April 30, 2010
Northwestern (16-24, 7-5 Big Ten) at Illinois (19-18, 5-7 Big Ten)
Friday, April 30, 2010; 6 p.m.
Saturday, May 1, 2010; 3 p.m.
Sunday, May 2, 2010; 3 p.m.
Illinois Field (3,000)
TV: Big Ten Network (Brian Barnhart and Jerry Kindall)
In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)
Probable Pitching Matchups
RHP Francis Brooke (4-3, 4.78 ERA) vs. RHP Lee Zerrusen (2-3, 5.52 ERA)
LHP Eric Jokisch (3-5, 4.88 ERA) vs. RHP Kevin Johnson (3-2, 6.61 ERA)
RHP Zach Morton (2-4, 7.20 ERA) vs. RHP Kevin Mason (3-1, 4.03 ERA)
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Tied for first place in the Big Ten standings with three other squads, Northwestern travels to Illinois for a three-game conference series. Friday's opener gets underway at 6 p.m., while first pitch is set for 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. All three contests are being televised live by Big Ten Network.
The Wildcats captured their third consecutive Big Ten series victory last weekend, taking two of three games at Purdue. Following a rainout on Friday, the host Boilermakers eeked out a 2-1 victory in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. However, NU bounced back to take the nightcap 7-5 as Hamilton Wise drove in three runs. Northwestern then captured Sunday's series finale 6-3 behind three RBI from Chad Noble.
NU is coming off a doubleheader split against Milwaukee at Miller Park on Wednesday. After managing just three hits in dropping the opening game 9-0, the Wildcats took the second of the two seven-inning games by a score of 4-1. Freshman left-hander Jack Havey hurled six innings of perfect relief, retiring all 18 batters he faced with eight strikeouts. Chris Kontos drove in two runs, including notching a run-scoring double.
Jokisch Returning to Form
The Fighting Illini (19-18, 5-7 Big Ten) earned an 8-5 nonconference win over visiting Bradley on Tuesday. Michael Giller drove in five runs in the contest. Illinois has dropped two of three games in each of its last three Big Ten series, including at Michigan State last weekend. Casey McMurray leads the team with a .367 batting average, five home runs and 33 RBI. Willie Argo ranks second on the team with a .343 average and paces the Big Ten with 28 stolen bases in 31 attempts. As a team, Illinois has a conference-leading 85 steals. On the mound, Kevin Mason paces all starters with a 3-1 record and a 4.03 ERA.
After battling a back injury early in the season, junior left-hander Eric Jokisch
has returned to the form that helped him be named the 2008 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He is 2-1 with a 3.19 ERA in his first four Big Ten starts, including limiting Big Ten leader Ohio State to two runs over eight innings of work in a win over the Buckeyes April 3. Jokisch recorded a season-high eight strikeouts in the team's win at Penn State April 10. The only loss was by a 2-1 margin at Purdue April 24 as he was opposed by Boilermaker ace Matt Bischoff.
Sophomore right-hander Francis Brooke has been pounding the strike zone this season. His command has been outstanding as he has struck out 36 batters while walking only six in 58.1 innings of work. His average of 0.93 walks per 9 innings pitch ranks fifth nationally. Brooke was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week March 8 after he shut down Loyola Marymount on three hits while striking out six in an eight-inning appearance. Freshman southpaw Jack Havey also has an outstanding strikeout-to-walk ratio, fanning 24 batters while walking only four in 18.1 innings pitched.
A large reason for Northwestern's recent hot streak has been the performance of its pitching staff. The Wildcats have allowed more than six runs in a game just twice over last 13 games dating back to April 9. Over that span, NU has lowered its team ERA nearly a full point from 6.55 to 5.62. Take out a disasterous opening weekend of the season, and Northwestern's ERA this season drops to 4.94. The Wildcats lead the Big Ten with a .278 opponents batting average in conference play and rank third with a 4.83 ERA against league opponents.
Boosting the Bats
The Wildcats posted a team batting average of just .264 last season, but NU has boosted that mark to .299 40 games into the 2010 campaign. NU has notched at least 10 hits in a game 22 times this season after doing so 19 times throughout the entire 2009 campaign.
Youth is Being Served
Northwestern is putting one of the youngest lineups in the Big Ten on the field this season. Out of a possible 360 starts by position players so far in 2010, 282 (78.3 percent) have been made by either freshmen or sophomores.
Northwestern's roster features two individuals who are also key members of the Wildcats' football team which went 8-5 and participated in the Outback Bowl this past season. Sophomore outfielder Quentin Williams appeared in all 13 games on the gridiron this past fall as a defensive end, posting 14 tackles with an interception and a fumble recovery. True freshman outfielder Arby Fields also appeared in every game as a running back and led the team with 302 rushing yards to go along with five touchdowns. Fields has started 39 of the team's 40 games in center field and sports a .272 batting average and a team-high 11 doubles.
Useful Utility, Part 1
Sophomore Paul Snieder was primarily used as a position player a year ago, but has taken on an added work load this season. After pitching just 6 1/3 innings as a freshman, Snieder has shined on the mound in 2010. He has posted a 1.91 ERA and eight saves with 25 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings pitched while limiting opposing batters to a .176 average. In 16 appearances this season, he has been scored upon just twice. Snieder has also followed up on a strong finish at the plate last season as he ranks second on the team with a .377 batting average with nine doubles and 19 RBI.
Useful Utility, Part 2
Zach Morton performed in the opposite role of Snieder during his freshman season in 2009. He was used primarily as a pitcher a year ago, but has started 37 games this season, mainly at second base. Morton has had success with the bat as he is third on the team with a .341 average and has hitting streaks of 11 and 10 games to his credit this season. He has continued to be used regularly on the mound as he's fourth on the team with five starts and 35 innings pitched, while striking out 35 batters.
Major League Experience
The Wildcats had the good fortune of playing games at two Major League Baseball parks a year ago. That will be the case again this season. In 2009, Northwestern took on Minnesota in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The 'Cats returned to the Metrodome March 5-7 to participate in the Dairy Queen Classic at the now former home of the Minnesota Twins. NU also faced off against Notre Dame at U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago White Sox) last season and then played a doubleheader against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Miller Park this past Wednesday. The twinbill followed a game between the host Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Northwestern returns to action Tuesday as it travels to Gary, Ind., to face Valparaiso at U.S. Steel Yard. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.
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