Brandon Wikoff, a second-team All-Big Ten shortstop, leads the Illini into their fourth-straight Big Ten Tournament.
May 20, 2008
ILLINOIS (30-23 // 16-15) vs. Ohio State (30-24 // 15-15)
Live Stats: Gametracker on fightingillini.com
Television: Games 6-11 live on Big Ten Network
Radio: All Games live on WDWS AM-1400 and fightingillini.com (Dave Loane, PBP; Ben Taylor, analyst) // Games 8-11 on XM 196
Series: OSU leads 91-84-2 // ILL leads 4-2 @ neutral sites
2008 Series: OSU won, 2-1 (5/9-10)
Game 1 Probables
Ohio State: Dan DeLucia (LHP, 3-3, 4.91 ERA)
Illinois: Kevin Manson (RHP, 7-2, 6.17 ERA)
...22-7 when scoring first
...26-4 when out-hitting its opponent
...18-2 with a big inning (4+ runs)
...25-7 when not allowing a big inning
...23-5 when allowing fewer than 7 runs
...20-2 when scoring 8 or more runs
...24-1 when leading after 7 innings (5 in doubleheader)
...23-12 when making equal or fewer errors than opponent
Illini Line Drives
Big Ten Tournament Breakdown: Illinois grabbed its fourth-consecutive Big Ten Tournament berth, entering the event as the No. 4 seed behind Michigan, Purdue and Penn State. It is the Illini's best seed since taking the top spot in 2005. Illinois is 7-12 against the tournament field, winning the series at Indiana, splitting four games with Penn State, losing two of three at Ohio State, dropping three of four to Purdue and getting swept by Michigan.
5 Illini Named All-Big Ten: Five Illinois players were named All-Big Ten on Tuesday, with center fielder Kyle Hudson taking unanimous first-team honors, one of four unanimous selections. Second baseman Joe Bonadonna, shortstop Brandon Wikoff and DH Daniel Webb all were named to the second team and starting pitcher Kevin Manson was a third-team selection. That marks the most Illini selected to the All-Big Ten teams since eight players earned the honor in 2005.
Rain, Rain Go Away: Seven of Illinois' eight Big Ten series have been affected by inclement weather in some way, as only the Michigan series was completed in the traditional Friday-Saturday-Sunday format. The Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue series were played in two doubleheaders, the Indiana and Northwestern series were pushed back a day because of impending poor weather and the Friday games of the Penn State and Ohio State series were suspended and finished on Saturday. In addition, the finale at OSU was rained out. For a complete list, see page 8.
Manson Heating Up: Sophomore starter Kevin Manson is tied for third in the Big Ten with seven wins and holds a 7-2 record with a 6.17 ERA. He has won four of his last five starts and has been the beneficiary of excellent run support this year, especially in Big Ten play. He averages 8.6 runs of support per start and has received 9.4 runs in Big Ten play.
Hudson Chasing History: Center fielder Kyle Hudson broke the Big Ten conference-games steals record during the Northwestern series but was passed by Iowa's Caleb Curry during the final weekend as Curry ended with 26 steals and Hudson had 25. Hudson now needs only two steals to break the Illinois school record of 40, which Shawn Roof broke in 2007.
Little RBI Guy, Indeed: Shortstop Brandon Wikoff has had an incredible season at the plate, hitting .381 with a team-best 59 RBIs and 11 doubles. Wikoff also ranks as the third-shortest No. 3 hitter in the country at a listed 5-foot-8 (see page 7 for full list). He has hit third in 47 games this season, compiling a .385 average there. His 37 RBIs in conference play was the third-highest total in school history, behind Josh Klimek's then-Big Ten record 42 in 1996 and Dusty Bensko's 40 RBIs in 2005.
Fancy Meeting You Here: Illinois' first-round Big Ten Tournament game with Ohio State is a rematch of the next-to-last series of the season, in which OSU took two of three games with Sunday's finale being rained out. After Illinois won the suspended game from Friday, the Buckeyes controlled the doubleheader, winning 9-2 and 14-8.
