After a scheduling snafu, Illinois baseball split their opening doubleheader in St. Louis on Sunday.
It wasn’t easy. The original weekend series in Beaumont, Texas hosted by Lamar University was cancelled due to flight cancellations. The Illinois baseball program re-scheduled with two new teams, South Dakota State and Austin Peay. The games were to be played on Saturday and Sunday and thanks to host St. Louis University, the games were to be played only three and a half hours away from the University of Illinois!
But more schedule chaos was to ensue. Saturday’s weather was just not baseball-friendly so a game was not meant to be.
Sunday’s doubleheader did happen however. According to the boxscore, it was 43 degrees and sunny. I can personally attest that we have played in colder weather at Illinois Field in March.
Not only did the Illini play, they won. Well, they won one.
Once Ben Troike drove in three runs with a grand slam single in the second inning, it was all Illinois in the first game against South Dakota State. Doran Turchin helped out with a solo homer in the sixth and Ryan Haff chipped in with a sac fly.
Ty Weber got 4 2/3 innings in and gave up two runs but Sean Leland earned his first Illini win for just 1/3 innings’ work. Check out Andy Fisher’s numbers, though. He gave up just one hit in four innings while striking out four batters. For that, he earned a save.
Pitching remained strong against Austin Peay but the offense went a little flat. Illinois was shut out and could only muster five hits.
Newcomer Quinn Snarskis did well to establish himself in Illinois’ bullpen. He kept the Governors scoreless for 3 1/3 innings while striking out three.
The biggest question answered (once the scheduling issues were handled) was who got the starting nods in Illinois’ lineup? The biggest question marks were at first base, third base and catcher.
3B: For now at least, it looks like Bren Spillane is slotted at third base. Spillane homered five times in 2017 with a .500 slugging percentage so he’s a solid choice.
1B: Ryan Haff is given a chance at first base. Haff has been listed at 2B but there never been room for him there. Also, he is healthy. Everything may now click for him now.
C: Things are bit more complicated at catcher. Junior transfer Jeff Korte is getting his shot. He has two years left at Illinois and it’s up to him to make the most of it. Senior Mark Skonieczny was used at DH over the weekend. On top of that, speedy David Craan (28 starts in 2017) is a more than capable backstop and we will most likely see him at some point this season.
The Fly is open: On a different note, whenever I think about Austin Peay, it reminds me of James “Fly” Williams and probably the most creative sports cheer.
Stat of the Day
Illinois pitching: 4 ER in 17 innings
Next up: Illinois travels to Conway, South Carolina Friday (flight plans notwithstanding) and will play a tough schedule. They will face Coastal Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth.