Illinois Sports – Illini Baseball: 2015 Illinois Baseball Season Review

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  • Illinois won its first-ever NCAA Regional, going 3-0 while hosting the first NCAA Champaign Regional at Illinois Field.
  • The Illini played in the Super Regional for the first time in school history and earned their highest final ranking in program history (No. 7 – Perfect Game).

 

  • The Fighting Illini won their 30th Big Ten Championship in 2015, which ranks second all-time in conference history behind Michigan (35).
  • Illinois (50-10-1) set the school record with 50 victories, breaking the school record of 49 wins from 1982.
  • Illinois was one of two Big Ten teams (Maryland) to reach a Super Regional. Big Ten schools have advanced to a Super Regional seven times since the NCAA Tournament format was changed in 1999.
  • Illinois was 25-4 at home in 2015, marking the most wins and best record at Illinois Field.
  • Illinois earned the No. 6 overall seed in the 2015 NCAA Baseball Championship, becoming the second Big Ten team in conference history to earn a national seed. Indiana was No. 4 overall in 2014.
  • UI was one of a conference-record five Big Ten teams (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan) that qualified for an NCAA Regional.
  • A school-record nine Illini were selected in the 2015 MLB Draft, including Tyler Jay (No. 6 overall – Minnesota Twins) as the highest draft pick in school history. John Kravetz also signed a free agent contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • Illinois swept the top three Big Ten individual awards for the first time in school history:David Kerian (Player of the Year), Tyler Jay (Pitcher of the Year) and Dan Hartleb (Coach of the Year).
  •  Three Illini – Tyler Jay (First Team), Kevin Duchene (Second Team) and David Kerian (Second Team) – were named All-Americans by multiple publications. It is the first time Illinois has garnered three All-America honors in one season in program history.
  • Illinois posted a Big Ten record 27-game winning streak from March 30-May 20, which is the longest winning streak in the country in 2015. The Illini finished seven shy of the NCAA record winning streak of 34: Texas (1977) and Florida Atlantic (1999).
  • The 2015 Illini pitching staff (2.55 ERA) shattered the school’s ERA record (3.25) from last season. The 2015 Illini (449 K) also broke the school record for strikeouts from 1998 (419 K).
  • Illinois was the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament for the fourth time in program history (1998, 2005, 2011, 2015).
  • The Illini won their first conference title since 2011 (shared with Michigan State) and first outright title since 2005.
  • UI won a Big Ten record 20 straight conference contests and became the first Big Ten team to ever record seven straight conference series sweeps.
  • The 2015 Fighting Illini finished in first place at 21-1 overall, equaling the 2014 Indiana Hoosiers (21-3) for the most wins during a 24-game Big Ten season (began in 2009).
  • Illinois was ranked No. 2 in the Collegiate Baseball poll for three weeks (May 11, 18 and June 2), which marked the highest ranking by an Illini team in program history.

Illinois in NCAA Tournament

Illinois is 17-21 in 11 all-time appearances in the NCAA Tournament and reached the Super Regional for the first time. The Illini qualified for an NCAA Regional in three of the past five seasons, marking the best five-year stretch in program history

First Super Regional Host

Illinois hosted Vanderbilt in the first Super Regional in program history at Illinois Field. The Illini fell to the Commodores, ending the historic season.

First NCAA Regional Title

Illinois’ record-setting season added another highlight, winning the program’s first NCAA Regional title with an 8-4 victory over Wright State at Illinois Field. The Fighting Illini reached 50 wins for the first time in school history when closer Tyler Jay shut the door with four scoreless frames, sending Illinois to its first Super Regional. Kevin Duchene posted a complete game in the 10-3 opening win over Ohio followed by a CG shutout from Drasen Johnson in a 3-0 victory over Notre Dame.

Big Ten Tournament Recap

Illinois went 2-2 at the 2015 Big Ten Tournament at Target Field despite posting a 0.51 ERA. The Illini opened with a 3-2 comeback win over Nebraska for a Big Ten record 27-game winning streak. The streak was snapped in a 2-0 loss to Maryland, with both runs being unearned. Senior John Kravetz‘s first career complete game shutout in a 2-0 win over Michigan State kept the Illini alive. UI allowed five unearned runs and fell 5-3 to Michigan, ending its tournament run. All seven runs were unearned in Illinois’ two losses.

