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Catching up with Illini baseball

Willie Argo slides safely into third with a triple on Friday night.

It’s time for baseball here at the University of Illinois. The Fighting Illini baseball team arrived home from their extended road trip to play their first home series just last weekend. With only a few glitches this season, their 2012 season so far has been relatively successful with a 15–11 won-loss record thanks to some good pitching and timely hitting. Let’s get caught up with their progress.

On the weekend of March 23, Illinois took a trip out to Lincoln to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the new kid on the block. Illinois would be the first Big Ten team to play the ‘Huskers in conference play. Illinois starter Kevin Johnson won handily on Friday night with help from the offense, 11–3. I mentioned “glitches” earlier … that’s where this comes in. The next two games, the Nebraska offense, led by their head coach and former major league baseball star Darin Erstad, kicked into gear. Illinois was simply overpowered, losing by scores of 18–5 and 13–3, respectively. Even John Kravetz, who had won two Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors, couldn’t quite handle the ‘Huskers bats, giving up nine runs in an inning on Saturday.

Things didn’t get much better during a midweek game against the Illinois State Redbirds when the Orange and Blue gave up a 7–0 lead, while ISU scored 16 unanswered runs to win 16–7. There was a silver lining in that game, however. Willie Argo stole his 84th base of his college career. That broke a 30-year-old team record. 

Now let’s fast forward to last Friday when things start looking up for the Illini once again. This past weekend was the home opener for the Illini, and they played host to the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils. If you haven’t heard of them, I wouldn’t be surprised. This was Illinois’ first time playing them. There was some talk of whether we ever had a team from the Deep South come up and play us here in the cornfields.

Well, they may be from the Deep South, but the Delta Devils weren’t anything like LSU. Friday night, Kevin Johnson continued to dominate. He pitched seven strong innings for his fifth win of the year. The offense took charge, as well. Five triples were hit in the game by Illinois (two by Thomas Lindauer, two by Willie Argo and one by Justin Parr) to break a home field record. Final score: 15–6.

Saturday’s game against the Delta Devils was more of the same. Offense and more of it. The top five batters in the lineup (Lindauer, Argo, Parr, Brandon Hohl, and Parr’s brother, Jordan Parr) went 11 for 20 for the game. Freshman Josh Ferry notched his second win of the season going five solid innings. Brian de la Torriente, Matt Milroy, and Reid Roper combined for four no-hit innings and the Illini won 12–4.

In Sunday’s game against MVSU, the offense was a bit tempered compared to the other games. It didn’t matter with starter John Kravetz’ pitching performance. Kravetz, coming off the Nebraska debacle the week before, rebounded nicely and allowed only three hits in seven innings. The Devils managed only one unearned run. Hohl and Jordan Parr provided some fireworks with a homerun each. Hohl’s homer was his fifth of the year and that leads all Illinois hitters. Illinois ended up sweeping the Devils with a 7–1 victory.

Off-the-field news:

  • The Illini will be playing University of Missouri at Busch Stadium, and tickets are still on sale. If you’re interested in going, there is information on the website.
  • The Illini have partnered with a U of I journalism class to come out with a “Virtual Dugout” smartphone app. College of Media Professor Charles Ledford is behind the project:

Virtual Dugout is designed to add to the experience of watching an Illinois baseball game by offering a variety of features, including short videos of many of the Illini players that are designed to go beneath the surface. Learn what goes through a shortstop’s mind as he’s turning a double play or how a starting pitcher mentally prepares for a game.

There’s more info on the project here, including a download link for those interested in trying out the app.

Coming up:

This weekend, Illinois plays host to Indiana University. This will be the Big Ten home opener at Illinois Field, so it should be an exciting series. One Indiana player to watch: Sam Travis. He was just honored as Big Ten Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week in the same week.

Friday’s game time is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.

See you at the ballpark!!


Read more about Illinois baseball from Thomas at Illinois Baseball Report.

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