2014 Illinois Baseball Season Review

July 10, 2014

2014 Illinois Baseball Final Notes
Final Record32-21 overall // 17-7 Big Ten (3rd)
Final StatsGame-by-Game & Cumulative Stats
Game NotesPrintable Final Notes
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...played in the Big Ten Tournament for the seventh time under Hartleb and 20th overall
...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
...set the school record for Team ERA (3.25), Big Ten ERA (3.54) and strikeouts in Big Ten play (157)
...notched a school-record four Big Ten sweeps
...had six players named All-Big Ten
...was ranked No. 56 in the NCAA RPI
...ranked seventh in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.92) and eighth in walks allowed per nine innings (2.37) in NCAA
...RHP Ronnie Muck was drafted by the Angels
...LHP Tyler Jay was named second-team All-Region and made the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team roster

Big Ten Tournament Recap
Illinois (32-21) reached conference postseason play for the second year in a row and seventh time in nine years under head coach Dan Hartleb. The Illini went 1-2 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, falling twice to Michigan State. The Orange and Blue dropped the opener, 2-1, to the Spartans, stayed alive with a 6-5 victory over Ohio State and finished the season with an 11-2 defeat to MSU. Illinois is 27-33 in 20 all-time appearances in the Big Ten Tournament and 8-12 in seven trips under Hartleb.

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 ranked as the most conference wins under Hartleb, with the previous best mark being 16. Illinois' 10-2 record on the road in Big Ten games also marks its best during the 24-game conference schedule, bettering the record 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.

Illini Broke Team ERA Record
Illinois' pitching staff broke the school record for team ERA from 1976 (3.43 ERA) with a mark of 3.25 ERA in 2014. UI allowed 171 earned runs in 474 innings this year. The Illini also 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.

Streaking at Times
Illinois had 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 went 1-2 at Nebraska and 1-2 in the Big Ten Tournament to finish 32-21.

School Record 4 Big Ten Sweeps
Illinois 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.

Six Illini Named All-Big Ten
Six Illinois baseball players earned All-Big Ten honors and two were named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team. 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.

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 32-21 this season, Hartleb registered his sixth 30-win season in nine years and has twice taken Illinois to an NCAA Regional. 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 276-220 (9 seasons: 2006-present)
5. Tom Dedin 268-234-6 (9 seasons: 1979-87)

UI Pitching in NCAA Stat Rankings
In the final NCAA stat rankings, Illinois ranked seventh in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.92), eighth in walks allowed per nine innings (2.37), 40th in WHIP (1.25) and 49th in ERA (3.25), which was the fourth-best earned run average in the Big Ten. The Illini led the Big Ten with 125 walks allowed followed by Penn State in second at 141.

Comparing Wins and Losses
In Illinois' 32 wins this year, the Illini hit .304 and had a 2.05 ERA, while in their 19 losses, they batted .223 and have a 5.20 ERA.

Winning the Close Ones
After starting the season 3-6 in one-run games, Illinois won nine of its final 11 games decided by one run. The Illini were 12-8 in one-run games and had 16 comeback victories.

Muck Drafted by Angels
Senior Ronnie Muck (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South HS) was selected on the final day of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft. The right-handed reliever was picked by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 30th round with pick No. 899. Muck completed his Illini career with a 6-6 record, nine saves and 3.63 ERA in 72 total appearances out of the bullpen. He pitched in two different NCAA Regionals, as a freshman in the 2011 Fullerton Regional and as a junior in the 2013 Nashville Regional. He posted 81 strikeouts in 101.2 career innings pitched while limiting opponents to a .235 career batting average. He made a career-high 23 appearances in 2012 (2-1, 4.36 ERA, 3 saves) followed by notching his best record and ERA in 2013 (3-1, 2.70 ERA, 2 saves). He equaled a career-high three saves in 2014 (1-4, 3.38 ERA) during his final season in orange and blue.