Hudson, Webb Best at What They Do: Center fielder Kyle Hudson and DH Daniel Webb lead all other Big Ten players at their positions with .411 and .387 averages, respectively, since Purdue DH Jonathan Lilly has only 73 at bats. Second baseman Joe Bonadonna and shortstop Brandon Wikoff both rank second in average at their positions.
Haig Takes Final Weekly Honor: Freshman left-hander Phil Haig earned the final Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honor, sharing it with Northwestern's Eric Jokisch after each threw a complete-game shutout over the weekend. Haig held Purdue's potent offense to just two hits while striking out three and walking two, allowing only one baserunner past second base.
Wikoff, McMurray, Bonadonna Become Three Amigos: Illinois earned a Big Ten Player of the Week honor for the third-straight week when Brandon Wikoff was named Co-Player of the Week on May 6. One week earlier, Casey McMurray earned the honor outright, and a week before that, Joe Bonadonna was named Co-Player of the Week. It is the first time in Illinois history and just the fourth time in Big Ten history that three players from the same school have been named consecutive Players of the Week in the same season.
Walk-Off Winners: Sophomore catcher Aaron Johnson ripped a two-run walk-off home run to lift the Illini to a 10-9 victory in the series finale against Northwestern, Illinois' second walk-off homer this season. The other came courtesy of Daniel Webb against Akron when he blasted a walk-off grand slam for the 15-11 win. Overall this season, the Illini have five wins in their last at bat.
Illini Break Road Wins Record: With one win at Ohio State, Illinois wrapped up the best conference road record in school history at 10-5. See page 6 for a full list.
Illini Hit Parade: Illinois currently has the second-best team batting average in school history at .338, behind only the 1998 squad's .347 mark. This year's team also holds a .345 average in Big Ten play, second to 1998's .355 school record.
Illini Shatter School Records: Continuing to show how stellar the Illini offense has been this year, the squad has broken the school records for hits, runs, doubles, RBIs and walks in Big Ten play. For a full breakdown of where this year's team stands on the record lists, see page 9.
Five for Fighting: Five different Illini have collected five-hit games this season, the most in the nation this season. Ryan Hastings notched the first one of the season when he went 5-for-6 in the series finale at Indiana, but recently Illini hitters have turned up the juice. Joe Bonadonna went 5-for-5 against Western Illinois on April 23, Daniel Webb was 5-for-6 and Casey McMurray went 5-for-5 in the opener against Penn State on April 25 and Brandon Wikoff was 5-for-5 against Northwestern on May 3.
McMurray Takes Conference Honor: Freshman left fielder Casey McMurray hit a sizzling .733 (11-for-15) against Penn State to earn outright Big Ten Player of the Week honors. It marked the first time that an Illini freshman had earned the award since Craig Marquie on March 31, 1997. Coupled with Joe Bonadonna's honor the previous week, the duo earned the first consecutive awards by Illini since Drew Davidson and Dusty Bensko on April 5 and 11, 2005.
Bonadonna Earns 2 Weekly Honors: Bonadonna was named to the College Baseball Foundation National All-Star Lineup and was the co-Big Ten Player of the Week after hitting a whopping .692 at Minnesota (9-for-13) and racking up seven straight hits over the final two games of the series. He scored four runs, drove in three and stole three bases. He continued his hot hitting in the midweek games, going 7-for-10 in two contests, including a five-hit game against Western Illinois.
You Can Put it on the Board...Yes!: Illinois put up 49 runs in the Penn State series, the team's most since scoring 59 in four games against Northwestern May 6-8, 2005. The Illini's 20 runs in the first game against PSU also are the most in a Big Ten game since scoring 21 against the Wildcats in that 2005 series. Illinois followed that with 38 runs against Northwestern and averaged 7.3 runs per conference game.
