Illinois Baseball: Northwestern Series Preview

The Illinois Fighting Illini will play a three game series against the Northwestern Wildcats in Champaign, Illinois starting on April 26th.

Illinois comes into this weekend series looking to get back to playing baseball. They were suppose to play a game against Eastern Illinois on Wednesday, but had the game rained out. They went 1-2 in their last series against the Ohio State Buckeyes and are 6-4 in their last ten games.

The Northwestern Wildcats come into this series with an overall record of 17-15 and a Big Ten Conference record of 6-9. They are currently eighth in the Big Ten standings. The Wildcats were shut out by the Milwaukee Panthers, 5-0, in their last game.

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

Northwestern is led offensively by junior Kyle Ruchim, senior Jack Havey, and redshirt senior Zach Morton.

Each of these players bring a different aspect to the Northwestern offense.

Ruchim leads the team in average (.375), hits (39), doubles (9), triples (3), home runs (2), slugging percentage (.577), and on base percentage (.459).

Havey shows similar numbers to Ruchim and is right behind him in the stats. The only one that they are tied with are RBIs with 16 each.

Morton is batting a .295 at the plate this season and has 16 hits, but leads the team with 26 RBIs.

Another player that could hurt the Illini if he gets on base for the Wildcats is redshirt junior Trevor Stevens.

Stevens is the only player on the Northwestern roster to attempt double-digit stolen bases. He has stolen thirteen bases out of fourteen attempts.

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

Game One - Illinois: Kevin Johnson (RHP, Sr., 6-2, 2.45 ERA) / Northwestern: Luke Farrell (RHP, Sr., 2-2, 1.88 ERA)

Game Two - Illinois: John Kravetz (RHP, So., 3-1, 5.19 ERA) / Northwestern: Brandon Magallones (RHP, So., 4-4, 3.53 ERA)

Game Three - Illinois: Ryan Castellanos (RHP, Fr., 2-1, 5.20 ERA) / Purdue: Brad Schreiber (RHP, Jr., 1-4, 6.14 ERA)

The player to watch for Illinois this weekend will be senior Justin Parr. This is because Parr is currently riding a 24-game hit streak heading into this weekend’s series.

With a hit on Friday, he would tie the school record set by Ryan Snowden at 25 games in 2007.

This hitting streak is also ranks as the longest active streak in the country and the fourth-longest in the nation this season.

The offense for Illinois will be the biggest key if the Illini want to sweep the Wildcats this weekend. Illinois’ offense has been their driving force and will need to be in this series.

Also, expect the Illini pitching staff to rack up a lot of strikeouts in this series. If there’s one thing the Wildcats do often, that is strikeout at the plate.

Series Prediction: Illinois sweeps the series.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyWidmer.

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Topics: Baseball, Illinois Fighting Illini, Jack Havey, Justin Parr, Kyle Ruchim, Northwestern Wildcats, Trevor Stevens, Zach Morton

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