#24 Illinois baseball hosted the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers for their home opener and gave over 500 hometown fans a great show. Coming back from a 4-0 deficit, they had a little offensive help from Michael Massey, Grant Van Scoy and leadoff man Zac Taylor.
With the win, Illinois improves their record to 9-4 and they have won eight of their last nine games.
It wasn’t easy. Illinois spotted UWM four runs going into the bottom of the fourth. That’s when Michael Massey cracked his first homer of the year, a three-run shot. In the sixth inning, reigning B1G Player of the Week Doran Turchin walked in a run. A few batters later, Grant Van Scoy added to the toll with a rbi single scoring Bren Spillane.
Van Scoy wasn’t done yet. With the game tied again at 7-7 in the 8th, he doubled in the go-ahead run. Zac Taylor added two more with a long ball homer to left.
Ryan Thompson upped his record to 4-0 for one inning of scoreless work. Joey Gerber racked up his fourth save.
Next up? Funny you should ask…
Please note, there is a schedule change. Friday’s game has been moved to Saturday as part of a doubleheader.
Itchy Jones Stadium
Saturday March 17
12:00 pm CT
Saturday March 17
3:00 pm CT
Sunday March 18
3:00 pm CT
What will happen in Carbondale?
One thing that will happen is that Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb will visit his old stomping grounds. Not only did Hartleb play for SIU in college but he was a coach there as well. The teams will play at Itchy Jones Stadium this weekend. That’s the same Itchy Jones who went to be a coaching legend before Coach Hartleb mentoring him in the process. So to say there is a history between these teams is probably an understatement.
The Salukis are off to an 8-9 start this year but that is a bit misleading. SIU always plays Illinois tough and this year, the Salukis are playing tough. They have outhit (.285 to .242), out-homered (15 to 13) and out-pitched (4.05 to 5.71 ERA) their opponents so far so this series will not be a slam dunk. Logan Blackfan (.371, 5 HR) and Connor Kopach (.431, 24 runs) are back this year and producing for the Salukis.
Ryan Thompson now has four wins against no losses. That ranks #1 in the nation. A week or so ago when he had three it was one thing because he was tied with over 50 other pitchers. Now, Thompson ranks with only 20 other pitchers in the country.
Currently, Thompson is 4-0 with a 0.79 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. He also hasn’t started a game. What all this tells me is that Illinois isn’t giving up and is winning games late.
The home opener is always a special time for me. It’s time for me to get my camera ready and start shooting my favorite subject: Illinois Baseball. Feel free to browse over to the Illinois Baseball Report photo gallery. You will find some 15,000 posted photos going back to 2005. Here is the link to this year’s gallery.