Illinois Opens Big Ten Tournament vs. Michigan St.

May 20, 2014

 #3 Illinois (31-19, 17-7 Big Ten) vs. #6 Michigan State (29-24, 11-13 Big Ten)
 Game 1 vs. MSU | Wednesday, May 21, 2014 | 9:05 a.m.
 Game 2 Thursday, May 22, 2014 | TBA
 Location TD Ameritrade Park | Omaha, Neb.
 B1G Links Big Ten Tournament Central | Bracket
 Live Stats Game 1 Live Stats
 Radio WDWS AM 1400 (Dave Loane and Matt Wille)
 Live Audio ($) Fighting Illini All-Access
 Game Notes Illinois | Michigan State
 Game 1 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Drasen Johnson (RHP, r-Jr., 5-6, 3.03 ERA)
MSU: Mick VanVossen (RHP, Jr., 7-3, 2.82 ERA)
 Game 2 Pitching  Matchup ILL: TBA
 Series History Illinois leads 73-62
 Neutral Games Illinois leads 3-1
 Season Series Illinois swept series, 3-0
 Streak Won 3
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook
 Preview Interviews Press Conference | Coach Hartleb | Will Krug

...will play the first game of the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 3 seed against No. 6 seed Michigan State
...qualified for the Big Ten Tournament for the seventh time under Hartleb and 20th overall 3-1 vs. Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament
...swept the Spartans in Champaign during the season
...placed third in the Big Ten, marking its second-best finish under coach Hartleb
...earned its best Big Ten record under Hartleb at 17-7
...notched a school-record four Big Ten sweeps
...had six players named All-Big Ten ranked No. 52 in the NCAA RPI

First Round Preview
No. 3 Illinois will square off against No. 6 Michigan State in the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, on Wednesday, May 21 at 9 a.m. The conference switched from a six-team to an eight-team double-elimination tournament this season. Wednesday's winner will play the winner between No. 2 Nebraska and No. 7 Ohio State on Thursday at 5 p.m., while the two losing teams will meet at 9 a.m.

Big Ten Tournament History
Illinois reached conference postseason play for the second year in a row and seventh time in nine years under head coach Dan Hartleb. Illinois is 26-31 in 19 all-time appearances in the Big Ten Tournament and 7-10 in six trips under Hartleb. UI last won the event in 2011, when the Illini won a share of the regular season crown and were the No. 1 seed. UI went 3-0 at the 2011 event and advanced to the Fullerton Regional in the NCAA Tournament, where they reached the regional final. The Illini have won four Big Ten Tournaments in the history of the event, also taking titles in 1989, 1990 and 2000. Last season, the Orange and Blue went 1-2 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn., falling to Minnesota in game one, defeating Michigan in the second game and getting knocked out by the Gophers in game three.

Big Ten Tournament Coverage
The Big Ten Network will cover nearly every game of the Big Ten Tournament, with broadcasts scheduled for 12 of the possible 15 games. Games 1, 2 and 5 will not be aired, meaning the Illini's first game is not on BTN. 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

Six Illini Earn All-Big Ten Honors
Six Illinois baseball players earned All-Big Ten honors and two were named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team, announced the conference office Tuesday. Five Illini - catcher Jason Goldstein, shortstop Adam Walton, outfielder Will Krug, starting pitcher John Kravetz and relief pitcher Tyler Jay - were selected to the Second Team, while outfielder Casey Fletcher was on the Third Team. Walton also received recognition as an All-Big Ten Freshman honoree along with third baseman Ryne Roper, and Krug was chosen as the team's Sportsmanship Award winner.

Each Illinois player collected an All-Big Ten laurel for the first time in his career. The six selections equals the most recipients honored in a season under ninth-year head coach Dan Hartleb and ties the most since 2005.

Three Comebacks vs. Michigan State
Illinois clinched a berth into the 2014 Big Ten Tournament with a sweep of Michigan State at Illinois Field (May 2-4) behind the heroics of junior Casey Fletcher. The Illini won all three games by one run with comeback victories, capped off by consecutive walk-off wins. MSU took a 4-2 lead with a three-run eighth in game one but Illinois responded with three runs in the bottom half and pulled out a 5-4 victory in the opener. Fletcher homered twice on Saturday before giving Illinois a 5-4 victory with a bases-loaded, walk-off RBI single in the 10th. Senior Ronnie Muck earned his first win of the year following four scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Illinois overcame an 8-3 deficit with four runs in the seventh and three in the ninth to win 10-9 in the finale. Fletcher poked a game-winning two-run single the opposite way with two outs in the bottom of the ninth for his second walk-off hit in as many days.