Illinois reached conference postseason play for the third year in a row and eighth time in 10 years under head coach Dan Hartleb. Illinois is 29-35 in 20 all-time appearances in the Big Ten Tournament and 10-14 in eight trips under Hartleb.

30th Big Ten Championship Clinched vs. Nebraska

With their 25th straight win on May 14, the Fighting Illini clinched the 2015 Big Ten regular season championship, marking the 30th conference title in program history. Illinois defeated Nebraska 6-3 at Illinois Field and surpassed Texas A&M for the longest winning streak in the nation in 2015.

Following a 2:41 rain delay on May 15, Illinois displayed its resilience yet again with a 10-9 comeback victory for win No. 26 in a row, equaling the all-time Big Ten winning streak record. The Illini scored their 10 runs in the first five innings and overcame a 4-2 deficit before closer Tyler Jay stymied the late Husker surge. The series and regular season finale against Nebraska was rained out.

School-Record 50 Wins

Illinois set the school record with 50 wins when it clinched the NCAA Champaign Regional title. Below is a list of the winningest seasons in school history, as the Illini have now exceeded 40 wins seven times. Illinois, which boasts 11 all-time NCAA Tournament appearances, reached a regional in five of those years, including a Super Regional for the first time this year.

Home Sweet Home

The Orange and Blue went 25-4 at home this season, setting the best record in Illinois Field history and breaking the mark from 1998 (20-5). The Illini also notched a school-record 19-game home winning streak from March 25-June 1.

School-Record Winning Streak

By winning 27 games in a row from March 30 to May 20, the 2015 Fighting Illini set the single-season and overall winning streak program record, which also broke the Big Ten winning streak record of 26 straight by Nebraska (1983). The previous best single-season streak was 16 in 1959 and 1989, while the previous longest winning streak across seasons was 19 games spanning 1909-11.

Stats Behind the Streak

Illinois did not lose over a span of 52 days, including 15 wins at home, 10 on the road and two at neutral sites. Senior David Kerian hit a team-high .400 with seven home runs and 29 RBI during the 27-game winning streak. Jason Goldstein (.367) had six homers and a team-high 31 RBI during the streak, while the Illini totaled 30 home runs over the 27 games. Ryan Nagle (.367), Casey Fletcher (.351) and Adam Walton (.314) each hit over .300 during it.

Record Nine MLB Draft Picks

A school record nine Illini were selected in the 2015 MLB Draft, which led the Big Ten and was tied for third in the nation. The previous Illinois school record was six selections in 1985.

Pick (Round) Name – Team

UI Record Three All-Americans

Three Illini – Tyler Jay (First Team), Kevin Duchene (Second Team) and David Kerian (Second Team) – were named All-Americans by multiple publications (NCBWA, ABCA, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, Baseball America, Perfect Game). It is the first time Illinois has garnered three All-America honors in one season in program history. All three were named second-team All-Americans by D1Baseball.com.

Five All-Mideast Region Picks

Five Illini – first baseman David Kerian (First Team), pitchers Kevin Duchene (First Team), Drasen Johnson (First Team), and Tyler Jay (First Team), and catcher Jason Goldstein(Second Team) – were named All-Mideast Region.

Illini Post Best Big Ten Record

The 2015 Fighting Illini tallied a 21-1 (.955) Big Ten record, marking the best non-undefeated winning percentage in Big Ten history. Eight teams have finished the Big Ten regular season undefeated, with Ohio State (6-0) being the last in 1966. Illinois also equaled the 2014 Indiana Hoosiers for the most wins in a 24-game schedule, which began in 2009.

Jay Pitcher of the Year Finalist

Fighting Illini junior LHP Tyler Jay was named one of three finalists for the National Pitcher of the Year Award. Jay was up for the award along with Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer (won the award) and College of Charleston’s Taylor Clarke.

Jay, who was drafted No. 6 overall by the Minnesota Twins on Monday, had a school-record 14 saves and a 5-2 record with a 1.08 ERA in 66 2/3 innings over 30 appearances (2 starts) in 2015. The Lemont, Illinois, native allowed only 40 hits and seven walks while striking out 76, holding opponents to a .177 batting average.