Jay Earned All-Region Honors
Sophomore Tyler Jay was voted to the ABCA/Rawlings All-Mideast Region Second Team after leading the Illini bullpen with a 1.94 ERA and boasting a 4-1 record with 10 saves in a team-high 23 appearances. He did not allow a run in 17 of 23 appearances and held opponents to a .190 average. His 10 saves ranked fourth in the Big Ten and were the second-most saves in a season in school history. The school record is held by Jeff Richards with 13 saves in 1989.

Jay Made USA Baseball CNT Roster
Sophomore Tyler Jay was named to the 24-man roster for the USA Collegiate National Team over the summer. Jay earned a spot to compete in international competition this summer following a strong performance on the mound during Team USA's Training Camp games from June 21-29.

Walton A Freshman All-American
Redshirt-freshman Adam Walton was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American at shortstop by Collegiate Baseball newspaper. The Buffalo Grove, Illinois, native became the Illini's 12th Freshman All-American in school history and fifth in the last seven years, joining outfielder Casey McMurray in 2008, outfielder Willie Argo in 2009, multiple-position player Reid Roper in 2012 and starting pitcher Kevin Duchene last season. Walton, who was granted a medical redshirt after nearly missing all of last season with a broken finger, earned second-team All-Big Ten honors and Big Ten All-Freshman recognition in his first full season of action. He led the team with a .329 average following a torrid finish to the season and ranked second with 13 stolen bases.

Kravetz Shined in Big Ten Play
Junior John Kravetz led the starting staff with a 4-0 record and 2.68 ERA in seven Big Ten starts. Overall, he finished a team-best 6-1 with a 3.00 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 42 starts and one relief appearance while totaling 256.1 career innings, which ranks ninth all-time in the Illini record books. Kevin Johnson (2010-13) owns the school record with 334 career innings pitched.

Duchene's Return to the 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). He concluded the year with a victory over Ohio State (5/22) in the Big Ten Tournament to finish with a 4-1 record and 1.80 ERA in nine starts this season.

Johnson Didn't Get Support
Starter Drasen Johnson made a smooth transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation in 2014, but did not get 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). The Illini followed by only scoring 15 runs in his final seven 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) and against Michigan State (5/21). The Illini scored 36 runs of support in his 15 starts, which was the lowest average among regular starters at 2.4. The Chillicothe, Illinois, native was 5-6 with a 2.91 ERA (11th in Big Ten) and a team-high 79 strikeouts, which ranked second in the Big Ten.

Krug Led It Off
Junior Will Krug sparked the Illini offense in the leadoff spot and showcased his speed when he gets on base. He led the team with 69 hits and 20 stolen bases, which ranked fourth in the Big Ten. The Park Ridge, Illinois, native had a team-high 23 multi-hit games and ranked fourth on the Illini with a .307 average. He also led 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 picked up where he left off in 2013, where he hit .305 in 25 games before missing the second half of the season due to an arm injury.

Casey Fletcher Week
Junior Casey Fletcher collected multiple national and conference weekly laurels following his stellar week at the plate from April 30 to May 4. The Oakwood, Illinois, native headlined the Louisville Slugger National Players of the Week list from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and was recognized as a Week 12 Top Performer on along with being selected as the Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time.

Fletcher turned in a phenomenal week, beginning with three home runs against Southern Illinois on Wednesday (4/30). He finished 3-for-4 with a career-high five RBI and became the seventh Illini in school history to hit three home runs in a game. He followed it with two homers and a walk-off RBI single on Saturday (5/3) against Michigan State before being clutch again on Sunday (5/4) with a walk-off two-run single against MSU. For the week, the Illini right fielder hit .471 (8-for-17) with two walk-off winners, five home runs, 10 RBI and a 1.353 slugging percentage to lead Illinois to a perfect 4-0 record against SIU and Michigan State.

Fletcher Blasts 3 HR Against SIU
Junior Casey Fletcher hit three home runs to right field against Southern Illinois (4/30). The Oakwood, Illinois, native finished 3-for-4 with five RBI and became the seventh Illini with three home runs in a game and first since Willie Argo hit three at No. 1 LSU on March 7, 2009. Former Illini Bubba Smith set the Illinois record with four home runs in a game against UIC exactly 23 years before on April 30, 1991. Casey's father, former Illini Darrin Fletcher, is tied for fifth in school history with 38 career home runs, but never had a three home run game. A full list of all seven occurrences is listed below.

