Illini Open NCAA Tournament Play Against Top-Seeded Titans

The Illini hope to have more to celebrate when NCAA Tournament play begins at the Fullerton Regional on Friday.
The Illini hope to have more to celebrate when NCAA Tournament play begins at the Fullerton Regional on Friday.

June 1, 2011

Illinois NCAA Regional Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Illinois at NCAA Regional
June 3 // @ #11 Cal State Fullerton // Goodwin Field // 10 pm // Fullerton, Calif.
June 4 // vs. #20 Stanford/Kansas State // Goodwin Field // TBD // Fullerton, Calif.
All times Central

Tournament Insider
Illinois (28-25, 15-9 Big Ten) at #11 Cal State Fullerton (40-15, 19-5 Big West)
ESPNU (PBP: Justin Kutcher; Color: Morgan Ensberg)
Live Streaming: ESPN3
Radio: WDWS AM-1400 (all) & WHMS FM-97.5 (Fri) (PBP: Dave Loane; Color: Ben Taylor)
Live Audio: Available on (free)
Live Stats: Gametracker on
Series: Fullerton leads 3-1
Last Meeting: Fullerton swept series, 3-0 (2/28-3/1/92)
Streak: L3

Game 1 Starter
Kevin Johnson (RHP, So., 2-6, 4.33 ERA)
Fullerton: Tyler Pill (RHP, Jr., 6-1, 2.08 ERA)

Game 2 Starter
John Anderson (RHP, 7-6, 4.40 ERA)

Series vs. Stanford: Teams have never met

Series vs. Kansas State: Illinois leads 3-1
Last Meeting: Illinois won 10-7 (2/21/03)
Streak: W2

Illinois Is...
...On an 8-game winning streak, 2nd-longest in the nation
...9-1 in its last 10 games
...16-4 in its last 20 games
...15-9 when the bullpen gets the decision
...24-4 when out-hitting its opponent
...25-1 when tied or ahead after the 7th inning
...21-2 when scoring 7 or more runs
...17-7 when holding opponents to 4 or fewer runs
...19-5 when scoring 4 or more runs in an inning
...14-5 when wearing its white uniforms
...out-scoring opponents 35-7 in the 9th inning

Team Notes
• Illini Reach NCAA Tournament:
Illinois earned the automatic bid out of the Big Ten to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, earning a spot in the Fullerton Regional, by winning the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini scored four in the bottom of the ninth to beat fourth-seeded Ohio State on May 26 before beating No. 2 seed Michigan State in consecutive games on May 27 and 28, 4-1 and 9-1, respectively. It is Illinois' first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2000 and ninth in school history.

• Illinois on 8-Game Win Streak: Illinois currently is on an eight-game winning streak, which is tied for the second-longest streak in the country. James Madison has a nine-game winning streak, while Seton Hall and SIU Edwardsville both are tied with Illinois with an eight-game streak. The Illini also are one of six teams in the NCAA Tournament field that are 9-1 in their last 10 games (JMU, SHU, Sacred Heart, Maine, Creighton).

• Illini Finish Strong: Illinois has won 11 of its last 13 games and 16 of its last 20, the team's best finish to a season since the 1947 Illini squad also went 16-4 in its last 20, the 1953 team was 12-1 in its last 13 (11-2 in 2011) and the 1997 team went 14-2 in its last 16 (13-3 in 2011).

• Orange & Blue Heat Up in Stretch Run: After scuffling for much of the season, Illinois has hit its stride in the stretch run. The Illini have won 16 of their last 20 games after losing 11 of their first 15 games in the month of April. Their current 28-25 record is the first time the Orange and Blue have been three games over the .500 mark in 2011.

• Comeback Kids Come Through Regularly: Illinois has recorded comeback victories in 19 of their 28 wins, meaning the Illini trailed at some point in the game and ended up winning. The Orange and Blue also have had a flair for dramatic late-inning comebacks, with six comeback wins in their last at bat and 10 wins in their last at bat in all. From May 15-26, Illinois won four of five games in its last at bat, including two walk-off home runs.

• Illini Share Big Ten Title: The Orange and Blue won a share of the Big Ten title with their sweep of Indiana May 19-21, Illinois' first Big Ten championship since winning it outright in 2005. After opening the Big Ten season 4-6, the Illini went 11-3 to tie Michigan State for the league championship.

• Illini Record Most Series Wins in History: Illinois won six of its eight Big Ten series in 2011, marking the school record for Big Ten series victories. That surpasses the 1990 team, which won five Big Ten series.