Jay was named a Louisville Slugger, NCBWA and Baseball America first-team All-American along with a second-team selection by D1Baseball.com. The Big Ten Pitcher of the Year helped Illinois earn a Big Ten regular-season championship and No. 6 national seed in the NCAA Tournament. The two-time All-Big Ten selection was a semifinalist for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award and NCBWA Dick Howser Trophy.

Jay ended his Illini career as the school record holder for ERA (1.68) and career saves (24). He went 10-6 in 128.2 innings pitched in 71 career appearances, which is tied for the sixth-most in school history.

Hartleb No. 3 in UI History

University of Illinois 10th-year head coach Dan Hartleb has coached in 557 games as an Illini and currently ranks third in school history with 326 wins. He earned his 300th career win in a 17-2 rout of Northwestern on April 5 and moved past George Huff with career win No. 315 in a 6-5 comeback victory at Ohio State on May 2. The top-four winningest coaches among the 10 all-time coaches at Illinois are listed below:

1. Lee Eilbracht    518-395-6 (27 seasons: 1952-1978)
2. Itch Jones    474-373-1 (15 seasons: 1991-2005)
3. Dan Hartleb    326-230-1 (10 seasons: 2006-present)
4. George Huff    314-97-4 (23 seasons: 1896-1919)

Duchene, Jay Both Named Dick Howser Trophy Semifinalists

Junior closer Tyler Jay and starter Kevin Duchene were named semifinalists for the NCBWA Dick Howser Trophy and the National College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year award.

Illini Pitchers in Big Ten Stats

Four Illinois pitchers ranked in the Big Ten’s Top 5 ERA leaders. Tyler Jay led the conference with a 1.08 ERA followed by Kevin Duchene (1.75) in third, Drasen Johnson (2.01) in fourth and Rob McDonnell (2.28) in fifth.

Five Illinois pitchers ranked in the Big Ten’s Top 15 opposing batting average leaders. Tyler Jay (.177) led the league followed by Rob McDonnell (.211) in fourth, Kevin Duchene (.235) in ninth, Drasen Johnson (.238) in 11th and John Kravetz (.258) in 15th.

Duchene’s Dominant on Friday

Junior Kevin Duchene ranked eighth in the nation with an 11-2 record, 21st with a 1.75 ERA, 41st with a 4.89 strikeout-to-walk-ratio and 55th with 1.58 walks allowed per nine innings. He fanned eight or more five times, including a season-high 10 punch outs against Northwestern. His 86 strikeouts were tops on the team and third in the Big Ten. Duchene’s 2.11 career ERA ranks second in school history, while his 24-4 (.857) career record is the fifth-best winning percentage all-time by a UI pitcher.

Johnson Eats Up Innings

Redshirt-senior Drasen Johnson was a workhorse for the Illini starting staff after moving into the rotation last season. Johnson finished 10-3 with a 2.01 ERA and led the Big Ten with 116.2 innings pitched, including a team-high three complete games. The Chillicothe, Illinois, native made every start last season and led the Illini with 96 innings pitched. He spent his first two seasons in the bullpen, throwing 39 innings in 2012 and 29.1 innings in 2013. He finished eighth in school history with 281 innings pitched.

Kravetz = UI All-Time IP Leader

Senior John Kravetz finished his career as Illinois’ all-time leader with 337 innings pitched. A four-year starter, he threw 87.2 IP as a freshman in 2012, a career-high 90.2 IP as a sophomore in 2013, 78 IP as a junior in 2014 and owns 80.2 IP during his senior season this year.

Duchene, Kravetz Each Own 24 Career Victories (T-7th for UI)

Kevin Duchene (24-4) and John Kravetz (24-7) finished tied for seventh on the Illinois all-time wins list. Mark Dressen (1989-92) and current pitching coach Drew Dickinson (1999-02) hold the school record with 30 career wins.

Kerian, Illini Dig the Long Ball

Illinois finished first in the Big Ten with 54 home runs (23rd in NCAA). Senior David Kerian led the Big Ten with a career-high 16 bombs (10th in NCAA), which was the most by an Illini since Dusty Bensko hit 16 in 2005. Reid Roper was in second with 10 HR (5th in Big Ten) and Jason Goldstein was third with eight HR (T-7th in Big Ten).

