For the third weekend in a row, Illinois reaped the benefits of Big Ten Player of Week performance. With that help, they won two of three from the rival Southern Illinois Salukis at Itchy Jones Stadium.
It was firstbaseman Bren Spillane who hit the cover off the ball, collecting eight hits and three homeruns on Saturday. With that, he was honored with the Big Ten honor. Behind strong pitching of Ty Weber who struck out a career high 8 batters, the Illini took the last game on Sunday.
This puts Illinois at 11-5 for the season and in second place in the Big Ten in non-conference play.
Illinois charged out of the gate on Saturday morning with a lots of offense against the Salukis. Bren Spillane led the way with three homers in the 4th, 6th and 7th innings. Overall, he went 4 for 6 with three runs and six rbis.
If that weren’t enough, SS Ben Troike collected two hits and drove home four runs of his own.
Starter Quinn Snarskis had plenty of comfort room in this game. He still got the win, his second of the season, after giving up four runs in six innings. Jackson Douglas earned the long save pitching last three frames, his first of the year.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Bren Spillane had no plans of slowing down. No in fact, Spillane went 4 for 4 with two doubles. Zac Taylor went 2 for 2 with a homer and a double. Unfortunately, the Salukis came from behind to take the Illini in a close one, 5-4.
Ryan Thompson who entered the weekend tied for #1 in the nation in wins, got his first loss. He only gave up one hit in 2 2/3 innings but it was a game-winning homer.
The Illini rebounded on Sunday thanks to a great pitching performance by starter Ty Weber. After giving up two runs (one earned) in the first inning, Weber went on to hold the Salukis scoreless through the 8th inning for his third win of the season. Weber struck out 8 batters and only gave up three hits.
Zac Taylor helped with bat with a double and a single, scoring twice. It was Jack Yalowitz who drove him home both times. In fact, every starter except one got a hit. Which one didn’t? Ironically, it was Bren Spillane (I think we can give him a pass on this).
I think it’s been a while since an Illini player had a day like Bren Spillane. Check these Saturday stats for both games:
Bren Spillane: 10 AB, 8 H, 8 RBI, 4 R, 3 HR, 2 2B, 1 SB
This weekend’s performance lands Spillane in the team lead among regulars for almost every offensive category now. That includes but is not limited to batting average (.419), homeruns (6), rbis (21), runs (tied with 16), slugging (.887), even doubles (9). To emphasize his versatility, Spillane even leads the team with 7 steals.
Conference-wide, Spillane’s .419 batting average lands second in the Big Ten behind Minnesota’s Terrin Vavra. He leads the conference in doubles, and is tied for second in homeruns.
Next up: There has been a schedule change. Because of forecasted weather, Tuesday’s game at Illinois State has been postponed till April 4th.
Fortunately, we don’t have to wait long for a game. The next one is this Wednesday March 21. Illinois will be hosting Cal State Northridge at Illinois Field. Game time is 4:30pm.
See you at the ballpark!