Illinois Baseball Players with Three Home Runs in a Game
2014 - Casey Fletcher vs. Southern Illinois (4/30/14)
2009 - Willie Argo at LSU (3/7/09)
2005 - Drew Davidson vs. Northwestern (5/8/05)
1998 - Kevin Rudden vs. Michigan (3/27/98)
1991 - Bubba Smith: 4 HR vs. UIC (4/30/91)*
1987 - Brad Wentz vs. Missouri (5/6/87 - DH Game 2)
1961 - Ernie Kumerow at Minnesota (5/13/61 - DH Game 1)

McDonnell Steps Up in Starts
Redshirt-junior Rob McDonnell stepped up in his five midweek starts this season and was 4-0 with a 3.67 ERA in nine total appearances on the year. He had 30 strikeouts in 27 innings pitched. The Barrington, Illinois, native had wins over Indiana State (3/18), Purdue (3/30), Eastern Illinois (4/22) and Southern Illinois (4/30). Prior to 2014, he made two starts in 2012 before being shut down due to Tommy John surgery and started for Illinois at Busch Stadium last season, throwing the first inning in the win over Mizzou.

Consecutive 1-0 Shutouts
Illinois pitched back-to-back 1-0 shutouts (at Northwestern, 4/6 and vs. Michigan, 4/11) for the second time in school history. The only other time it was done was May 16, 1969 as part of a doubleheader against Michigan State.

Ryne Roper: B1G Freshman of Week
Illinois third baseman Ryne Roper was tabbed Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the first time in his career after leading the Illini with a .417 average (5-for-12) during the sweep of Penn State in Happy Valley. The Harrisburg, Illinois, native scored three runs and notched three RBI on the weekend. Roper posted two-hit games in the series opener and finale. He also had a perfect fielding percentage at the hot corner with four assists and three putouts. Roper is the first Illini to win the award this season, with Illinois' last Big Ten Freshman of the Week going to Kevin Duchene (May 13, 2013).

Goldstein Lit Up the Midweek
Sophomore catcher Jason Goldstein dominated during Illinois' six midweek games, going 13-for-24 (.542) with five runs, a homer, 10 RBI and two walks. The Highland Park, Illinois, native hit his first collegiate home run as part of a 3-for-3 day against Indiana State (3/18), went a career-best 4-for-4 against Illinois State (3/26), finished 3-for-5 with two doubles at Illinois State (4/15) and tallied two RBI while going 1-for-4 vs. EIU (4/22). He had his first hitless midweek game against Missouri (4/23) but went 2-for-4 with two RBI in the final midweek game against Southern Illinois (4/30).

Walton's Streak Snapped at 18
After starting the season 0-for-20, Adam Walton went on career-high 18-game hitting streak from March 22 to April 22. He led Illinois with a .397 average (27-of-68) during that stretch, which ended against Missouri on April 23. His streak was the longest by an Illini this season and equaled shortstop Thomas Lindauer for the longest streak since Justin Parr's school-record 33-game mark in 2013.

Roper Repeats Home Run History
Redshirt-junior Reid Roper belted the first Illini home run of the season with a two-out, two-run bomb in the sixth inning of the season opener at Georgia State. The Harrisburg, Ill., native hit his second career Opening Day home run, as he also homered in his first career game as an Illini against Notre Dame on Feb. 17, 2012. The UI infielder also went deep in the second game of the year against GSU (2/15) and against Xavier (3/21), Northwestern (4/4) and Indiana (4/26), giving him a career-high five home runs, one behind Casey Fletcher for the team lead. Roper has the most career home runs (9) on the Illini roster, as he belted one homer in 2012 and a three in 2013.

Duchene, Nagle Nab Big Ten Honors
Following a 4-0 weekend in Gainesville, Florida, a pair of Illini earned conference honors on March 3. Sophomore Kevin Duchene was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, while sophomore Ryan Nagle was tabbed Big Ten Co-Player of the Week after helping Illinois to two wins each over No. 23 Florida and Florida Gulf Coast.