Dual Threat Reid Roper Named Academic All-American

Redshirt-senior Reid Roper was named a Capital One second-team Academic All-American. Roper, who boasts a 3.55 GPA as an elementary education major, hit .293 with 10 home runs and 49 RBI. He also was a first-team Academic All-District selection, Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

Double-Digit Hitting Streaks

Illinois players posted five double-digit hitting streaks in 2015: David Kerian (18 and 17), Ryan Nagle (15), Jason Goldstein (15) and Casey Fletcher (12). An Illini has notched an 18-game hitting streak in each of the past three years with shortstops Thomas Lindauer (2013) and Adam Walton (2014) both doing so previously.

Fletcher’s Third Walk-Off

Senior Casey Fletcher earned his third career walk-off RBI in the 7-6 victory over Fordham (2/21) and didn’t even have to swing the bat this time. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, a pitch ricocheted off his foot, allowing Jason Goldstein to score. Last season, the Illini right fielder had walk-off hits in consecutive games against Michigan State (May 3-4, 2014). It is UI’s lone walk-off win in 2015.

School-Record 9 Weekly Honors

Illinois, which racked up five Big Ten Player of the Week awards and four Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors this year, totaled a program-record nine Big Ten weekly awards which led the conference in 2015. The previous UI season-high was seven in 2009.

5 Big Ten Players of the Week

Illinois equaled the school record from 2009 with five Big Ten Player of Week awards in a season. Senior David Kerian (May 4, May 18) and junior Jason Goldstein (May 12, April 7) were both two-time winners, while senior Casey Fletcher (April 27) also collected the laurel this season.

4 Big Ten Pitchers of the Week

The Illini earned four Big Ten Pitcher of the Week accolades this year, which is a new school record. Each one was a left-handed pitcher: Kevin Duchene (April 7 & March 23), Tyler Jay (March 9) and Rob McDonnell (Feb. 16). The Orange and Blue broke the school record from 2002 of three Big Ten Pitcher of the Week awards in a season.

Kerian Makes it Four Straight Illini B1G Awards

The Fighting Illini swept the final four weeks of Big Ten Player of the Week awards, as senior David Kerian picked up the honor for a second time (May 18). Kerian led the Illini to the 2015 Big Ten title by hitting .667 with three runs, a home run and three RBI in two wins over Nebraska. He extended his hitting streak to 17 games, one shy of his career high from earlier this year.

Goldstein Notches Second B1G Player of the Week

For the third week in a row, an Illini earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors, announced the conference office on May 12. Junior catcher Jason Goldstein led Illinois to its sixth straight Big Ten series sweep and a 24-game winning streak by hitting .583 (7-for-12) with two home runs and nine RBI in three wins over Rutgers.

In Sunday’s series finale, Goldstein’s second career grand slam propelled the Illini to their biggest comeback win on the year. Trailing 9-5 in the fourth inning, he tied it up 9-9 with one swing of the bat, as the Illini went on to win 28-13. His career-best 5-for-5 day helped the Illini score 28 runs, which is tied for the seventh-most single-game runs in program history. During the doubleheader sweep on Saturday, he turned in five RBI on the day with three in game one and a go-ahead two-run homer in the first inning of game two.

Kerian B1G Player of the Week

For the second straight week, an Illini senior was named Big Ten Player of the Week, announced the conference office on May 4. First baseman David Kerian earned his first career weekly honor by hitting .600 (9-for-15) and leading Illinois to a 21-game winning streak with a perfect 4-0 week.

Kerian recorded multiple hits in every game and scored in all four contests, totaling six runs, five RBI and a homer. He hit a team-high .636 (7-for-11) with five runs and three RBI in the weekend sweep at No. 23 Ohio State following a 2-for-4 performance with two RBI and a run in a midweek win at Southern Illinois. In the series finale in Columbus, Kerian belted his Big Ten-leading 11th home run and later connected on a go-ahead two-run single as part of a 3-for-4 day with three RBI.

Fletcher B1G Player of the Week

Senior Casey Fletcher was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on April 27, marking his second career weekly honor. Fletcher hit a team-high .500 (8-of-16) with five walks during Illinois’ perfect 4-0 week (April 20-26).

