You can throw out the 12-5 record now. On the eve of conference season, it gets real tomorrow.
This weekend, the Big Ten baseball season begins and Illinois travels to Evanston to take on their in-state rivals, the Northwestern Wildcats. While Illinois is listed in second place behind Indiana (15-4), it’s the conference record that really matters. Because of that, Big Ten conference game have a higher intensity and a bigger rivalry.
This is the real show!
Illinois brings a 12-5 into the conference season. They have won eleven of their last thirteen games boosted by the performance of reigning B1G Player of the Week Bren Spillane who has five homeruns and fourteen rbis in his last four games. The Illini are currently ranked #22 by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and #24 by Baseball America.
Friday: Quinn Snarskis (2-0, 3.46 ERA)
Saturday: Andy Fisher (1-0, 3.60 ERA)
Sunday: Ty Weber (3-1, 2.97 ERA)
Ty Weber is coming off one of best Illini starts. Last Sunday, he struck out eight batters and gave up just three hits. He upped his record to 3-1 against the Southern Illinois Salukis.
Rocky Miller Park
Friday March 23
3:00 pm CT
Saturday March 24
2:00 pm CT
Sunday March 25
1:00 pm CT
What will happen in Evanston?
Hopefully, more offense for the Illini.
Northwestern got off to a disappointing 3-7 start in 2018. In the second weekend of March, something kicked in and the Wildcats caught fire. Since then, they have gone 4-1.
Four of the Northwestern’s 15 homeruns belong to Willie Bourbon. He is also the only Wildcat in double-digits in rbis with 15.
Wildcat starter Quinn Lavelle is 2-1 with a miniscule 2.37 ERA in four starts. Other than him though, NU’s staff places last with a 6.12 ERA. Just the thing that Bren Spillane and Co. can use tee off.
After Bren Spillane’s last four games, his name litters the Big Ten leaderboards. Currently, the junior from Wheeling leads the conference in hitting (.439), homeruns (8), rbis (29), doubles (10) and total bases (65).
Spillane’s rbi count is not a coincidence. Illinois has had runners on base for him to drive home. Zac Taylor and Ben Troike have reached base in every game this season. In addition, Michael Massey who bats fifth, has also reached in every game. If you count games in past seasons, each of these players have impressive on-base streaks…
Zac Taylor – 27 games
Michael Massey – 22 games
Ben Troike – 22 games
If you haven’t read about the story of Friday’s starter Quinn Snarskis, it’s an interesting one. By the end of the 2017 season, his school, St. Joseph’s, was closing and he needed to find another place to study… and pitch.
Fortunately, it all worked out.
And with the help of relationships throughout college baseball, as is often the case in situations like these, Snarskis found a landing spot.
“I know Coach (Rick) O’Dette (at St. Joseph’s) knew (Illinois head coach) Dan Hartleb pretty well, and I knew a couple guys on the team who I talked to to see if I could get a spot here. It just worked out really well in the end.”
Quinn, we’re happy to have you at the U of I!