
Illini Start, Finish Series Strong: Illinois' offense has thrived in the first and third games of Big Ten series, averaging 11.1 hits and 5.9 runs in the opening games of series and 11.2 hits and 8.4 runs in series finales. The Illini are 9-5 in those two games of conference series, compared to a 3-4 mark in game two of a weekend series, where Illinois averages 8.4 hits and 4.3 runs.
Pack Pours it On: Reliever Chris Pack has picked it up recently, posting a perfect 0.00 ERA in six appearances in May, going 2-0 in 11 1/3 innings pitched. He has allowed only four hits while striking out five and not giving up a walk this month. He has lowered his ERA by 1.95 runs since April 24, most recently pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings of relief on May 15 to pick up the win at Purdue.
Strack Picks Up Slack: Reliever Will Strack has been excellent in four appearances in Big Ten series openers, going 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA. He has pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing only one run on three hits and five walks while striking out seven. Most recently, Strack tossed four scoreless innings of relief against Ohio State on May 6, eventually earning the win in a 13-9 contest.
The Show Goes On: Starting pitcher Corey Kimes, who teammates have nicknamed "The Big Show," has been an important part of Illinois' recent surge as he has pitched well in two of the last three series finales. Kimes allowed two runs in seven innings at Northwestern on May 1 and gave up three runs in seven innings against Ohio State on May 8. Illinois has won five of his last six starts, as he has allowed 14 earned runs in 28 2/3 innings against Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue.
Parr Flashes the Leather: Shortstop Josh Parr has been greatly improved defensively in 2011, committing only six errors in 203 chances for a .970 fielding percentage. He has the fewest errors of any Big Ten shortstop and is dramatically better than last season, when he made 26 errors on the season.
Illini Host Indiana to Finish Regular Season
A combination of two wins by Illinois and/or two losses by Penn State will clinch a berth in the Big Ten Tournament for the Illini, and also would give the Orange and Blue the tiebreaker advantage over nearly every team in the tournament. Illinois has won series against Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State in 2011.
Series History Against Indiana
This Weekend's Promotions
Cappetta Records 16-Game Big Ten Hit Streak
Player Team Streak Date 1. Ryan Jones MSU 18 4/1-5/8 2. Pete Cappetta Illinois 16 4/10-present 3. Mike McQuillan Iowa 15 4/3-5/8 4. Torsten Boss MSU 14 4/15-5/14 5. Patrick Biondi Michigan 12 4/2-30 Chris Lashmet Northwestern 12 4/2-4/29 Paul Snieder Northwestern 12 4/2-4/29
*Complete series notes available in the above PDF file