Fletcher, who shared the honor with Iowa’s Jimmy Frankos, brought home the game-winning RBI single in the 15th inning on Saturday at Penn State. He had three multi-hit games and posted a 1.000 fielding percentage in right field. The Oakwood, Illinois, native scored five runs and had three RBI on the week in which Illinois topped Eastern Illinois and swept Penn State.

Both B1G Players of the Week

Fighting Illini juniors Kevin Duchene and Jason Goldstein nabbed Big Ten weekly honors on April 7. Duchene was tabbed Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Week, notching his second laurel this season, while Goldstein was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time in his career.

Duchene pitched nine innings without an earned run in the 13-inning 3-1 win over Northwestern on Friday. The Joliet, Illinois, native fanned a season-high 10 Wildcats and delivered key strikeouts to send the game into extra innings. He lowered his Big Ten-leading ERA to 0.64 and ranks second with 47 strikeouts.

Goldstein led the Illini to a perfect week with a team-high .600 average, 1.067 slugging percentage, .667 on-base percentage, seven runs, seven RBI and five extra-base hits, including four doubles and a home run. He had four multi-hit games, posted four RBI in the finale and twice tied his career-high with three runs. The Illini catcher called the game behind the plate in every win.

Duchene’s 4th B1G Weekly Award

Junior Kevin Duchene collected his school-record fourth career award on April 7 and broke pitching coach Drew Dickinson‘s previous UI record of three career weekly awards. Duchene is a two-time winner in 2015 and also won it once as a freshman (5/13/13) and as a sophomore (3/3/14).

Jay Big Ten Pitcher of the Week

Fighting Illini junior Tyler Jay was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for the first time in his career on March 9. The Lemont, Illinois, native went 1-0 with two saves from March 2-8, totaling 7.2 scoreless innings in relief while only allowing three hits in three appearances.

McDonnell Big Ten Award

Redshirt-senior Rob McDonnell was voted Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for the first time in his career on Feb. 16. He racked up a career-high 10 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings against New Mexico State (2/14). He needed just 77 pitches to work through the longest outing of his career.

Home Sweep of Rutgers

Illinois equaled Texas A&M for the then-longest winning streak in the nation in 2015 by sweeping Rutgers on its way to a 24-game winning streak. The Illini took both games of the doubleheader with a 5-4 game one win and 6-2 game two victory. UI overcame a 9-5 deficit to win a 28-13 slugfest in the series finale on Sunday, including two grand slams as part of the seventh-highest run total in school history.

Ranked Road Sweep at Ohio St.

Illinois extended its school-record winning streak to 21 straight and earned its fifth consecutive Big Ten series sweep at No. 23 Ohio State. The Illini cruised to an 8-1 victory on Friday behind a gem from Kevin Duchene followed by a pair of comeback victories, overcoming 2-0 deficits on both Saturday (6-5) and Sunday (6-2).

Perfect Month of April (16-0), Midweek (9-0) Records

In its final midweek game of the year, Illinois completed a perfect month and extended its school-record winning streak to 18 games with a 7-5 victory over Southern Illinois. The Illini finished 16-0 in April and notched an unblemished 9-0 mark in midweek tilts. The Orange and Blue tallied their seven runs and 10 of their 11 hits in the first five innings. On his birthday, starter Rob McDonnell improved to 6-1 with six strikeouts over six solid innings.

Third Straight Sweep of PSU

Illinois capped a perfect weekend in Happy Valley with a 6-3 victory, sweeping Penn State and setting a school record with 17 straight wins. UI swept PSU for the third year in a row and earned its fourth conference sweep in 2015. The Illini powered past Penn State, 10-1, in the opener and outlasted the Nittany Lions 4-2 in 15 innings during game two. That marked the longest game under head coach Dan Hartleb.

Streak Reached 14 against EIU

Illinois turned it on in the middle of the game for its 14th consecutive win, downing Eastern Illinois 10-1 on Tuesday (4/21). Senior David Kerian homered in the fifth and the Illini added four runs in both the sixth and eighth. They continued the best start in school history (33-6-1) and moved to an 8-0 record in midweek games.

Streak Continued against IU

UI won the first two games against Indiana before the finale was rained out. The Fighting Illini put on a show for the third-largest crowd in school history (4,019), defeating Indiana 5-1 at the seventh-annual Bleacher Bum BBQ on Friday. On Saturday, starter Drasen Johnson clinched 13 consecutive wins and the seventh straight series for Illinois with a complete game in the 6-3 victory over Indiana.

