May 18, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -
The Indiana University baseball team (30-22, 11-10 Big Ten) wraps up the 2011 regular season with a crucial three-game set in Champaign versus the Illinois Fighting Illini (22-25, 12-9). The series starts a day earlier than usual,in order to allow pitchers an extra day of rest for the Big Ten Tournament which starts on Wednesday, May 25.
Thursday and Friday's games will be played under the lights of Illinois Field, both scheduled to start at 6:05 pm central time (7:05 EST). Saturday's series and regular season finale is an afternoon showdown, slating for a 1:05 pm (2:05 EST) first pitch.
IUHoosiers.com will provide a live audio broadcast and GameTracker live stats for all three contests.
With the Big Ten standings packed so tightly, Indiana could find themselves on Monday anywhere from Big Ten Champions to ninth-place finishers. The top six teams advance to the Big Ten Tournament for a shot at the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals. The Hoosiers are in a three-way tie with Purdue and Ohio State for fourth place entering the weekend.
EXPECTED PITCHING ROTATIONS
Thursday, Game 1
Indiana: Joey DeNato (LHP, 7-3, 2.61 ERA)
Illinois: Kevin Johnson (RHP, 2-6, 4.54 ERA)
Friday, Game 2
Indiana: Blake Monar (LHP, 6-3, 3.12 ERA)
Illinois: John Anderson (RHP, 6-6, 4.09 ERA)
Saturday, Game 3
Illinois: Corey Kimes (LHP, 3-4, 5.85 ERA)
Head Coach Tracy Smith has had some recent success against the Illini, taking two of out three games the past two seasons. Both teams have caught fire as of late, Indiana sweeping Big Ten-leading Michigan State over the weekend and Illinois having won 10 of their 14 games.
Complete Game Notes
Indiana has won five of the last six Big Ten contests, led by Micah Johnson and his .480 average, .880 slugging, 15 RBI, two homers and pair of triples in the last two weekends.
The past three weekends have been spectacular for Blake Monar. The southpaw owns a 1.17 ERA in 15.1 IP with 12 strikeouts and a `W.'
Justin Cureton is riding a six-game hitting streak into the weekend series. During that span, Cureton has swung at a .524 clip with nine runs scored, three RBI and is 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts.
Michael Basil has also recorded a hit in six consecutive games.
Hoosier pitchers make up 30% of the confernece's top-10 in earned run average. Joey DeNato's 2.61 ERA paces Indiana and ranks second in the Big Ten. Blake Monar (7th, 3.12) and Chad Martin (10th, 3.36) are also among the league's best.
TOP SEED NOT OUT OF REACH
It's going to be a wild weekend in the Big Ten baseball landscape. Nine of 10 teams still have a shot at qualifying for the conference tournament. For Indiana, the final series of the regular season could deliver the school's first Big Ten regular season title since 1949, but could also result in the Hoosiers missing out on the Big Ten Tournament. That's how tight things are heading into the last weekend. Below are the scenarios for the Hoosiers to earn the No. 1 seed of the Big Ten Tournament:
IF IU SWEEPS ILLINOIS
-Need Northwestern AND Ohio State to simply win their series vs. MSU and Minnesota, respectively; AND Iowa needs to win one or more against Purdue
IF IU TAKES TWO OF THREE AT ILLINOIS
-Need Northwestern AND Ohio State to sweep; AND Iowa to win series at Purdue
DICKERSON IN CONTROL OF NATIONAL FAN VOTING
With just two weeks before the May 31st voting deadline, Alex Dickerson is winning the "Premier Player of College Baseball" fan-voted award in a landslide. As of May 18, Hoosier All-American had received 48 percent of the votes with the next closest player (Texas A&M's John Stilson) owning only 18 percent. This national award is presented by Premier Players, Inc.
Illinois is expected to send a pair of right-handed pitchers to the mound for the first two games of the series. This could bode well for Indiana as the Hoosier success rate has been much higher versus righty starters (19-10 record) than southpaws (11-11).
BIG TEN TOURNAMENT REGULARS
Indiana is one of just two teams in the conference to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament in each of the past three seasons, including a tourney title in 2009. The Purdue Boilermakers are the only other school to reach the postseason every season since 2008.