Maybe it was the warm Texas weather. Or maybe it was simply a case of finding their groove. Either way, the Illinois Baseball team is starting to gel. After three wins at the UTA/Hilton Invitational this past weekend, the Illini find themselves at the top of the Big Ten non-conference standings with a 7–4 record.
The Fighting Illini won their first three games at the Invitational in Arlington, Texas, last weekend before succumbing to Texas-Arlington on Sunday. That ended a dominant six-game winning streak for Illinois.
During that six game stretch:
- They trailed their opponent for only three innings.
- Both Justin Parr and Jordan Parr continued their 10-game hitting streaks.
- Three wins were by freshman starting pitchers.
UTA/Hilton Invitational Wrap-up
Freshman Kevin Duchene (2-0) was lights out as he kept the Huskies of Houston Baptist scoreless for 8 2/3 innings before they crossed the plate. It was Duchene’s second win of the year. Shortstop Thomas Lindauer (right) provided some offensive excitement as he went 3 for 5 with double and two RBI. The Illini won 8–3.
It was a twin bill on Saturday for the Illini as they took on Houston Baptist again in the morning, then played host Texas-Arlington in the afternoon. Lindauer continued his offensive tear, going three for three and hitting his first homerun as an Illini. The Parr brothers continued their hot hitting combining for four hits and five RBI. Illinois also got their second win in a row from a freshman pitcher, as Nick Blackburn (2-0) pitched a stellar game allowing two hits in 6 2/3 innings. By the time the Huskies managed to score, Illinois already had 12 runs so the game was already in hand. Illinois easily won 12–3.
It seems that Kevin Johnson (2-1) of old is back, and his start from last week has been forgotten. He started the second game on Saturday against the Texas-Arlington Mavericks. Johnson easily dismissed the Mavs, winning his second game of the year. He pitched 6 2/3 innings and didn’t allow an earned run. Once again, it was the Parr brothers in action. Justin Parr was 4 for 4, while Jordan contributed a homerun, his second of the year, and triple. Illinois defeated the Mavericks 7–3.
Going up against Texas-Arlington on Sunday, it would seem all good things would come to an end, and that would include winning streaks. Illinois did put in a valiant effort, though. Down 5–0 going into the top of the seventh, the Illini strung together three singles and Michael Hurwitz came through with a 2-run double to tie the game 5–5. A win was not meant to be, however, as the Mavs scored a run on a sac fly to win it 6–5. Sadly, both Justin Parr and Jordan Parr went 0 for 4, and that put a stop to each of their respective 10-game hitting streaks.
Some quick Illinois Stats
Several Illinois players are already making their mark in the Big Ten this early season. Justin Parr leads all conference starters with a .479 batting average. Both Parr brothers are one-two in the rbi category; Jordan leads with 14, and Justin isn’t far behind with 13. Michael Hurwitz, a nice surprise with the bat this season, is tied for the conference lead in runs scored with 12, and leads in walks with 11.
Probably most telling is this statistic: Illinois leads all Big Ten teams in hitting with a .312 batting average. Nice going, hitters.
Around the Big Ten
As I mentioned before, Illinois is atop the Big Ten standings, but there are teams who are doing fine as well. Favorite Indiana (6-2) won all three of their games this past weekend. Michigan (5-6) who claimed Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week honors has shown some life. They won three as well.
And Nebraska? The team who has been winless till this past weekend? They won two games out of three, showing they are certainly a team not to be counted out. They are now 2-7. Watch out for Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-4), too. They just won a midweek game and join Illinois to become the second team to claim seven wins.
Here are the current Big Ten Baseball standings.
Around the Web
Good luck to former Illini catcher Chris Robinson who will be taking part in the World Baseball Classic. On Friday, he’ll be starting for Team Canada against Italy.
The Illinois coaching staff has brought on a new recruit. His name is Pat McInerney and he’s an OF/1B. If all goes well, he’ll be ready for the 2013–14 season.
The AP has an article with more details on a potential scheduling change that might affect the Big Ten Baseball. Rumors of this change were bantered about publicly last year, and now it seems they’re getting more serious about it.
Congrats to the University of Illinois athletes, in general, and the Illini Baseball freshman in particular for putting on a great show at Jock Jams 2013! A good time was had and a lot of money was raised for some good causes. I posted a few photos of the guys in colorful tights on the Illinois Baseball Report.
Mark your calendar
Illinois’ home opener is almost two weeks away, Illini fans! It’s also the Big Ten opener, so the series should be extra special. The Illini will be taking on the Cornhuskers of Nebraska on March 22–24, so be sure to show up in your Orange and Blue that weekend. I know I can’t wait.
Illinois find themselves traveling back to Texas this weekend as they take on the tough Baylor Bears. If I remember correctly, this series was touted as part of Illinois’ “competitive” schedule so this weekend is important. Fire up Game Tracker ‘cause Friday’s game is at 6:35 p.m.