Late Rally vs. the Redbirds

Illinois scored seven runs over the final three innings and came back twice to earn its 11th straight win with a 7-3 victory over Illinois State on April 14. The Illini jumped in front 2-1 in the top of the seventh, fell behind 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh and responded with a four-run eighth to regain the lead for good following the game-winning hit from senior Will Krug.

Purdue Series Sweep

The Fighting Illini earned their sixth consecutive series win and second straight sweep when they won all three games against Purdue to continue the best start in school history. Three Illini homered in the opener for a 10-5 win followed by a 5-1 victory behind eight strong innings from starter Drasen Johnson. Closer Tyler Jay pitched the final four innings in the 2-1 win on Monday night.

Midweek Wins Equal Best Start

Illinois reached its best start in school history when it notched the program’s best 32-game record by winning 14-10 at Eastern Illinois on April 7. The Illini followed with a 7-2 win against Saint Louis on April 8 and have maintained the best start through its 18-game winning streak. Reliever J.D. Nielsen notched his first win of the season against EIU, while starter Rob McDonnell improved to 4-1 with a win over SLU.

Northwestern Series Sweep

Illinois earned its first three-game series sweep when Northwestern came to town due to renovations at Rocky Miller Park. Playing as the visitors at their home park, the Illini opened with a 3-1 win in 13 innings. The bats came alive with an 11-4 victory on Saturday and 17-2 rout on Sunday.

Braggin’ Rights Victory

UI picked up a 4-3 Braggin’ Rights victory over Missouri at GCS Ballpark. Trailing 3-2 in the sixth, senior David Kerian hit a go-ahead two-run homer that proved to be the game winner. Starter Rob McDonnell nabbed his third win, and the bullpen paved the way for closer Tyler Jay who shut the door for his seventh save.

Streak Started at MSU

Illinois won its fourth straight series and first in Big Ten play after taking two out of three at Michigan State. UI won 8-4 in the opener, dropped game two 5-2 and held on for a 13-9 win in the finale, which began the Illini’s Big Ten record 27-game winning streak.

9-Game Homestand

UI finished 7-2 during its nine-game homestand at Illinois Field (March 10-25). The Illini began their campaign in Champaign with a win over Chicago State followed by a series win over Southern Illinois, a midweek victory over Lindenwood-Belleville (NAIA) and another series win over USF. Illinois rounded out its longest stretch at home this season with a 9-4 victory over Kent State.

USF Series Summary

The Illini won their third straight series, taking two out of three from USF. Junior Kevin Duchene, who won Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors, only gave up two hits and did not allow an earned run over seven innings in Friday night’s 13-1 win, which snapped USF’s nine-game winning streak. UI homered three times in Saturday’s 5-2 victory but dropped the finale 8-5.

First Home Series Win over SIU

Illinois won its home-opening series against Southern Illinois after taking the final two games from the Salukis. The Illini shined on the mound over the weekend with a 1.33 ERA and 19 strikeouts while only allowing five runs (4 ER) and one walk. UI also belted three homers in the finale.

Road Wins at Ranked OSU

Illinois went 2-1 on the road at No. 10 Oklahoma State in Stillwater (March 6-8). The Fighting Illini captured a series win against a top-10 ranked opponent for the first time since taking two of three at No. 1 LSU (March 6-8, 2009). Illinois improved to 2-0 in extra-inning games thanks to David Kerian hitting the game-winning home run in the top of the 10th for a 4-2 win in the finale.

Chanticleer Classic Rewind

Illinois went 3-2 at the Chanticleer Classic, finishing with a 1.23 ERA and outscoring its opponents 14-8. The Illini suffered their first two losses of the season, both coming in tight one-run games. Ball State’s winning run scored on a passed ball, while Kent State’s winning run came home on a wild pitch.

Hot Start in 2015

The Illini went undefeated through eight games for the first time since 1986 when it also started 7-0-1. It was the fifth time in school history an Illini team did not lose during its first eight games of the season. The best undefeated start ever by Illinois was in 1910 when UI finished the year undefeated with a 14-0 record.

