Several Illini sports sign recruits to national letters of intent

Several future Illinois athletes signed national letters of intent for next year, Wednesday.

Illinois baseball coach Dan Hartleb announced the signing of eight players for the 2012 season, while women’s gymnastics coach Kim Landrus and women’s basketball coach Jolette Law each added two athletes to their 2012-13 squads.

Pitcher Nick Blackburn— a 6-foot-2, 185 pound right hander from Naperville, Ill. — headlines Hartleb’s list. Blackburn is ranked No. 28 in the class of 2012 in Illinois by Prep Baseball report and went 4-3 with a 4.70 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings in 2011 for Neuqua Valley high school on the way to an IHSA Class 4A regional title in 2011.

“Nick has a strong arm and solid four-pitch mix. To go along with his good fastball, he has two plus breaking balls that he can use at any time,” assistant coach Drew Dickinson said in a press release. “With his size and athletic ability, Nick will only get better once he arrives on campus.”

Heather Foley was one of the two gymnasts signed by Landrus on Wednesday. The four-time JO Level 10 National Qualifer from Pewaukee, Wis., tied for eight on beam in 2011 and 11th on the event in 2010 at JO Natioanls.

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One of Law’s signees Wednesday was 6-foot guard Mckenzie Piper from Iowa City, Iowa. Piper, who committed to Illinois in June, averaged 11.3 points and 5.3 rebound per game and shot 41 percent from the field last season; her high school team, Iowa City West, went to the championship game of the Class 4A state tournament. The three-star recruit is also ranked as the 59th best guard in her class by HoopGurlz.