Stop Him Before He Steals Again!: Kyle Hudson led the nation in steals per game (as of 5/12) with 0.8 per game and was fourth in total steals with 37. Hudson stole 20 bases in 21 games he played in during the month of April (20-for-24) and is 39-for-48 on the season, needing just two more steals to break Shawn Roof's school record of 40.
Illini Good to Last At Bat: Illinois has an incredible 14 comeback victories this season out of 29 total wins with five triumphs in its last at bat. The Illini have beaten Northwestern, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan State and Akron with a rally in their final time to the plate. Illinois notched two comeback wins against Northwestern, including a last-inning comeback keyed by Aaron Johnson's two-run walk-off homer in the series finale.
Small Town Southern Man Catches Fire: Daniel Webb caught fire in the month of April, hitting .506 in 23 games with four homers, 28 RBIs and a .722 slugging percentage. Webb had 11 multiple-hit games in the month, including four three-hit games and a four-hit game.
51% of the Time It Works Every Time: Kyle Hudson has been an incredible table-setter for the Illini this year after moving to the No. 1 spot in the batting order in the season's sixth game. He is reaching base at a .511 clip, which is second the Big Ten, and is reaching base at a .486 clip to start an inning. After hitting second in his four previous games, Hudson returned to the leadoff spot in the final game against Northwestern.
Wikoff a Tough Out: Shortstop Brandon Wikoff has been very consistent this season, collecting a hit in 43 of 53 games and stringing together hitting streaks of 10 and nine games. He has been held hitless in consecutive games only twice: the Penn State doubleheader and games two and three against Purdue.
Bonadonna Breaks Out: Joe Bonadonna is having a career year in his first year of playing every day. He currently is hitting .375 and has reached new career highs in hits (72), runs (46), doubles (12), RBIs (33) and steals (26).
Born to Run: The Illini continue to be one of the best base-stealing teams in the country, swiping 97 bags, which ranks in the top 25 nationally. They average 1.83 steals per game. Illinois also ranks second in the Big Ten in steals and averaged 1.7 stolen bases per conference game.
Hudson & Bonadonna Make Like Bonnie & Clyde: The pair of Kyle Hudson and Joe Bonadonna have been running rampant on the basepaths this season, with Hudson stealing 39-of-48 bags, fourth-most in the nation, and Bonadonna swiping 26-of-32, which ranks 34th. They make Illinois one of just three teams in the country with two players in the top 35 base-stealers, along with Fordham and Cincinnati.
Hudson Swipes His Way into History: Kyle Hudson broke the Big Ten single-season stolen base record for conference games on May 3 with his 20th steal in conference play, topping the record of 19 held by Shawn Roof and Michigan's Eric Rose. However, Iowa's Caleb Curry passed him during the final weekend to grab the record with 26.
Hastings Named Finalist for Senior CLASS Award: Senior first baseman Ryan Hastings was named a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes the top senior baseball player in the nation in the areas of classroom, competition, character and community. Fans can vote for Hastings online at http://baseball.seniorclassaward.com/public/men/vote.aspx through June 2 and will count for 25 percent of the total vote, with coaches, media and sponsors accounting for the other 75 percent.
Hastings Finds Stroke: After hitting .286 over Illinois' first 22 games, first baseman Ryan Hastings caught fire in the final three games at Indiana, going 7-for-12 with a five-hit game in the series finale. It was his first career five-hit game and only Illinois' fourth in the last four seasons (Rogowski - 2005; Schultz - 2006; Snowden - 2006). Hastings has stayed hot, raising his average to .333, a career high.
Illini Fifth in Nation in Hitting: The Illini currently lead the Big Ten with a .348 average and were fifth nationally as of May 12. Illinois also is second in the league with a .966 fielding percentage. Illinois leads the league in on-base percentage (.416) and ranks second in hits (602), slugging (.467) and stolen bases (97), while ranking third in runs (393), doubles (106), walks (220) and walks allowed (193).