Duchene blanked the nationally ranked Gators 6-0 on Friday night with a three-hit shutout at McKethan Stadium. The Joliet, Ill., native struck out six during his first win of the year and needed just 100 pitches to record his second career complete-game shutout. He gave up three hits and two walks but faced just 31 batters thanks to a pair of double plays. He also was the last Illini to collect the weekly conference honor, winning it for the first time on May 13, 2013, following his two-hit shutout of Penn State.

Nagle recorded multiple hits in all four contests on the weekend while hitting .625 (10-for-16) during the sweep. He scored a team-high four runs with one in each game, helping the Illini outscore their opponents 23-4. He also had a pair of doubles and three RBI along with posting a .647 on-base percentage and a .750 slugging percentage. Nagle nabbed his first career Big Ten Player of the Week award and shared the honor with Indiana's Kyle Schwarber.

Sedlock's First Win
In Illinois' first victory of the season at Georgia State (2/15), freshman Cody Sedlock earned his first collegiate win in his first appearance after taking over on the mound with two outs in the first inning. For the season, Sedlock started three times and was 1-3 with a 3.41 ERA in 12 appearances.

Freshman McInerney Goes Deep
Freshman outfielder/designated hitter Pat McInerney became the first Illini true freshman to hit a home run since Brandon Hohl in 2010. McInerney went deep in the final game of the series at Georgia State (2/16), crushing a solo shot over the left-field wall at the GSU Baseball Complex.

Offensive Explosion in First Win
UI racked up a season-high 19 runs and 20 hits in its first win of the season at Georgia State. The Illini overcame a 5-0 hole in the first inning with an impressive offensive output. The last time Illinois had 20 hits in a game was last season against Purdue (April 14, 2013). It was the most runs scored by a Big Ten team this year and the most Illinois scored in a game since putting up 21 against Oakland (March 30, 2013). The 29 total runs in the series marked the most runs scored in a season's first three games since 2009 (32 runs).

Record in Big Ten Series Openers
Since the Big Ten switched from a four-game series format to three games in 2009, Illinois is 10-8 in its conference-opening series. The Illini swept Michigan State in 2009 (3-0), took two of three from Penn State in 2010 (2-1) and dropped two of three at Penn State in 2011 (1-2) and at Nebraska in 2012 (1-2). Last season, the Illini opened Big Ten play at home against Nebraska and went 1-2. Illinois went 2-1 against Purdue to start Big Ten play this season.

Infield Combinations
Illinois' infield had a new look in 2014 with two returners and two new faces making up the diamond. Junior David Kerian and started 51 games at first base, while redshirt-junior Reid Roper started the first six games at third base and the final 47 at second base. Freshman Ryne Roper started five games at shortstop and 45 games at third base, while redshirt-freshman Adam Walton made starts at second and third base before taking over the starting spot at shortstop on March 18. Redshirt-freshman Zack Kolakowski was the Opening Day starter at shortstop and started 11 games at the position, while freshman Matthew James saw time at first base.

Outfield Options
The Illini were forced to replace all three starting outfielders - LF Jordan Parr, CF Justin Parr and RF Davis Hendrickson - from last year's NCAA Regional team. Illinois' most used outfield this season featured sophomore Ryan Nagle in left, junior Will Krug in center and junior Casey Fletcher in right. Freshman Pat McInerney also started in right and left field, while junior Chase Hainline started the first game of the year in left followed by redshirt-freshman Adam Walton in the next two games before returning to the infield.

Regular Season Finale in Lincoln
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.

Iowa Sweep Recap
With its three wins at Iowa, Illinois earned its school-record fourth Big Ten series sweep, improved to 9-0 in conference road games and clinched a top three seed in the 2014 Big Ten Tournament. The Illini pitching staff, which had 26 strikeouts and seven walks on the weekend, held the Hawkeyes in check with four runs allowed and just three earned runs for a 1.00 ERA. Illinois fell behind 1-0 in the opener before battling back for a 4-1 victory. The Illini never trailed over the final 21 innings of the series, winning game two, 5-1, and sealing the sweep with a 4-2 victory on Sunday.