Series History with Michigan State
Illinois leads the all-time series with Michigan State by a 73-62 margin after sweeping the Spartans in Champaign this season. Illinois is 3-1 against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament, winning the last three postseason meetings with the Spartans. The Illini fell in the first tournament meeting in 1992, but defeated MSU in the first round in 2009 and twice in 2011 on their way to the Big Ten title. Illinois and Michigan State have faced each other in each of the past 15 seasons, with the Illini holding a 37-21 advantage in that span.

Last Time Out
Illinois wrapped up the regular season by going 1-2 at Nebraska. Starter Drasen Johnson turned in his second career complete game in the opener but suffered the loss in a 2-1 final. The Illini rebounded with a 5-1 victory in game two with a strong pitching performance from Kevin Duchene and Ronnie Muck and the first career home run by Adam Walton. Illinois led 4-2 after five innings, but Nebraska tied it on a controversial balk in the sixth and hit a walk-off three-run homer to steal the finale in the 10th, 7-4.

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. Illinois' previous record for Big Ten series sweeps was three, which it last accomplished in 2009. The Orange and Blue also tallied three road Big Ten series sweeps for the first time in school history.

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 31-19 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 275-218 (9 seasons: 2006-present)
5. Tom Dedin 268-234-6 (9 seasons: 1979-87)

Best Big Ten Mark under Hartleb
Illinois finished with its best Big Ten record at 17-7 during the conference's 24-game schedule era, which began in 2009, and under head coach Dan Hartleb. It marks the most conference wins under Hartleb, with the previous best mark being 16. Illinois' 10-2 mark on the road in Big Ten games also marks its best during the 24-game conference schedule, bettering the mark from 2009 (9-3). UI finished in the top three in the Big Ten for the second time under Hartleb. It is the first time the Illini placed third in the conference under Hartleb and marks the second-best finish behind the 2011 Big Ten Championship.

Setting School Records
The Illini set school records in Big Ten play (24-game schedule) for ERA (3.54), eclipsing their previous mark of 4.16 from 2013, and strikeouts (157), surpassing their mark of 135 from 2013. The 157 strikeouts also rank as the most punch outs in any Big Ten season, topping the previous mark of 155 during a 32-game season in 1997. Overall, the Illini also could break the school record for season ERA from 1976 (3.43 ERA), as their current mark is a 3.22 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. The Orange and Blue went 1-3 in the next four games before starting its season-long seven-game winning streak, which marked their longest since 2011 when they rolled off eight straight on their way to the Big Ten regular season and tournament title. The Illini enter the Big Ten Tournament at 31-19 overall after finishing 1-2 at Nebraska.

Comparing Wins and Losses
In Illinois' 30 wins this year, the Illini are hitting .301 and have a 2.08 ERA, while in their 19 losses, they are batting .225 and have a 5.22 ERA.

Winning the Close Ones
After starting the season 3-6 in one-run games, Illinois won eight of its final nine games decided by one run. The Illini are 11-7 in one-run games and have 16 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 (2.32), eighth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.95), 37th in WHIP (1.24) and 50th in ERA (3.22), which is the fourth-best earned run average in the Big Ten. The Illini lead the Big Ten with 114 walks allowed followed by Penn State in second at 141.

Jay's Dominant in Closer Role
Sophomore Tyler Jay leads the Illini bullpen with a 2.06 ERA and has a 4-1 record with nine saves in a team-high 22 appearances. He has not allowed a run in 16 of 22 appearances and is holding opponents to a .200 average. His nine saves are ranked fourth 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
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 14 runs in his final six starts: one against Michigan (4/11), two at Penn State (4/18) three against Indiana (4/25), two against Michigan State (5/2), three at Iowa (5/9) and one at Nebraska (5/15). The Illini have scored 35 runs of support in his 14 starts, which is the lowest average among regular starters at 2.5. The Chillicothe, Ill., native is 5-6 with a 3.03 ERA (11th in Big Ten) and a team-high 69 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 2.68 ERA in seven Big Ten starts. Overall, he is a team-best 6-1 with a 3.15 ERA. 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 41 starts and one relief appearance while totaling 249.2 career innings, placing him 3.1 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). In his third start back, he allowed one run over six innings and picked up the win at Nebraska (5/16) to improve to 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA in eight starts this season.

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 11th in the Big Ten in hits (66) and fourth in stolen bases (20). The Park Ridge, Ill., native has a team-high 22 multi-hit games and ranks third on the Illini with a .311 average. He also leads the team in Big Ten games with a .337 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.