Illini to Face Gophers in Big Ten Tournament Opener

Senior Brandon Hohl and the Illini will look to win the Big Ten Tournament for the second time in the past three years.
Senior Brandon Hohl and the Illini will look to win the Big Ten Tournament for the second time in the past three years.

May 21, 2013

 #5 Illinois (33-16, 14-10 Big Ten) vs. #4 Minnesota (30-20, 13-8 Big Ten)
 Game 1 Wednesday, May 22, 2013 | 12:05 p.m.
 Game 2 Thursday, May 23, 2013 | TBA
 Location Target Field | Minneapolis, Minn.
 B1G Links Big Ten Tournament Central
 Live Stats Gametracker
 Live Video Big Ten Network (Kevin Kugler & Danan Hughes)
 Live Audio ($) Fighting Illini All-Access
 Radio WDWS AM-1400 (Dave Loane & Matt Wille)
 Game Notes Illinois | Minnesota
 Game 1 Pitching  Matchup ILL: Kevin Duchene (LHP, Fr., 8-1, 2.67 ERA)
MINN: Tom Windle (LHP, Jr., 6-4, 2.05 ERA)
 Game 2 Pitching  Matchup ILL: TBA
 Series History Minnesota leads 105-98-1
 Neutral Games Minnesota leads 7-2
 Last Meeting Illinois won series, 2-1
 Streak Lost 1
 Social Media @IlliniBaseball   |  Facebook
 Preview Interviews Coach Hartleb | Kevin Duchene | Justin Parr

Illinois Is...
...seeking its fifth Big Ten Tournament title
...playing Minnesota for the fourth straight game
...30th in the NCAA RPI, second highest in the Big Ten
...averaging 6.5 runs & nearly 11 hits per game
...24-1 when leading after seven innings
...26-4 when out-hitting opponent
...25-6 when scoring first

Big Ten Tournament Preview
How We Got Here: Illinois clinched a berth into the Big Ten Tournament by taking two out of three from Minnesota at Siebert Field in the final series of the year. The Illini tied for fifth in the Big Ten with Michigan at 14-10 and won the tiebreaker with the Wolverines due to a better record against common conference opponents (ILL: 13-8 vs. MICH: 12-9). Fifth-seeded Illinois will play fourth-seeded Minnesota in the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday, May 22, at 12:05 p.m. The Illini and Gophers will meet for the fourth game in a row after ending the year playing each other.

Series History against Minnesota: By winning two out of three last week against Minnesota, the Illini have captured the last four series victories over the Gophers, including wins in 2011 (2-1), 2009 (2-1) and 2008 (3-1). UM holds a narrow 105-98-1 advantage all-time against Illinois, and the Illini are just 2-10 against the Gophers in the Big Ten Tournament. Head coach Dan Hartleb is 13-11 overall against the Gophers.

Illinois Big Ten Tournament History: After missing the tournament last season due to a tiebreaker, Illinois returns to conference postseason play for the sixth time in eight years under head coach Dan Hartleb. Illinois is 25-29 in 18 all-time appearances in the Big Ten Tournament and 6-8 in five 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.

Staying in Minneapolis: Illinois, which packed for a potential 12-day trip, arrived in Minneapolis on May 15 for its final Big Ten series against Minnesota. Following the three-game set, the Illini remained in the city for the next three days before the tournament, where they took in a Twins game at Target Field, practiced at Siebert Field and visited the Mall of America.

Big Ten Conference Honors
Big Ten Player of the Year: Senior Justin Parr became the eighth Illini to earn Player of the Year honors and first since catcher Lars Davis in 2007. Parr - who is a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, which is given to college baseball's top player - turned in the second-longest hitting streak in the nation in 2013 with a school-record mark of 33 games. The Chillicothe, Ill., native finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in the NCAA in average at .415 and 10th in hits with 85, which both led the Big Ten. He was named Big Ten Player of the Week after hitting for the cycle against Purdue and has not made an error in center field. He also led the Big Ten in RBI (51), on-base percentage (.472) and total bases (125) along with ranking second in slugging (.610) and triples (4). He is attempting to become the 23rd Illinois player - and only the second since 1996 - to hit .400 for a season and would be the first since Davis landed at an even .400 in 2007.

Freshman of the Year: Freshman Kevin Duchene joins pitcher/first baseman Bubba Smith (1989) as the only other Illini to win Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The Joliet, Ill., native compiled an 8-1 record in his rookie season, tying for the most wins in the Big Ten and equaling the most victories ever by an Illini freshman. His 2.67 ERA ranked eighth overall in the Big Ten, while his 1.74 ERA in conference games was third-best in the Big Ten. He tossed a two-hit shutout with a career-high 11 strikeouts against Penn State, matching the most batters fanned by an Illini since 2002.

3 First-Team All-Big Ten Picks: Three first-team All-Big Ten selections - first baseman David Kerian, shortstop Thomas Lindauer and center fielder Justin Parr - is the most by an Illini squad since having five in 2005. Lindauer gives Illinois a first-team All-Big Ten shortstop for the first time since Brandon Wikoff in 2009. The Moline, Ill., native, who shared the distinction with Ohio State's Kirby Pellant, was named to the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Watch List for the second year in a row. He tied for the second-most home runs in the Big Ten with all nine of his career homers coming this season. He tallied the most runs (41) and total bases (101) among shortstops, with his total bases standing sixth in the Big Ten, and had the highest slugging percentage (.505), which was seventh-best in the conference. Defensively, he tied for third in the Big Ten in assists (158) and sixth in double plays (39). Kerian's first-team All-Big Ten selection at first base is the first by an Illini since Dusty Bensko in 2005. The Dakota Dunes, S.D., native led conference first baseman in on-base percentage (.409) and average (.331), which were tied for ninth and 11th overall in the Big Ten, respectively. He was the only first baseman with double-figure steals, tying for the sixth-most in the Big Ten with 20 stolen bases. He also boasted a .991 fielding percentage and tied for the fewest errors among first baseman with four during his breakout sophomore season.

