Baseball set for home opener

Illini baseball has finally come home.

After a 22-game stretch of traveling in-state, out-of-state and all over the states, Illinois (12-10, 1-2 Big Ten) is set to compete in the confines of Illinois Field, where it will take on Mississippi Valley State (6-20, 6-6 SWAC) in a three-game series this weekend.

“There’s two things that are gonna be nice,” Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. “No. 1, to play in front of our fans because they’re absolutely awesome … and I think the other thing that’s gonna be nice for all of us is the fact that we get to sleep in our own beds (Friday) night.”

The Illini are coming off their first slate of midweek games of the season. They traveled to Normal, Ill., to face Illinois State and then to Peoria, Ill., to face Bradley. The Illini lost 16-7 to the Redbirds on Tuesday before topping the Braves 6-3 Wednesday.

“You always wanna win in-state games, and this week we split,” sophomore Jordan Parr said. “But getting the win yesterday going into the series is pretty big, getting some momentum. You always want to be building that momentum, I think it helps our team chemistry.”

Parr, whose twin brother Justin is a junior on the team, will be playing his first home game as an Illini. During his freshman year, Jordan Parr transferred from Illinois State to join Justin at Parkland. After redshirting that season, Jordan played for Parkland last year as Justin transferred to Illinois.

“It’s been a long road, my college career,” the sophomore Parr said. “It’s been unique, this being my third school in three years, I just feel very thankful for the Lord’s plan in my life and the opportunity to play here.”

Also playing in his first home game will be redshirt freshman Reid Roper, who plays second base and pitches in relief for the Illini.

“I’ve come here on recruiting trips and watched games,” Roper said. “Last year, I watched from the dugout, took part in the pregame stuff last year with BP and in and out, but I’m real excited to get my first game in at Illinois Field.”

Roper closed yesterday’s game on the mound, as Illinois held Bradley to three runs, ending what had been a rocky stretch for the pitching staff. Junior Kevin Johnson takes the ball for Illinois in Friday’s contest. He has won his previous four starts, boasting an ERA of 2.92 in his six appearances this season.

“Being the Friday starter, I wanna get the weekend off good,” Johnson said. “I like being in that role, coming out and getting that first win, I think it’s important.”