First Tie Since 2005

Illinois finished in a 4-4 tie with Florida Gulf Coast on Feb. 22 due to a travel curfew on getaway day. Sophomore Pat McInerney notched an RBI single that plated senior Casey Fletcher as the tying run in the top of the ninth, but the two teams were unable to start an inning after 5:45 p.m. local time. It marked the first tie in 10 years under head coach Dan Hartleb. The last time a travel curfew forced an Illini tie was on March 6, 2005, when Illinois and Sam Houston State ended the game 1-1 after 14 innings.

4-0 at Lamar Cardinal Classic

Illinois swept its opening weekend at the Lamar Cardinal Classic for its first 4-0 start in 15 years. The Illini began the year with consecutive comeback victories over New Mexico State followed by impressive offensive performances in wins over Lamar. The Orange and Blue outscored their opponents 26-7 on the trip. The combined seven runs allowed in the first four games marked the fewest allowed to start the season since 1973 (also 7 runs in first four games). UI’s four starting pitchers – Drasen JohnsonRob McDonnellJohn Kravetz and Tyler Jay – combined for a 0.34 ERA over 26.1 innings pitched with 25 strikeouts and only eight hits and three walks.

Veteran Illini Squad in 2015

Illinois returned every position starter and nearly the entire pitching staff back after setting the ERA school record (3.25) last season.

UI brought back 100 percent of its hits (487), home runs (21), RBI (233) and total bases (652); 98.8 percent of its runs (250 of 253); 98.5 percent of its stolen bases (65 of 66).

The Illini returned 82.8 percent of their innings pitched (392.1 of 474); 86.8 percent of their strikeouts (317 of 365); and 84.4 percent of their wins (27 of 32).

Staff ERA under Dickinson

Fourth-year pitching coach Drew Dickinson has improved Illinois’ staff ERA each year of his career. The Illini finished with a 4.77 ERA in 2012 followed by a 3.76 ERA in 2013 and a school-record 3.25 ERA in 2014. This season, UI hurlers currently sport a 2.55 ERA (No. 5 in NCAA).

Coaching Staff Changes

The Illinois coaching staff featured two new members – Spencer Allen and Kyle Hudson – during the 2015 season, with one being a familiar face. Allen was in his first year as an assistant coach, working primarily with the position players. Following a pro career, Hudson completed his first season as a volunteer assistant coach.

Nike Rebranded Uniforms

Illinois wore new orange and blue jerseys during the 2015 season, which featured the ILLINOIS wordmark across the chest with the Victory Shield on the left sleeve.

New Video Board in Right Field

The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics unveiled its new video display for Fighting Illini baseball on April 3 at Illinois Field. The OES baseball scoreboard features a YESCO video display, measuring nearly 36×19 feet. The new board, which was constructed by Correct Digital Displays, Inc., out of Sheridan, Illinois, will sit just beyond the right field wall. It is the first video display at Illinois Field, which opened in 1988.

School-Record Attendance at Illinois Field

Illinois averaged 1,721 fans at Illinois Field this season, which ranked 41st in the NCAA and broke the school record (1,270 average in 1990). Nine of the Top 14 biggest crowds in Illinois Field history (opened in 1988) came in 2015.

All-Big Ten Award Highlights

  • Illinois swept the top three Big Ten individual awards for the first time in school history:David Kerian (Player of the Year), Tyler Jay (Pitcher of the Year) and Dan Hartleb (Coach of the Year).
  • First baseman David Kerian is the second Illini in the past three years and ninth overall to win Big Ten Player of the Year, with Justin Parr being the last to do so in 2013.
  • Closer Tyler Jay is the first Illini to earn Big Ten Pitcher of the Year honors since current pitching coach Drew Dickinson in 2001. Jay is the fourth Illini to win the award all-time, with Jason Anderson (2000) and Brett Weber (1998) being the other two.
  • Head coach Dan Hartleb collected his first Big Ten Coach of the Year accolade, which marks the third in Illinois history (Itch Jones – 1998, 2005).
  • Eleven Illini were named to All-Big Ten teams, equaling the school record from 1998. Six first-team selections also tied the record mark from that year.
  • Illinois led the conference in first-team All-Big Ten selections (6) and overall selections (11).
  • Outfielder Will Krug was Illinois’ Sportsmanship Award honoree.

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