• 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 12-3 record so far in May with a .314 team average and 4.74 team ERA. No players have responded to the new month better than Josh Parr and Chris Pack, as Parr is hitting .365 in May compared to .229 in April and Pack has a 1.02 ERA in 17 2/3 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 19 games, as the team batting average has jumped 18 points to .284. In that span, the Illini have averaged 11.1 hits and 7.0 runs per game, recording double-digit hits 12 times and double-digit runs five times. Illinois has recorded nine or more hits 16 times in its last 19 games and more than six runs 13 times.

• Arms Shut Down Opponents: The Illini pitching staff has held its own lately as well, posting a 2.00 ERA in last week's Big Ten Tournament and a 3.94 ERA over the last 10 games. Illinois has limited opponents to four earned runs or less seven times in that stretch and to eight or fewer hits eight times. The Illini also have limited walks and increased strikeouts in the last 10 games, issuing only 24 free passes while fanning 52 and holding opponents to a .242 batting average.

• Illini Win 5 Consecutive Series: Illinois caught fire at the end of the Big Ten season, winning five straight series over Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue and Indiana. It is the first time in school history that the Illini have won five consecutive series. The key has been Illinois' above-average play in series finales, going 6-2 in the last game of Big Ten series in 2011.

• Streaking Through 2011: The Fighting Illini have had four losing streaks of three games or more this year and three 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, a three-game winning streak from April 23-26 and an eight-game winning streak from May 14-present.

• 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 8.0 runs, 11.9 hits, 7.6 hits allowed and 0.71 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 8.0-4.1 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 .548 rate in wins compared to a .391 rate in defeats.

Player Notes
• Dittman Brings Power Surge:
Senior first baseman Matt Dittman saved his best effort for his last game at Illinois Field as he hit a two-out, two-run walk-off home run to clinch Illinois' series sweep over Indiana on May 21, his second homer of the weekend. At the Big Ten Tournament, he kept the power going with two homers in three games - his only two hits of the tournament - including a grand slam that gave Illinois a 5-0 lead on Michigan State in the third inning of the championship game. Dittman has now hit four home runs in his last six games after hitting two in the first 47 of 2011.

• `Pistol Pete' Becomes Automatic: Second baseman Pete Cappetta has nearly become automatic at the top of the Illini order lately, raising his average 104 points by hitting .400 in the last 20 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 11 multiple-hit games in the last 20, including a four-hit day and four three-hit games, and had a 16-game hit streak in Big Ten play from April 10-May 15 (see page 6). Cappetta finished the Big Ten season second in average in conference games at .403, second in steals (10) and OBP (.478) and tenth in slugging (.545).

• 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 .399 in the last 36 games with 10 doubles, a triple, 22 RBIs and 21 runs. He won the Big Ten batting title with a .411 average in conference games, ranked second in hits (39) and sixth in on-base percentage (.454). It was the first batting title for an Illinois player since Luke Simmons in 2001. Parr also was named to the All-Big Ten Tournament team after hitting .429 over the three games Illinois played.

• Pack Pours it On: Reliever Chris Pack has picked it up recently, going 4-0 with a 1.02 ERA and one save in 17 2/3 innings across nine appearances in May. He has allowed only eight hits while striking out nine and walking one this month, posting a .133 opponent batting average. He has lowered his ERA by 2.27 runs since April 24, most recently pitching over an inning in each of Illinois' first two wins at the Big Ten Tournament, earning a win against Ohio State and a save against Michigan State.

• 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 four of his last five starts. 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. He then tossed a complete game in the Big Ten Tournament championship game against Michigan State, allowing one run on seven hits with a career-high seven strikeouts and no walks. Illinois has won his last six starts, as he has allowed 17 earned runs in 37 innings against Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Indiana and MSU.

• Joyce, Braun Stifle Opponents: Closer Wes Braun and reliever Luke Joyce have been stellar recently, allowing only two earned runs between them in the months of April and May. They have combined for a 0.75 ERA over 24 combined innings in that span. Braun has allowed one earned run in 12 2/3 innings over 11 appearances in that span, while Joyce has given up one earned run in 11 1/3 innings over nine appearances.

• Anderson Goes the Distance: Senior starting pitcher John Anderson has been excellent at times this season, his first campaign as a starter. Anderson tossed four complete games to tie for the Big Ten lead in CGs, going the distance against Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern. And he has been at his best away from Illinois Field, going 5-3 with a 3.08 ERA, 3 complete games and 64 1/3 innings in 10 road or neutral-site starts.

