After their second straight sweep, this time against the Southern Illinois Salukis, the Illinois Baseball team heads home to face Big Ten opponent Nebraska. The Illini (13–4) are riding a six game winning streak and have won twelve of their last thirteen games. They currently are second in the Big Ten standings behind the tough Indiana Hoosiers (14–3). This weekend, they get to try their luck at home at the friendly confines of Illinois Field.
Though they swept SIU down south, the games were closer than the results might indicate. There were two extra-inning games and the three games were decided by a total of six runs. Pitching was obviously a key to the series. In the series, the Illini hurlers compiled a 1.86 ERA, held SIU to a .181 batting average, and struck out 20 batters in 29 innings. Thanks to @IlliniBaseball for doing the math on that one.
SIU Series Wrap up
Friday’s game went pretty much as planned. Senior hurler Kevin Johnson, who is rapidly approaching 300 career innings for the Illini, added eight more and these were the best kind … scoreless. Johnson walked one and gave up seven hits in his third win of the year. Justin Parr managed to score three of Illinois’ four runs as he went 1 for 3 with a double and two walks. Thomas Lindauer collected two hits and drove home two runs.
Saturday’s game was an extra-inning game that required a comeback effort on Illinois’ part. Due to some hustle on Justin Parr’s part and a key error in the fifth inning, he scored on an error during a wild throw during a steal. That tied it 4–4. Something clicked and the Illini bats came alive and Southern’s gloves went dead. Tied 4–4 going into the top of tenth, two Saluki errors contributed to three Illinois runs. Reid Roper got through the bottom of the tenth for the save. Bryan Roberts (right), who made his first Illinois appearance in two years, got the win.
Sunday’s game at Rent One Park was cancelled, but the schedule was altered so that Monday’s game could be played at the Frontier League’s Southern Illinois Miners ballpark. It was a pitching duel of the finest kind with Illinois’ John Kravetz giving up just one run in six innings. Meanwhile, SIU pitching kept Illinois scoreless for seven innings, and it was looking like a loss might be imminent. That was until Ryan Nagle came through with his second big pinch hit of the season. He drove home Adam Walton to tie the game 1–1.
For the second game in a row, the game went into extras, and two innings later it was another pinch hitter, Michael Hurwitz, who drove home the winning run to win it 2–1. Bryan Roberts won for the second time in as many games. He pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings to get the win and struck out four Saluki batters. Reid Roper got the save, his fifth of the season.
Stats of the Week
After missing the last two years due to injury, fifth-year senior reliever Bryan Roberts is hot out of the gate. He appeared in two straight games and is already 2–0. Not only that, he has struck out five batters in 2 2/3 innings. I’m looking for more of the same from Roberts this year. The bullpen has been somewhat a weakness for the Illini in past years. It’s evident that this year’s bullpen of Reid Roper, Ronnie Muck and Co., with the addition of Roberts, is already making a difference in 2013.
As I mentioned before, starter Kevin Johnson is close to 300 innings for the Illini. He is just one out away from the magic number with 299 2/3 total innings.
Here are the top four Illinois pitchers in career innings pitched:
- Mark Dressen- 328 2/3
- Brett Weber- 315 2/3
- Drew Dickinson- 304 2/3
- Kevin Johnson- 299 2/3*
Johnson needs only 5 1/3 innings to pass current Illini pitching coach Drew Dickinson on the list.
Around the Web
Hot off the presses, FightingIllini.com announces their list of home game promotions for the 2013 season. This includes the popular Bleacher Bum Barbeque. This year’s big event will take place a little early, on April 14th.
Illinois received votes in the NCBWA college baseball polls for the second week in a row. First place Indiana is already ranked at 29th.
This came out last month, but with the conference season upon us, it’s worth another look-see. It’s the Big Ten Network Baseball broadcast and streaming schedules. Illinois home game against Purdue on April 14th (see Bleacher Bum Barbeque above) will be broadcasted live on BTN.
Illinois is coming home!
It’s been a long road season for the Illini players, and I’m sure they’re anxious to play in front of a home crowd. This week, they’re playing conference opponents Nebraska Cornhuskers at Illinois Field. The ‘Huskers sport a 6–12 record in non-conference play this season, but they are to be taken seriously. Nebraska was ranked second in the coaches’ Big Ten pre-season poll. Consider also that their 2013 schedule is full of tough, ranked teams. This week for example, they are playing #8 Cal State Fullerton for the fourth time in this season. Standings and records aside, Illinois will have their hands full, I’m sure.
Friday’s game begins at 4 p.m. Saturday game is at 3 p.m. and on Sunday, the game begins at noon. If you are coming to the games this weekend, dress warm and check the Fighting Illini Baseball website in case there might be any schedule changes due to weather.
See you at the ballpark!