3 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.

SIU Midweek Contest
Junior Casey Fletcher hit three home runs to lead Illinois past Southern Illinois, 10-1, in the final midweek game of the season. Starter Rob McDonnell, who improved to 4-0, retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, notching four strikeouts and allowing one hit in three scoreless innings as part of a staff day.

Indiana Weekend Recap
Illinois went 1-2 against No. 24 Indiana at Illinois Field. The Illini dropped the opener, 9-3, but ended the Hoosiers' 10-game conference winning streak with a 2-1 victory on Saturday. Junior John Kravetz shined with one run over 7.1 innings and the bullpen closed out the Illini's eighth one-run win, with sophomore Tyler Jay collecting his seventh save. Junior Casey Fletcher hit .429 for the series and had the game-winning two-run double in the second inning. Illinois fell in the finale, 11-3, in a game that was called after eight innings due to rain. The Illini held their sixth-annual Bleacher Bum Barbecue and had the fifth-best crowd in school history with 3,185 fans at Illinois Field on Sunday.

Midweek Games vs. EIU & Mizzou
Illinois split its pair of midweek games near the end of April, winning its fourth straight in a 3-2 victory over Eastern Illinois (4/22) and having its streak snapped with a 5-2 loss to Missouri (4/23) at Busch Stadium. Against EIU, starter Rob McDonnell earned his third win with two hits and two runs allowed in five innings. Redshirt-sophomore Andrew Mamlic gave up one hit in three shutout stanzas and closer Tyler Jay registered his sixth save after surrendering two hits in the ninth. Against Mizzou, the Illini couldn't get the bats going at the home of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Tigers only mustered five hits and two of their five runs were unearned, while the Illini had six hits, led by freshman Ryne Roper who went 2-for-3.

Penn State Series Sweep
Illinois made comebacks in all three games to sweep Penn State in Happy Valley. The Illini scored four runs in the eighth inning to win game one, 6-3, followed by scoring four runs in the seventh and two in the eighth to capture game two, 8-3. PSU scored first in the finale before the Illini battled back and held on for a 7-6 victory. Illinois notched consecutive Big Ten road sweeps for the first time since 2009, which also both came against Northwestern and Penn State. The Illini scored six runs or more in each game, marking the first time they have done so on a weekend this season.

Michigan Weekend Recap
After Illinois extended its winning streak to six with a 1-0 victory over Michigan in the opener, the Illini dropped the final two games in the series to the Wolverines, 17-9 and 4-2, respectively. UI pitched back-to-back 1-0 shutouts (at Northwestern, 4/6 and vs. Michigan, 4/11) for the first time since May 16, 1969, which was part of a doubleheader against Michigan State and the only other time it has been done. Starter Drasen Johnson and closer Tyler Jay combined for a 1-0 shutout in the first game, which gave the Illini their longest scoreless streak of the season at 25 innings. UI gave up gave up a season-high 17 runs and 23 hits in game two and had four runners picked off in the finale.

Northwestern Series Sweep
Illinois earned its first three-game sweep of the season by shutting out Northwestern twice and outscoring the Wildcats 20-2 at Rocky Miller Park. The Illini pummeled NU, 13-0, in game one; used a four-run 10th inning to take game two, 6-2, in extras; and had its first 1-0 victory since 2008 in game three. Illinois' pitching staff only allowed two runs in 28 innings for a 0.64 ERA while recording 30 strikeouts and two walks. All three starters went deep into the game and the bullpen did not allow a run. Redshirt-junior Drasen Johnson tossed seven scoreless innings in his opener victory, sophomore Ryan Castellanos gave up two runs in seven innings of game two and junior John Kravetz turned in a career-high eight shutout innings in the series finale. It was UI's first Big Ten sweep since downing Penn State (May 10-12) at home in 2013. The last time UI swept a Big Ten series on the road was at Northwestern (April 27-29) in 2012. Illinois' last 1-0 victory was Feb. 24, 2008, vs. Lamar at the Al Ogletree Classic.

