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Baseball on the winning track

After the second weekend of the season, the outlook looks a whole lot better for Illinois Baseball. This past Sunday at the Keith LeClair Classic in Greenville, North Carolina, the Illini wrapped up a four-game set in which they won three behind some fine pitching and timely hitting. That puts them above .500 for the first time since opening day with a non-conference record of 4–3.

Keith LeClair Classic Summary

Unfortunately, Illinois veteran hurler Kevin Johnson was the one pitcher who had a tough day on the mound. On Thursday, he gave up six runs to the tough East Carolina Pirates and got the loss in 82 game. Illinois took a 1–0 lead into the fifth inning when ECU let loose and scored six runs in three innings off Johnson. Johnson might be able to find some consolation in that East Carolina swept all three games in the Classic.

There was one small silver lining. Johnson did strike out six Pirates, which was enough to land him on the Illini top ten in career strikeout list.

On Saturday, first baseman David Kerian (above) collected a career high four hits in four at-bats and drove home two runs in a big 116 win against the Ohio Bobcats. Coach Hartleb shook up Saturday’s lineup a bit, leading off Will Krug and playing Adam Walton at second base. Both players responded with Krug going 3 for 5 and Walton getting a base hit RBI. 

Freshman starter Kevin Duchene pitched well enough to get his first career win for the Illini. He spread out nine hits and just one walk over 5 1/3 innings and gave up four runs. Relievers Josh Ferry, Ronnie Muck, Drasen Johnson, and Anthony Milazzo were fantastic out of the pen, allowing only one run in 3 2/3 innings. 

On Sunday, it was the first start of the year for John Kravetz. If his performance was any indication, it will be a good year for the sophomore hurler. Kravetz got the win against the New Mexico State Aggies giving up just two runs in 6 1/3 innings. After freshman hurler held off the Aggies for a scoreless inning plus, Reid Roper came on to pitch a perfect ninth for his first save of the year. Final score 32.

Illinois ended the Keith LeClair Classic against Boston College Eagles. Once again, Will Krug hit safely three times. The real story was freshman Nick Blackburn, who didn’t allow an earned run in 6 2/3 innings. Like Duchene, he also got his first win with the Illini, striking out five Eagles and only walking one. This time, it was Ronnie Muck who came on during a shaky eighth inning to settle things down and get his first save of the year in the 5–2 win. 

This Week’s Illini of Note

Justin Parr continues to hit the ball. He collected seven hits at the Keith LeClair Classic. For 2013, his batting average is at a pretty awesome .516. In fact, Parr is hitting so well that when he went 2–4 on Sunday, his batting average actually went DOWN.

Michael Hurwitz (right) didn’t get a lot of press during the preseason, but he sure is making his presence known in the lineup. Lately, he’s been in the DH role, occasionally spelling Reid Roper at second base. He’s hitting .364 and has gotten some key RBI base hits. However, what is unique about Hurwitz is his on-base ability. After seven games, he leads the Illini with ten walks. That leads the Big Ten and is more than double the total of the second highest Illini. 

Around the Big Ten

Big Winner: Ohio State won all three of their games last weekend at Port Charlotte, Florida. That translated into a sweep of the Big Ten weekly awards.

  • Big Ten Player of the Week: Aaron Gretz, So.
  • Big Ten Pitcher of the Week: Brad Goldberg, Sr.
  • Big Ten Freshman of the Week: Troy Kuhn

Not to take anything away from the deserving Buckeyes, but I had almost hoped that we might see some Illini in the Big Ten’s weekly press release with their weekend success. I’m sure Nick Blackburn was on the A-list for Freshman of the Week.

Big Loser: Nebraska continues to be a victim of its tough schedule as they were swept this weekend. All three of their games were against the ranked Texas Longhorns. So far this season, the Huskers remain winless as five of their games have been against ranked teams. It almost makes me feel sorry for them … almost. I maintain that they will have their chance to shine this season.

Next up

The Illini travel south this weekend. And by south, I really mean SOUTH, not this Tennessee or North Carolina business. It’s the real deal this time as they are traveling to University of Texas-Arlington. They will take on Houston Baptist (4-2-1) for two games and UT-Arlington (5-2) twice. Game One is Friday at 11 a.m.! 

Go Illini!

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