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After a rough opener, Illini baseball heads to NC

Illinois Baseball got off to great start last weekend in Cookeville, Tennessee, against Tennessee Tech University. Then the Golden Eagles took advantage of Illinois’ inexperience and won the last two games. The label of “undefeated” was so fleeting. 

On Friday afternoon, it was like old times with senior Kevin Johnson on the mound. Johnson pitched like the veteran he is, allowing just one run on nine hits in six innings. He also allowed just one walk in the win. More importantly, he had offense backing him up. In particular, the Parr brothers, Justin and Jordan (right), helped the cause. Both went three for six for the game, with Jordan contributing a homerun and three RBIs. Everything seemed to go right in Game #1 as Illinois won 13–2.

Coach Hartleb had announced a surprise starter for Game #2 on Saturday. It was freshman Kevin Duchene in place of John Kravetz, who seems to have gotten the press this preseason. Duchene got through the first couple frames OK, but was rocked in the third for four Eagle runs. Illinois rallied in the top of the fourth for three runs thanks in part to Justin Parr’s two-run single. Tennessee Tech put together two one-run innings and came away with the win. It was Justin Parr again with the big game. He was four for five with three RBIs. Saturday’s game was a mite snowy, by the way. The game was delayed twice due to the cold and inclement weather.

Sunday’s Game #3 was a heartbreaker indeed. Freshman starter Nick Blackburn lasted 4 1/3 innings and gave up seven hits and five runs. Leave it to reliever Ronnie Muck to get them out of a jam. He pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless ball. Illinois rallied in the seventh and eighth innings to tie the game 6–6. Would you be surprised if I told you a Parr brother was involved in the rally? Probably not. Jordan Parr drove home a run with a single. Give DH Michael Hurwitz some credit too. He hit his second double of the weekend to drive home a run.

A series win was not in cards for the Illini though. With the score tied 6v6 in the bottom of the ninth and two outs, TTU DH Brandon Thomasson hit a walk-off homerun off freshman Tyler Jay to send the Illini to the showers. 

Overall, I’m not too terribly discouraged by the 1-2 series result against Tennessee Tech. We got a tremendous performance out of Kevin Johnson. The Parr brothers both played incredibly well (for the record, Justin went 9 for 15 with 6 RBIs for the series). Also, it seems like Coach Hartleb is using the early non-conference season to give his freshman some experience. Experience that they will most desperately need come Big Ten season.

We haven’t seen pitcher John Kravetz yet, and only a few innings of Rob McDonnell. Illinois baseball’s best is yet to come, in my opinion. 

Coming up

This weekend, the Illini will be participating in the Keith LeClair Classic tournament in Greenville, North Carolina. It’s a four-game weekend for the Illini. First up on Thursday are the East Carolina Pirates. Game time is 4 p.m. It looks like the rotation will be the same, except that sophomore John Kravetz will be inserted into Sunday’s spot (wake up early for that game if you’re going to watch it on GameTracker; gametime is at 8:30 a.m.). It will be his first start of the year.

You can find all the details of Illinois’ trip to the Classic at here

Around the web

Indiana is already showing signs to justify the Big Ten preseason coaches’ poll that picked them as the top dog to beat. They went 2-1 over the weekend. Not only that, Hoosier Sam Travis was honored as Big Ten Player of the Week.

This past week, The Daily Illini interviewed former Illini Willie Argo, who was drafted by Tampa Bay last year. 

The U of I Baseball program has a new sports information director. His name is Matt Wille, and he took some time to answer a few questions on the Illinois Baseball Report. Find out a little more about Matt and what exactly an SID does.

Don’t forget, Jock Jams 2013 is coming up on February 27th

Go Illini!  Good luck at the Classic!

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