Staff writer Jeff Huth breaks down the Big Ten baseball series.
TEAMS: Illinois (24-12, 6-6 Big Ten) vs. Northwestern (17-15, 6-9 Big Ten).
SCHEDULE: 6:05 p.m. Friday; 3:05 p.m. Saturday; 1:05 p.m. Sunday. All games at Illinois Field.
RADIO: WDWS 1400-AM; Dave Loane (play-by-play) with analysts Scott Beatty (Friday), Loren Tate (Saturday) and Jeff Huth (Sunday).
SERIES RECORD: Illinois leads 161-86.
LAST MEETING: Illinois swept a three-game series last season at Evanston, with each game decided by no more than two runs.
COACHES: Illinois — Dan Hartleb, eighth season (233-191, 105-96 Big Ten); Northwestern — Paul Stevens, 26th season (632-756-6, 299-417-1 Big Ten).
TOP ILLINI HITTERS: CF Justin Parr (.435, 11 2B, 40 RBI); 1B David Kerian (.360, 31 RBI, 17-18 SB); LF Jordan Parr (.310, 26 RBI, 17-18 SB).
TOP WILDCATS HITTERS: IF/OF/P Kyle Ruchim (.375, 9 2B, .459 OB pct.); 1B Jack Havey (.359, 8 2B, 16 RBI); IF/P Zach Morton (.295, 26 RBI).
PROBABLE ILLINI STARTERS: RH Kevin Johnson (6-2, 2.45 ERA); RH John Kravetz (3-1, 5.19); RH Ryan Castellanos (2-1, 5.20).
PROBABLE WILDCATS STARTERS: RH Luke Farrell (2-2, 1.88); RH Brandon Magallones (4-4, 3.53); RH Zach Morton (3-2, 1.98).
ILLINI UPDATE: Halfway through its Big Ten schedule, seventh-place Illinois might consider itself fortunate to have a .500 record, considering that it has lost three of its first four series. What’s kept the Illini afloat is the fact that they have not been swept and that they swept the one series they won, against Purdue. ... One Illini storyline that has been prominent for a couple of weeks continues. Justin Parr will take a 24-game hitting streak into tonight’s game, the longest active streak in NCAA Division I. The senior center fielder is within one game of the UI record, set by Ryan Snowden in 2007. Parr is hitting .431 (44 for 102) during the streak, which surprisingly is lower than his season figure of .435. Through games of April 21, the Chillicothe native ranked third in the nation in batting average and was tied for sixth in hits (67). ... Freshman catcher Jason Goldstein saw his 12-game hitting streak end last Sunday at Ohio State. The streak was the second longest by an Illini this season. Even with the 0-for-4 game against the Buckeyes, Goldstein is hitting .351 in 10 Big Ten games. ... Illini junior Thomas Lindauer is on the Wallace Award Watch List. The honor goes to the nation’s top shortstop. Lindauer ranks second in the Big Ten in home runs (eight) and eighth in slugging percentage (.490). ... Right fielder Davis Hendrickson, who regained his starting position when Will Krug (broken left forearm) was injured April 5, has responded to the opportunity in a big way. The Illini senior is hitting .353 (12 for 34) since re-entering the lineup. ... Illinois expects to regain the services of reliever Ronnie Muck (1-0, 1.17 ERA in eight appearances) this weekend. The junior right-hander, who last pitched March 9, has been sidelined by an arm injury.
ABOUT THE WILDCATS: Northwestern is coming off an impressive 2-1 series victory against Michigan, which entered with a 7-2 Big Ten record. However, the Wildcats find themselves in eighth place after twice being swept. ... The Wildcats rank fourth in the Big Ten in batting average and ERA. What jumps out in particular about Northwestern is the strength of its starting rotation. Two of the Wildcats’ weekend starters have ERAs under 2.00, and the third is a solid 3.53. Farrell, the Big Ten strikeout leader, and Morton rank among the top six in the conference in ERA. ... Farrell is the reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week after throwing a three-hit shutout and striking out nine against Michigan on April 20. ... Right fielder Zach Jones is a two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week this season. The Glenbrook South graduate is hitting .354 in 24 games, including 14 starts. ... Colby Everett’s 12-game hitting streak ended Wednesday when the Wildcats third baseman went 0 for 4 in a 5-0 loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Entering that game, Everett was hitting .400 in April.
DID YOU KNOW? Farrell is the son of Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell.