Defending MVC Champion Redbirds Open 113th Season vs. Butler

Feb. 14, 2014

Illinois state vs. Butler University | feb. 15-16
Location: Nashville, Tenn. (E.S. RosePark - 500)
Friday 2/14: Cancelled
Saturday 2/15: Following the completion of Belmont's DH (approximately 5:30 p.m.)
Sunday 2/16: 10 a.m.
Game Notes: Game Note Central
Live Stats:Not available this weekend
AudioNow: 213.493.0197 (Listen to Play-by-Play on your cellular device without using data)
Local Weather: Nashville, Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Illinois State baseball team will look to defend its Missouri Valley Conference title when the Redbirds open their 113th season, Saturday, Feb. 15, with game one of a two-game series against Butler University. The Redbirds had been slated to play a three-game series at Murray State, however poor weather in Kentucky cancelled the entire series. The Illinois State-Butler matchup will take place at E.S. Rose Park, the home baseball venue of Belmont University. Saturday's game will begin following the completion of Belmont's doubleheader (approximately 5:30 p.m.) and Sunday will be a 10:00 a.m. first pitch.

For the latest updates all weekend, please be sure to follow Illinois State Baseball on Twitter, @REDBIRDBaseball.

Probable Pitching Match-Ups
Game One
Dan Savas (ISU) RS Jr. RHP, 10-0, 1.79 ERA
TBA (Butler University)
Game Two
Dylan Craig (ISU) RS So. LHP, 0-1, 7.71 ERA
TBA (Butler University)

The Opposition: Butler Bulldogs (25-27, 12-12 Atlantic-10)
• Butler University is located in Indianapolis, Ind. It is a private university that was established in 1855 and currently enrolls 5,700 students.
• The Bulldogs were members of the Horizon League in 2012, the Atlantic-10 in 2013 and are now members of the BIG EAST Conference.
• Butler is guided by veteran head coach Steve Farley. He is in his 23rd season at the helm of the Butler University baseball program. Farley is a 1981 graduate of Minnesota and has posted a 584-694 all-time record, including a 531-652 mark at Butler.
• Butler earned Horizon League regular-season titles in 1996, 1998, and 1999, as well as Horizon League tournament titles in 1998 and 2000. The Bulldogs also had 34-win seasons in both 2002 and 2003 and surpassed the 30-win mark in both 1998 and 2000.
• The Redbirds and Bulldogs first met in 1973 and Illinois State owns a 7-2 all-time record against Butler. The two teams last met in 2004.

2013 In Review: Missouri Valley Conference Champions
The 2013 Illinois State Redbirds compiled its best regular season in school history, en route to its second Missouri Valley Conference championship over the last four years. ISU won a program-record 39 games, which included a school-best 12-game winning streak. The Redbirds posted a 16-5 MVC record and secured its first outright MVC title in school history. A Valley-record eight Redbirds were named First-Team All-Missouri Valley Conference and head coach Mark Kingston was named MVC Coach of the Year. Chris Razo became the first Redbird pitcher to earn MVC Pitcher of the Year honors and shortstop Brett Kay was named the league's defensive most valuable player. Despite sitting under .500 on April 1, the Redbirds won 24-of-its-final-28 games to secure a league title and advance to the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference Championship. Four Redbirds were drafted in the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

Finishing What They Start
The 2013 Redbirds clinched a Valley championship behind standout pitching. Redbird pitchers fired a school-record 13 complete-games last spring. Current Milwaukee Brewers prospect Chris Razo (5) and Redbird ace Dan Savas (5) led the way, while Brad Sorkin (1), Will Headean (1) and Steve Heilenbach (1) each added one complete-game last season. The Redbirds compiled 10 shutouts in 2013, good for third-best among all NCAA Division I schools. The Redbirds finished in first place in the Valley with a 2.75 ERA in Missouri Valley Conference games.

New-Look Offense
In addition to strong pitching, Illinois State secured its best regular-season in school history last spring with a powerful offense that led the Missouri Valley Conference in numerous categories. The `13 Redbirds were best in the MVC in batting average (.293), on-base percentage (.388), slugging percentage (.403) and home runs (29), while posting 6.2 runs-per-game. Five hitters were named First-Team All-Missouri Valley Conference. The Redbirds enter 2014 having lost five offensive starters.

Newest Redbirds
Eleven different freshmen saw playing time for the Redbirds during the record-setting 2013 campaign. This season, Illinois State welcomes 12 players to the roster who have never appeared in a game for the Redbirds. The incoming freshmen class consists of two pitchers (Tyler Feece, Ben Hecht) and two position players (Nick Kowalczuk, Greg Sidor). Junior-college transfers include three pitchers (Austin Denault, Matt Lambert, Kendall Lindley) and four position players (Dennis Colon, Chad Klein, Logan Leverett, Mason Snyder). Cody Voelker, who joined the team last season but did not appear in any games, will make his Illinois State debut against Butler.

2014 Season Preview
Illinois State returns 20 lettermen from a team that went 39-19 in 2013. 12 pitchers return from a pitching staff that posted the best Valley ERA in 2013, while eight position players will look to supplement an offense that led the Valley in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs. Additionally, 12 newcomers have been added to the roster.
The 2014 schedule features four 2013 NCAA Tournament qualifiers (Central Arkansas, Illinois, Wichita State and Florida) in addition to two teams that won at least 30 games last spring (Dallas Baptist, Missouri State). The season begins with a 16-game road trip, before Illinois State returns to Duffy Bass Field, March 14.

Redbirds Selected Third in Preseason MVC Coaches' Poll
One season after winning the Missouri Valley Conference outright for the first time in school history, the Illinois State baseball team has been selected to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference, according to the MVC Preseason Baseball Coaches' Poll released by the Valley offices in January. The Redbirds received 46 total votes, good for for third-highest in the conference. Wichita State was the preseason favorites with 56 points and Missouri State was tabbed second with 55 total points. Illinois State was selected to finish third in 2013, before going 16-5 in Valley games to win the conference championship.

Kingston's Crown

Entering his fifth season as the head coach of the Illinois State baseball program, Mark Kingston has emerged as one of the premiere young coaches in NCAA baseball. In his first four seasons as a head coach, Kingston has twice been named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year, has won a pair of MVC Championships and has twice broken single-season school win records. Kingston has also amassed four-consecutive 30+ win seasons for the first time in Illinois State history. Additionally, 24 Redbirds have earned all-MVC honors and eight have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
For the second consecutive season Kingston was named a "Rising College Coach" by Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA. Kingston's coaching staff has remained untouched in his tenure in Normal as Bo Durkac (associate head coach), Bill Mohl (pitching coach) and Mike Current (assistant coach) return to their roles this spring. Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, Weisbecker Scholarship Fund gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.