Illinois third baseman Frk seeks second postseason

Third baseman Chad Frk swings against Indiana April 23 at Illinois Field. Daily Illini file photo

Third baseman Chad Frk swings against Indiana April 23 at Illinois Field. Daily Illini file photo

By Erik Hall

Four years after starting three games of the 2001 Big Ten Conference Tournament, Illinois senior Chad Frk is trying to return to the postseason.

“I was expecting to make it every year,” Frk said. “We have let it slip a little bit. We definitely have had the talent to succeed. We just haven’t done it as players.”

Frk, a fifth-year senior, is the only player with postseason experience at Illinois. Frk earned All-Big Ten honors last season for the first time in his career, but Illinois’ season ended with a ninth place finish in the Big Ten.

This season Frk has continued to do his part to get Illinois back to the postseason.

Frk leads Illinois in runs scored and is second in hits. He ranks third on the team in batting average, on-base percentage and total bases.

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“With all the talent we have and all the guys we have returning, we are pushing each other this year,” Frk said. “All the guys are trying to build on the amount of success that we’ve had here so that we do better as a team.”

An individual improvement Frk has shown this year has been his defense.

He has one error this season. His fielding percentage is 30 points better than last season and 54 points better than his career fielding percentage.

“(Assistant coach) Eric Snyder worked with him last year to get him a little movement before the pitch was thrown and improve his lateral movement,” said Illinois head baseball coach Itch Jones. “I think what Eric taught him has helped him tremendously this year.”

Defensively, Frk has made 30 plays this season at third base and has only one error. His fielding percentage of .966 ranks third among Big Ten third basemen.

“He’s made all the plays at third base that you could ask for,” Jones said. “It seems like once a game he comes up with a great play that saves us. It’s good to have him at third base because he is very sound, an accurate thrower and has good hands.”

Junior pitcher Andy Sigerich is in his third season playing with Frk at Illinois. The two also played together last summer for the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League.

“He’s a real good fielder,” Sigerich said. “You really feel confident anytime there is a ball hit toward third base. It’s nice to have someone like that behind you defensively.”

Frk’s attempt to become the third Illinois third baseman to win All-Big Ten honors in consecutive seasons will be aided by a healthy back. Back problems caused Frk to miss a few games in 2004 and nearly the entire 2002 season, but he does not expect his back to be a problem this season.

“It feels perfect,” Frk said. “I haven’t felt better physically in a long time. It’s a blessing just to be healthy and feel great and be around these guys more than usual.”

He just wants to see this season last beyond the regular season finale.

“This year we hope to turn it around and bring the program back to where it should be (now), and where it should be in the future,” Frk said.