2 Second-Team All-Big Ten Selections: Big Ten Freshman of the Year Kevin Duchene and redshirt-junior left fielder Jordan Parr were both second-team All-Big Ten selections. Duchene is the first UI pitcher to be picked as high as the second team since Tanner Roark in 2007. Jordan Parr nabbed second-team All-Big Ten honors for the first time in his two-year career at Illinois. The Chillicothe, Ill., native notched the most runs (46) and walks (30) among outfielders, which tied for third and fourth in the Big Ten, respectively. He also tied for third in the Big Ten in stolen bases (22) and fourth in home runs (6) while hitting .321. His 40 RBI ranked seventh in the conference and his six outfield assists led the Illini.

All-Big Ten Freshman Team: Pitcher Kevin Duchene and catcher Jason Goldstein were named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team. Goldstein was the first true-freshman to start at catcher for Illinois since 1992. The Highland Park, Ill., native led the Big Ten in runners caught stealing (11) in conference games and handled the Illini pitching staff admirably in his debut season. He hit .246 with 11 RBI and 18 runs in his first season behind the dish.

Illini Team Notes
NCAA RPI Breakdown: Illinois owns the second highest RPI among Big Ten teams, checking in at No. 30 in the latest rankings, behind only Indiana (No. 14).

Illini Reach 30 Wins: With its 8-6 win over Penn State (5/11) in game two of the series, the Illini garnered their 30th victory, marking the fifth time they have reached 30 wins under head coach Dan Hartleb in eight seasons. Illinois is currently 33-16, which ranks as the second-most wins in the Hartleb era. The Illini's top win total under Hartleb came in 2009 when the club finished 34-20.

Perfect at Neutral Sites: Illinois is 7-0 in games at neutral sites in 2013. The Illini won all three neutral contests at the Keith LeClair Classic in Greenville, N.C., and defeated HBU in both games at Texas-Arlington. UI also downed SIU in extra innings at Rent One Park on Marion, Ill., and knocked off Missouri at Busch Stadium.

Hits Translate to Wins: Illinois is 26-4 on the season when out-hitting its opponent and just 4-11 when getting out-hit by an opponent (also 3-1 when hits are equal). The Illini have recorded double-digit hits in 26 games this season. UI is averaging nearly 11 hits per game and ranks third in the Big Ten with 523 hits and a .301 batting average, which is ranked 30th in the NCAA.

Comeback Victories: The Illini have 12 comeback victories on the season and eight wins in their last at-bats. Their most recent one came in the series finale against Penn State (5/12) when they overcame a four-run deficit in the final three innings to win 5-4. With the game tied at four in the bottom of the eighth, sophomore David Kerian led off the inning with a walk and advanced all the way to third on a failed pickoff attempt. On a 3-1 count, Reid Roper sent a single up the middle through the drawn-in infield, bringing home Kerian for his second game-winning hit this season.

Second in Steals: The Illini rank second in the Big Ten with 101 stolen bases in 124 attempts, which is ranked in 20th in the NCAA. Redshirt-junior Jordan Parr leads the team and is tied for third in the Big Ten with 22 steals, while sophomore David Kerian is tied for sixth in the conference with 20 stolen bases. Eleven different Illini have at least one stolen base, and the Orange and Blue have boast four in double figures.

Early Offense Key for Illini: The Illini are 14-6 when scoring in the first inning and 25-6 when scoring before their opponent. Illinois is outscoring its opponents 48-29 in the first frame, which is its highest-scoring inning. UI ranks second in the Big Ten with 317 runs and has outscored its opponents (215 runs) in every inning. The Illini are averaging 6.5 runs per game in 2013 and have reached double figures in nine games.

Freshmen in the Rotation: Three freshmen pitchers, left-hander Kevin Duchene and right-handers Nick Blackburn and Ryan Castellanos, have been in the weekend rotation and combined for a 13-3 record in 39 total appearances, including 22 starts. Duchene (8-1) is tied for first in the Big Ten in wins after his final victory at Minnesota (5/16) and two-hit shutout vs. Penn State (5/10). He also picked up victories out of the bullpen vs. Purdue (4/13) and Missouri at Busch Stadium (4/2) and in starts at Illinois State (4/16) and vs. Oakland (3/30, game 1), Ohio (2/22) and Houston Baptist (3/1). Castellanos (3-1) won his first two career starts at Indiana (4/7) and vs. Purdue (4/14) and earned the win vs. Penn State (5/11). Blackburn (2-1) has notched wins over Boston College (2/24) and HBU (3/2), while suffering his only loss vs. Oakland (3/31).

Clutch Two-out Hitting: Illinois is hitting .318 (191-for-600) with two outs in an inning and has three players hitting over .390 when faced with the situation in sophomore David Kerian (.436, 24-for-55), sophomore Michael Hurwitz (.404, 23-for-57) and senior Justin Parr (32-for-82, .390). The Illini have 124 total two-out RBI, with six players in double figures - Justin Parr (21), Jordan Parr (18), Michael Hurwitz (18), David Kerian (18), Thomas Lindauer (13) and Reid Roper (10).