• 6 Illini Named All-Big Ten Tournament: Starting pitchers John Anderson and Corey Kimes, catcher Adam Davis, first baseman Matt Dittman, center fielder Willie Argo and DH Justin Parr all were named to the All-Big Ten Tournament team after Illinois swept its three games to win the tournament title. Davis also was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament after hitting .385 with three doubles, two RBIs and a run.

• 6 Illini Named All-Big Ten: Catcher Adam Davis, shortstop Josh Parr and second baseman Pete Cappetta were named to the All-Big Ten second team, while center fielder Willie Argo, left fielder Casey McMurray and closer Wes Braun were named to the third team. Thomas Lindauer also was named to the All-Freshman team at shortstop.

Illini Grab No. 4 Seed at Fullerton Regional
Illinois, winners of its last eight and 16 of its last 20 games, earned the No. 4 seed at the Fullerton Regional in the NCAA Tournament. It is the Illini's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2000, when the Orange and Blue played in the Clemson Regional. Illinois now has reached the NCAA Tournament nine times in school history - 1947, 1948, 1962, 1963, 1989, 1990, 1998, 2000, 2011 - and has a 13-15 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament.

The Illini reached the NCAA Tournament by winning the Big Ten Tournament, going 3-0 at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio. Illinois used a four-run ninth-inning comeback to beat fourth-seeded Ohio State in its opener, then topped No. 2 seed Michigan State twice, 4-1 and 9-1, to win the championship. It is Illinois' first Big Ten Tournament title since 2000 and marks the first time in school history that the Illini have won both the Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships.

Illinois at the NCAA Tournament
Illinois is 13-15 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and last reached the event in 2000, when the Illini advanced to the Clemson Regional in the NCAA Tournament. The Orange and Blue narrowly missed at-large berths in 2005 and 2009 when they compiled records of 33-23-1 and 34-20, respectively. Below is a list of Illinois' NCAA Tournament appearances and records:

Year	Tournament	Site	Record
1947	Eastern Finals	New Haven, Conn.	0-1
1948	District IV Playoffs	Champaign, Ill.	2-0
1948	Eastern Finals	Winston-Salem, N.C.	0-2
1962	District IV Playoffs	Kalamazoo, Mich.	1-2
1963	District IV Playoffs	Champaign, Ill.	3-2
1989	Northeast Regional	Waterbury, Conn.	1-2
1990	South II Regional	Starkville, Miss.	2-2
1998	South I Regional	Gainesville, Fla.	3-2
2000	Clemson Regional	Clemson, S.C.	1-2

Illinois Against the NCAA Tournament Field
Illinois faced one other team in the NCAA Tournament field, falling to Stetson, 5-3, on March 5 on the Hatters' home field.

Illinois Against the Fullerton Regional Field
Illinois has a short history against all of the teams at the Fullerton Regional, holding a 1-3 record against the host Titans and a 3-1 record against Kansas State. The Illini have never faced Stanford.

The Orange and Blue beat Fullerton, 10-8, on March 22, 1990, as part of Illinois' Spring Break trip that season under former head coach Augie Garrido. However, Fullerton returned the favor by sweeping a three-game series from the Illini on Feb. 28-March 1, 1992, after Garrido returned to lead the Titans and Richard "Itch" Jones had taken over the helm of the Illini.

Illinois beat KSU, 8-7, on March 25, 1988, and the teams split a pair of games in 1991, with the Wildcats taking a 9-5 victory on March 10, 1991, and Illinois winning, 3-2, on March 11. The Illini also grabbed a 10-7 win over KSU in the 2003 season opener, on Feb. 23 of that year.

Illini Run Rampant
Willie Argo's school-record 41 stolen bases led an Illini base-stealing crew that ranked second all-time in school history in 2010. Illinois' 114 steals last season also represents the third time in the last four years that Illinois has topped 100 steals in a season. The Illini also nabbed 101 bases in 2008 and 109 in 2007.

Illinois has been active on the basepaths in 2011, swiping 95-of-125 bags, and Argo leads the team with 25-of-34 steals. Josh Parr, Pete Cappetta and Adam Davis also have 10 or more steals, with Parr going 17-for-19, Davis going 15-for-18 and Cappetta going 14-for-15 on the season. Illinois has been very efficient on the basepaths lately, going 30-for-32 over the last 13 games.

*Complete NCAA Tournament notes available in the above PDF file