Series Victory Over Purdue
Illinois took two out of three from Purdue to win its first Big Ten series of the season. The Illini nearly completed a ninth-inning comeback but fell 4-3 in the opener. The Orange and Blue bounced back with a 6-2 victory behind a complete game from sophomore Ryan Castellanos and used early scoring to capture the finale, 8-3. Redshirt-freshman Adam Walton (.545) and junior Will Krug (.500) each shined offensively on the weekend, while the pitching staff only allowed nine runs and turned in a 2.67 ERA.

In-State Showdowns with ISU
Sophomore Jason Goldstein was clutch with two outs and finished a career-best 4-for-4 with three RBI in Illinois' 6-1 victory over Illinois State (3/26). Sophomore J.D. Nielsen was credited with his first career win following two scoreless relief innings as part of a staff day in which the Illini used six pitchers. In the return trip to Duffy Bass Field (4/15), Illinois committed a pair of costly errors and fell 6-2 to Illinois State. The Redbirds scored six runs in the first two innings, but only one run was earned. Sophomores Jason Goldstein and Adam Walton each went 3-for-5, as the Orange and Blue outhit ISU 10-8.

Illini Go 3-1 vs. Xavier
Illinois took three out of four from Xavier in its first home series of the season. The Illini outscored the Musketeers 17-11 and boasted a 2.47 ERA with 29 strikeouts. After dropping the opener, 6-2, the Illini swept the doubleheader on Saturday by scores of 6-1 and 6-2 followed by a dramatic walk-off suicide squeeze in the 13th inning for a 3-2 victory in the finale. Illinois' five pitchers combined for a season-high 18 strikeouts while holding the Musketeers scoreless over the final 12 innings on a 30-degree Sunday at Illinois Field. Junior Casey Fletcher excelled during the series, hitting .500 with three runs, three doubles, a home run and two RBI. Redshirt-freshman Adam Walton had a run and an RBI while hitting .500 (6-for-12).

UI Shuts Out Indiana State
Redshirt-junior Rob McDonnell earned his first career victory and sophomore Jason Goldstein hit his first career home run in Illinois' 8-0 shutout of Indiana State in the home opener at Illinois Field. In his first start of the year, McDonnell struck out a career-high six in five scoreless innings, while four relievers closed the contest with a scoreless inning apiece. The Illini posted their first shutout in a home opener since 1998 when they blanked Western Michigan, 6-0.

SIU Series Summary
Illinois dropped two out of three at Southern Illinois in the inaugural series at Itchy Jones Stadium. Sophomore Kevin Duchene took a perfect game into the seventh inning before cruising to a complete-game 5-1 victory in the opener. Duchene faced two over the minimum while allowing four hits and striking out six on 93 pitches. Illinois was unable to take the series from SIU, suffering one-run losses in both games of the doubleheader on Saturday. The Illini led 4-0 after one inning in the first game, but fell 6-5, while the offense was unable to get things going until the ninth inning of game two, as UI came up short, 3-2. Illinois outscored the Salukis 12-10 in the three-game series, but committed five errors, which proved costly.

Western Kentucky Wrap Up
Illinois was swept in a series for the first time since 2012, dropping all three games by a combined four runs at Western Kentucky. Field conditions forced Friday's game to be moved to Saturday as part of a doubleheader. In the opener, the Illini led 3-1 after seven innings but the bullpen allowed a three-run eighth, as UI fell 4-3. In game two on Saturday, junior David Kerian hit a go-ahead two-run homer to put the Illini up 3-2 in the third, but the Hilltoppers scored a run in the fifth, sixth and eighth to steal the nightcap, 5-3. In the finale, starter Drasen Johnson threw seven straight scoreless innings before allowing the only run of the game on a two-out RBI double in the eighth, as Illinois only managed four hits in a 1-0 loss to WKU. The offense struggled with a .245 average and only six runs in the three games at Nick Denes Field. The Illini only used five pitchers and sported a 3.38 ERA on the weekend but did not come away with a win.

