Head coach 'Itch' Jones added seven players to the defending Big Ten Champion baseball squad today.
Nov. 13, 2000
Champaign, Ill. - University of Illinois Head Coach Richard 'Itch' Jones announced today that seven student-athletes have signed national letters of intent to join the Illinois Baseball program next fall. Illinois, the 2000 Big Ten Tournament champion, signed a class that includes six high school seniors and one junior college pitcher. Included in the group is one infielder/pitcher, an outfielder and five pitchers.
The class includes infielder/pitcher Dusty Bensko of Pleasant Plains, Ill. (Pleasant Plains), lefthander Emanuel Bishop of Belleville, Ill. (Belleville East), righthander Brian Blomquist of Carol Stream, Ill. (Glenbard North), righthander Jim Conroy of Rock Island, Ill. (Alleman), outfielder Drew Davidson of West Des Moines, Iowa (Dowling), righthander Josh Lane of Mascoutah, Ill. (Southwestern Illinois College) and lefthander James Morris of Eldorado, Ill. (Eldorado).
"This is an athletic, strong and gifted class and I feel it is one of the best classes we've signed since I came to the University of Illinois. These student-athletes all recognize the program we now have in place at Illinois and are excited to come to the University of Illinois and help continue our recent success. They are all excellent athletes and they know how to win," Jones said. "Dan Hartleb and Eric Snider need to be commended for going out and finding outstanding young men who all fit into the program we have in place at Illinois."
IF/RHP -- 6-4 -- 215 -- R/R -- Pleasant Plains, Ill./Pleasant Plains
Has a career 23-5 record and 2.40 ERA on the mound for the two-time state champion Pleasant Plains team -- Also a forward for the state champion basketball team -- Hit .649 as a junior with 17 home runs and 65 RBI -- Has a .572 career average with 30 home runs and 156 RBI -- Went 8-1 on the mound as a junior with 69 K in 45 innings of work -- Interested in studying business. Jones on Bensko: "Dusty is a very competitive, strong athlete who knows how to win. He definitely has the ability to be a two-way player in college. He's an infielder with the ability to hit for average and power and a pitcher who throws in the upper- 80s with above average control."
LHP -- 6-1 -- 175 -- L/L -- Belleville, Ill./Belleville East
As a junior, threw 15 innings and struck out 21 -- Posted a 4.00 ERA as a junior -- Features a fastball in the 87-88 mph range that moves effectively -- Also throws a slider -- One of the area's top pitching prospects, he has just begun to concentrate on pitching -- Hit .310 with two home runs and seven RBI as a junior outfielder -- High school is the alma mater of Illinois sophomore Andy Schutzenhofer, a freshman All-American a year ago. Jones on Bishop: "Emanuel is a loose thrower who pitches in the mid-80 mph range consistently. He has pitched sparingly in his career and therefore has a fresh, live arm. Emanuel is very athletic and competitive and has command of two pitches."
RHP -- 6-4 -- 181 -- R/R -- Crystal Lake, Ill./Glenbard North
A tall righthander that exhibits great control -- Posted an 8-2 record as a junior over 72 innings -- Struck out 73 and walked only 10 as a junior -- Features an outstanding change-up -- On the varsity since his sophomore year -- An all-area and all-conference selection -- Interested in studying secondary education -- Has also participated in basketball. Jones on Blomquist: "Brian is a tall, rangy righthander who has excellent control and command of three pitches. He features an outstanding change-up and is competitive. Brian consistently throws in the mid-80 mph range with great life on his fastball."
RHP -- 6-3 -- 180 -- R/R -- Rock Island, Ill./Alleman
A tall righthander who plays both baseball and basketball -- Features a fastball in the 88-90 mph range, a curve, split-finger fastball and change-up -- A Quad City All-metro pick -- Has a 10-5 career varsity record with 96 K -- Struck out 49 in 38 1/3 innings as a junior while holding hitters to a .204 average against him -- Went 4-0 with a 2.13 ERA for the Moline Legion this summer. Jones on Conroy: "Jim is a tall righthander with excellent velocity and durability. He throws in the upper 80s with command of a sharp breaking ball. Jim will continue to game velocity with physical maturity."
OF -- 6-1 -- 185 -- R/R -- West Des Moines, Iowa/Dowling
An outfielder who hits with power -- Hit .412 last year with five home runs and 28 RBI -- Has been the starting centerfielder since his sophomore year -- Will play five seasons of varsity baseball -- An above average base runner -- Also a starter for the football team that is ranked No. 2 in Class 4A (the largest) in the state of Iowa -- Davidson will be the first player >from Iowa on an Illinois baseball roster since 1991 -- A two-time all-state and three-time all-district and all-conference honoree. Jones on Davidson: "Drew is a very athletic and strong outfielder who is a leader. He is a 6.8 runner with some power and an above average arm. He has excellent knowledge about the game and a great idea of what he's trying to do. He will develop more power as he gets older and has the ability to get better every year. Drew can play all three spots in the outfield and has the ability to come in and contribute right away."
RHP -- 6-1 -- 215 -- R/R -- Mascoutah, Ill./Mascoutah/Southwestern Illinois College
Went 6-4 with a 2.71 ERA for Southwestern Illinois last spring -- Coached at Southwestern by former Illini assistant Neil Fiala -- A summer teammate of Illinois' Casey Hahn with the Twin City Stars of the Central Illinois Collegiate League -- Was 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 64 innings of work for Twin City this summer -- Struck out 52 and walked 24 this summer -- Throws three pitches: a fastball, curve and change-up and is developing a slider -- Throws consistently in the upper-80s. Jones on Lane: "Josh is a player who can come in and help us right away. He has some experience and knows how to pitch. He gets better every year and is a competitor. We feel Josh is the best junior college pitcher in the state of Illinois and that he'll fit well into the Illinois program. He is a great student, he knows the game of baseball and we feel that he'll make the adjustment from junior college to Illinois quickly."
LHP -- 6-7 -- 250 -- L/L -- Eldorado, Ill./Eldorado
A tall lefthander who throws in the upper-80s -- Features a good curve and a fastball with lots of movement -- Also starts for the varsity football (middle linebacker and tight end) and basketball (center) teams -- Went 7-2 as a junior with 85 K in 57 1/3 innings of work -- Posted a 2.56 ERA -- Has struck out 14 or more in two seven inning games -- Hit .424 as a junior with 35 RBI -- Team reached the state semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Pleasant Plains last season. Jones on Morris: "James is a big, strong lefthander who throws in the mid to upper-80s with the potential for an outstanding breaking ball. James is a raw pitcher that will improve quickly once he concentrates on baseball year round."