While Bren Spillane racked up his third straight Big Ten Player of the Week award as well as the Perfect Game Midseason Player of the Year honor, Illinois (17-7, 4-2 Big Ten) hopes to regroup after a disappointing 1-2 weekend against Iowa. This coming weekend, they will play the Maryland Terrapins at College Station. Maryland enters the weekend with a 14-15 record and a 2-1 conference mark.
With the series loss against Iowa, Illinois dropped out of most national polls. On the bright side, they are tied for third place in the Big Ten with Rutgers. Both Michigan and Purdue remain unbeaten in conference play at 3-0.
Friday: Andy Fisher (2-0, 3.75 ERA)
Friday: Ryan Schmitt (1-0, 3.68 ERA)
Sunday: Ty Weber (3-1, 2.74 ERA)
Ryan Schmitt will get his first Illini start this weekend. The Illini are 7-1 in games that Schmitt has appeared. In that one loss, Ryan gave up one run in four innings.
The combined record for this weekend’s rotation is 6-1. No one can argue with that.
Illinois is probably hoping for some nice weather in Maryland. Last Sunday’s game was moved up due to an incoming inclement weather (good call). Wednesday’s game against Illinois State was cancelled also due to weather. On the same vein, the series in Maryland has been altered to accommodate the cold temps. Two games will be played on Friday and we will have to wait till Sunday for Game 3.
Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium
College Park, Maryland
Friday April 6
2:00 pm CT
Sunday April 8
12:00 pm CT
W-L: 14-15 B1G 2-1
Maryland has traditionally been a strong baseball school. By “traditionally”, I really mean since they joined the Big Ten in 2014 which is a whole three years. Nevertheless, when they came to the B1G, they entered a tough demanding baseball program.
The Big Ten does go through cycles and this year, the Terrapins are having a less-than-stellar year with a 14-15 record. Losing streaks of five and four haven’t helped their cause. On a positive note, they have won two of three against Northwestern in their first conference series.
Nick Dunn is their big slugger at .340 with seven homers and 21 rbis. He leads the team on all counts.
What the Maryland team had before that is lacking now is pitching. While reliever Kevin Biondic (0.68 ERA in 13 1/3 innings) is getting the job done, the rest of the squad is not as dominating as it once was.
That’s good news for Bren Spillane.
I’ve been following Illinois baseball for some 13 years now and I have to admit this season is a bit different for the Illini. Win or lose, the Illini have a team approach to the game. And they still do. Yet, this year, there is no doubt who is the big star.
In past winning years, it would seem that our players would almost take turns being the big star of the week. I’m sure that having a player who is getting the national attention has an effect on team dynamics. The important for all of us to remember is that it takes more to win games than homeruns. It’s something that I am trying to remind myself.
While Spillane has gotten accolades, Illinois has scored runs because there are runners on base. Four players are currently on streaks right now.
Michael Massey has now reached base 29 game in a row. So has Ben Troike. Doran Turchin extended his on-base streak to 15 game. New Illini catcher Jeff Korte is now on a seven-game hitting streak.
Don’t forget, Joey Gerber is still ranked 13th nationally with seven saves. Going into the Maryland series, he has a 3.97 ERA. Probably more importantly, the 6’4” junior has struck out 17 batters in just 11 1/3 innings. With one more save, he will match his 2017 total.
Glad to see that Larry Houston and his cheer crew are back at Illinois Field this year. I love seeing (and hearing) this kind of action from the fans. Larry’s group is out there for almost every home game and making up creative chants for the batters.
Keep it up, Larry!