Illini Heads to Big Ten Tournament
Fourth-seeded Illinois travels to Ann Arbor, where it will play in its fourth-straight Big Ten Tournament, facing fifth-seeded Ohio State in the first round. While OSU took two of three games in the teams' series two weeks ago, the Illini won game one of the series.
By grabbing the fourth seed, Illinois has reached its highest tournament seed since 2005 when it was the No. 1 seed. And while the Illini have reached four Big Ten Tournaments in a row, the squad is just 1-6 in those three tourneys.
Last Time Out: Purdue
Illinois struggled on the mound against Purdue, dropping three of four games to the Boilermakers, who hit .409 and slugged .701 on the weekend. One of the few bright spots for the Illini was freshman starter Phil Haig, who fired a two-hit shutout in game three to lock up Illinois' only victory. Haig struck out three and walked two while allowing only one runner to reach third base.
Purdue roughed up Illini Friday night starter Kevin Manson to the tune of six runs in two innings, then tagged reliever Mike Stankiewicz for six runs in five innings, taking an 8-3 lead after three innings. Illinois got a run back in the sixth, but the Boilers scored six runs in the seventh and eighth innings to run away with a 14-4 win.
Purdue came right back at Illini starter Scott Shaw in game two, touching the junior for 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings on 12 hits. Nick Chmielewski allowed two runs in 2 1/3 innings after relieving Shaw. Four Illini hitters notched multiple-hit games, but it was in vain as Purdue posted five-run innings in the first and fifth innings.
But Haig responded with a career-best outing in Saturday's first game, completely shutting down Purdue's red-hot offense. The Illini scratched across single runs in the third and fifth innings, as Brandon Wikoff drove in two runs without a hit for a 2-0 Illinois win. Purdue came storming back in the series finale, though, scoring nine straight runs after the Illini took a 1-0 lead in the second and cruising to an 11-2 win.
Earlier This Season Against Ohio State
Illinois dropped two of three games at Ohio State May 9-10, with Sunday's game being rained out. The Illini got a strong start from Kevin Manson on Friday, but the game was suspended in the middle of the seventh with Illinois leading 7-2. Mike Sterk came on in relief on Saturday when the game was resumed and tossed three solid innings to record his first career save and lift the Illini to a 9-4 win. But OSU responded by sweeping the doubleheader by scores of 9-2 and 14-8, including a wild fifth inning in game two, when Illinois scored seven runs and OSU bounced back with a 10-run frame. On the weekend, the Illini hit just .311 and committed six errors as they were outscored 27-19.
Home is Where the Hits Are...
Illinois' offense has found a spark at home, where the Illini have hit .371 as a team and scored 200 runs in 23 games, compared to a .311 average with 193 runs in 30 games away from Illinois Field. All seven Illini regulars are hitting .360 or better at home, with Daniel Webb's .467 mark leading the charge, compared to a .330 mark away from home. Aaron Johnson and Casey McMurray are two other polarized batting averages, as Johnson is hitting .423 at Illinois Field and .222 in other stadiums, and McMurray is hitting .364 at home and .282 away from home. John Schlichter also has widely divergent batting averages, hitting .310 at home and .200 away from home, although he has just 35 at bats away from Illinois Field.
...But the Steals Come on the Road
While the Illini have hit much better at home, they have stolen 15 more bases in road and neutral games in 26 more attempts. Away from home, Illinois has stolen 56-of-77 bags, while they have taken just 41-of-51 at home, a disparity attributable to playing seven more games away from Illinois Field. Kyle Hudson has stolen 23 bases on the road and 16 at home, while Joe Bonadonna has swiped 16 on the road and just 10 at home. Brandon Wikoff has taken 7-of-8 away from Illinois Field and just 4-of-4 at home.
*Complete game notes available in above PDF file.