June 5, 2011; Fullerton, CA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini outfielder Willie Argo (42) smiles after the Fighting Illini beat the Cal State Fullerton Titans 7-5 in the Fullerton regional of the 2011 NCAA baseball tournament at Goodwin Field. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Baseball: Purdue Series Preview

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The Illinois Fighting Illini will play a three game series against the Purdue Boilermakers in Champaign, Illinois starting on April 12th.

Illinois is 1-3 in their last four games. They lost two of three games in their last conference series against #16 Indiana and then lost their single game against the Eastern Illinois Panthers.

The Boilermakers come into this series with an overall record of 11-19 and a Big Ten Conference record of 4-5. They are currently seventh in the Big Ten standings. They have lost five of their last six games and their last match-up against Ball State was cancelled.

June 3, 2011; Fullerton, CA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini pitcher Kevin Johnson (22) pitches against the Cal State Fullerton Titans during the first inning of the Fullerton regional of the 2011 NCAA baseball tournament at Goodwin Field. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue is led offensively by freshman Jack Picchiotti, redshirt freshman Kyle Wood, junior Sean McHugh, and senior Stephen Talbott.

Each of these players bring a different aspect to this Purdue offense. Picchiotti leads the team in average (.301) and RBIs (18). McHugh is tied for the lead in hits (31) and leads the team in total bases (40). Wood and Tallbott are baserunners. Wood has an on-base percentage (OBP) of .371 and Talbott has stolen twelve out of fourteen bases.

For Illinois, there are a few things to watch coming into this weekend’s series.

First, senior Justin Parr has the third-longest active hitting streak in the nation at 17 games. He also is in the top ten of the Big Ten for nine other offensive categories.

These categories include: slugging percentage (2nd), total bases (2nd), RBIs (tied for 2nd), stolen bases (tied for 3rd), doubles (tied for 4th), OBP (4th), triples (tied for 5th), runs (tied for 6th), and home runs (tied for six).

Secondly, the Illini currently lead the Big Ten with 65 stolen bases in 74 attempts (19th in the nation).

Here are the pitching match-ups coming into the series:

Game One - Illinois: Kevin Johnson (RHP, Sr., 4-2, 1.94 ERA) / Purdue: Jordan Minch (LHP, Fr., 4-3, 5.16 ERA)

Game Two - Illinois: John Kravetz (RHP, So., 3-1, 4.71 ERA) / Purdue: Robert Ramer (RHP, Sr., 2-2, 4.74 ERA)

Game Three - Illinois: Ryan Castellanos (RHP, Fr., 1-0, 2.60 ERA)/ Purdue: Brad Schreiber (RHP, Jr., 1-4, 6.14 ERA)

Illinois has arguably their best three pitchers throwing for them in this series. Johnson and Kravetz have had nice seasons thus far (although being masked a bit by the offense) and Johnson needs just six innings on Friday to tie the school record for career innings pitched.

The Illinois pitcher to watch in this series will be Ryan Castellanos. Castellanos pitched his first career game on April 7th in the series finale against the Indiana Hoosiers.

He pitched six innings and only had one bad point where he gave up a two-out, two-run home run that tied the game in the bottom of the fifth. He gave up five hits throughout his six innings, gave up zero walks, and got the win.

It will be interesting to see how the true freshman pitches in his second start of the season. He could be another bright spot on this alright good Illinois team.

Series Prediction: Illinois sweeps the series.

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Tags: Baseball Illinois Fighting Illini Jack Picchiotti John Kravetz Justin Parr Kevin Johnson Kyle Wood Purdue Boilermakers Ryan Castellanos Sean McHugh Stephen Talbott

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