Illinois baseball starts off the season with a sweep over the Northwestern Wildcats!
While it was a clean 3-0 sweep, I don’t think I have seen such a close Big Ten series than this weekend’s battle. The NU opponents put up a worthy effort and kept the boys in Orange and Blue on their toes. Fortunately for Illini fans, the #24 Illinois (15-5, 3-0 Big Ten) came out on top each time and swept the Wildcats (7-11, 0-3 Big Ten).
It was tight series in Evanston!
- The run differential for the three games was four. Two 1-run games and one 2-run game.
- Two extra-inning games
- Illinois came back from a deficit in two of the games
On Friday, Bren Spillane continued his torrid hitting. He hit a solo homerun and in Saturday’s game, he keyed a rally, hitting an rbi double. Jack Yalowitz won it in extras on Saturday with a two-run homer. On Sunday, an rbi double by Doran Turchin made the difference.
With the series sweep, Illinois gets a good jump on the Big Ten conference season as they will host their home opener against Iowa next weekend.
Bren Spillane continued his hot and heavy hitting with a solo homer in the second inning of Friday’s game. Michael Massey followed that up with a back-to-back jobber. From there, Illinois had the game in hand.
Starter Quinn Snarskis kept the Wildcats in check. In seven innings, he allowed three hits and just one run. Northwestern managed to come within one run but Ryan Schmitt and Joey Gerber shut them down. Gerber earned his fifth save of the year.
Worth mentioning that after Spillane’s homerun in his first at-bat, he was walked in every other time he came to the plate, once was intentional.
In this tight, eleven-inning affair, Illinois fought back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game. When nine regulation were over, it was 4-4. The key moment in the game for me? It was when the Wildcat pitcher hit two Illinois batters in a row only to face Bren Spillane. Spillane drove home a run with a double and Michael Massey drove home two with a base hit, taking the lead.
The game wasn’t over yet. It took a Doran Turchin rbi double in the 11th inning to drive home Spillane. Ryan Schmitt got the win after pitching two scoreless innings and Joey Gerber earned his sixth save and his second in as many days.
On Sunday, Illinois and Northwestern endured another extra inning battle. Tied 1-1 since the 4th inning, the Wildcats took a 2-1 lead in the 8th inning. The Illini responded in the 9th when Jeff Korte singled and David Craan pinch ran for him. Casey Dodge bunted Craan over to second and thanks to a wild pitch, he was on third. A Grant Van Scoy sac fly later, it was tied again.
It took a two-run homer in the top of the 10th by Jack Yalowitz to break the game open.
Ryan Thompson who struck out five batters in three innings, earned his fifth win of the year. Starter Ty Weber walked four batters in 6 2/3 innings but only gave up three hits. Ultimately, that led to just one Wildcat run.
If you’re looking for some good news, how about this? Iowa has already handed powerhouse Indiana their first conference loss this season. In the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, the Hawkeyes defeated Indiana 5-1. Indiana has out-ranked Illinois up until now.
Iowa (12-8, 1-1 Big Ten) has looked sharp this year so we may have a battle on our hands this coming weekend.
In fact, the only other undefeated conference team among those that played games is Michigan. Big Blue went 3-0 against rival Michigan State. Ohio State, Maryland and Purdue did not have conference games scheduled this weekend.
Ryan Thompson remains a lucky charm for the Illini. It’s not luck, I certainly know that. His Sunday win is his fifth and ranks high in the nation in that category. Going into this weekend, his four victories ranked tied 11th. Now, we can add one more. Joey Gerber adds two more saves and is in the national ranking as well.
On Tuesday, Illinois will travel up a ways to Peoria to play Bradley for an away midweek game. Game time is 6pm.
This weekend, Illinois has its Big Ten home opener. They will host Iowa at Illinois Field Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Game time on Friday is 6pm.