May 14, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; A view of batting practice baseballs before a game between the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Baseball: Minnesota Series Preview

The Illinois Fighting Illini will play their final series of the season against the Minnesota Golden Gophers starting today.

Illinois comes into this weekend series looking to ride their current hot streak. The Illini are coming off of a sweep of the Penn State Nittany Lions last weekend.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers come into this series with an overall record of 29-18 and a Big Ten Conference record of 12-6. The Golden Gophers are the third-best team in the Big Ten and are 1-3 in their last four games. They dropped two of three games from the Nebraska Cornhuskers last weekend.

Offensively, Minnesota has one of the lowest batting averages in the Big Ten (.261). Although, they have two players hitting over .300. These players are Kurt Schlangen and Andy Henkemeyer.

Both Schlangen and Henkemeyer are batting .309 this season. Henkemeyer is arguably the best hitter on the team as he leads the team in hits (54), triples (tied with 3), RBIs (24), and slugging percentage (.429).

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

Game One - Illinois: Kevin Duchene (LHP, Fr., 7-1, 2.64 ERA) / Minnesota: Tom Windle (LHP, Jr., 6-3, 1.76 ERA)

Game Two - Illinois: Ryan Castellanos (RHP, Fr., 3-1, 5.36 ERA) / Minnesota: Alec Crawford (RHP, Jr., 3-1, 2.47 ERA)

Game Three - Illinois: John Kravetz (RHP, So., 4-1, 4.27 ERA) / Minnesota:  DJ Snelten (LHP, Jr., 4-1, 2.22 ERA)

As its been all season, the player to watch for Illinois will be senior Justin Parr. Parr had his school-record 33-game hitting streak snapped in the series finale against PSU. This streak is the longest streak in the NCAA this season.

Just like before their last series, the Fighting Illini need a strong showing against the Golden Gophers in order to boost their spot in the conference standings.

Illinois currently sits at fifth in the Big Ten. They can finish fourth in the conference if they can grab two wins and can finish as high as second in the conference if they can sweep the Golden Gophers.

Series Prediction: Illinois wins two of three.

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Tags: Andy Henkemeyer Baseball Illinois Fighting Illini Justin Parr Kurt Schlangen Minnesota Golden Gophers

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