Sweep of No. 23 Florida, FGCU
The Illini caught fire with a sweep of the Sunshine State (Feb. 28-March 2) behind four dominant pitching performances. Illinois opened with a 3-2 victory over Florida Gulf Coast on Friday afternoon followed by a 6-0 shutout of No. 23 Florida on Friday night. The bats came alive with a 9-1 victory over FGCU on Saturday, while the Orange and Blue took down the Gators again on Sunday by a score of 5-1. The Illini pitching staff posted a 1.00 ERA and all four starters - Ryan Castellanos (7 IP, 2 ER), Kevin Duchene (9 IP, 0 ER), John Kravetz (7 IP, 1 ER) and Drasen Johnson (6.1 IP, 0 ER) - came away with a win, respectively. Illinois' offense hit .300 on the weekend, drew 15 walks and outscored its opponents 23-4. Ryan Nagle was on fire with 10 hits in 16 at-bats for a .625 average while scoring a team-high four runs. Casey Fletcher hit .364 with three runs and three RBI, while Will Krug and Jason Goldstein each batted .333. Reid Roper had a .313 average with three runs and three RBI.

Baseball at the Beach Recap
Illinois went 1-2 at Caravelle Resort's Baseball at the Beach Tournament (Feb. 21-23), suffering two shutouts at Myrtle Beach. In the opening game, sophomore Kevin Duchene struck out a season-high seven over seven innings, but allowed a three-run homer in the fifth, which proved to be the only runs of the game in a 3-0 loss to George Mason. In the second game, redshirt-junior Drasen Johnson picked up his first win as a starter and sophomore Tyler Jay closed out his second career save in a 5-4 bounce-back victory at Coastal Carolina. Sophomore Ryan Nagle's three-run double highlighted a four-run fifth inning against the Chanticleers. UI drew eight walks in the final game of the weekend but only tallied three hits, as it fell to Connecticut, 6-0.

GSU Series Summary
Illinois dropped two out of three in the season-opening series against Georgia State despite leading after seven innings in all three games. UI fell in the season opener 5-4 in 10 innings, bounced back with a 19-13 victory in game two, and stumbled in the series finale, 10-6. The Illini scored 29 runs during the opening weekend, but the pitching staff allowed 28 runs with a 9.11 ERA. Junior Will Krug hit .438 (7-for-16) and scored five runs, while sophomore Ryan Nagle recorded a .417 average (5-for-12) with five RBI. Redshirt-junior Reid Roper homered twice and posted a team-high seven RBI, while freshman Pat McInerney hit .385 with a home run in his collegiate debut weekend. Freshman pitcher Cody Sedlock earned his first collegiate victory in his first appearance, tossing 4.1 innings of relief in game two of the series.

Illini Picked T-5th in B1G Poll
Illinois was picked to finish tied for fifth in the Big Ten in the preseason poll voted on by the conference coaches. The Illini received the same number of votes as Michigan, while Indiana was the unanimous choice as the preseason favorite to claim the Big Ten Championship followed by Nebraska (2nd), Ohio State (3rd) and Michigan State (4th). Starting pitcher Kevin Duchene, first baseman David Kerian and closer Ronnie Muck were named Players to Watch from Illinois.

This is Illinois Baseball
Illinois has had players named to 36 All-American teams in the last 16 years ... Illinois is 365-209 (.636) all-time at Illinois Field ... Illinois' 2,443 all-time wins were ranked 17th in NCAA Division I Baseball history at the beginning of 2014 ... Illinois has hit over .300 as a team in 10 of the past 17 years and over .310 in five of the last 10 seasons ... Illinois has posted a fielding percentage of .960 or better in 15 of the last 16 years, including a school-record .973 mark in 2011 ... Illinois has had four Big Ten Players of the Year and three Big Ten Pitchers of the Year in the last decade ... Illinois has 133 Academic All-Big Ten selections over the last 15 years ... Illinois has 29 Big Ten Championships in the program's history.