Illinois baseball returns home to Illinois Field after a satisfying series back East. The boys won two of three against the University of Maryland Terrapins. With wins on Friday and Sunday, Illinois improves their record to 19-8 and retains their third place spot in the Big Ten conference.
Upon returning, the Illini will begin a nine-game homestand starting with Tuesday’s game against Illinois State followed by a three-game conference series against Rutgers this weekend. Illinois has won 18 of their last 23 games and shortstop Ben Troike has continued his on-base streak. He has reached base 32 games in a row going back to last year.
Starting pitcher Andy Fisher received plenty of support in Game 1 on Friday but his performance can’t be overlooked. He pitched a career high 8 innings while striking out five. He allowed just three runs while improving his record to 3-0.
Zac Taylor gave Fisher some breathing room with a grand slam in the fifth inning. In that same inning, Doran Turchin contributed a solo shot. Bren Spillane, Ben Troike and Michael Michalak all had multi-hit games.
Illinois bats fell silent in Game 2 on Friday. The 6-1 margin was the biggest difference that the Illini have lost this season (the previous largest difference was Iowa’s 8-5 win). Maryland kept the good guys to just five hits on the game while striking out nine Illini.
Illinois’ sole run came on Michael Michalak’s groundout which scored Grant Van Scoy. Both Van Scoy and Ben Troike managed to collect two hits in the game.
Illinois won the rubber game not by slugging but on small ball, fundamentals and a little bit of luck.
Down 2-1 with Michalak on second base in the seventh inning, Grant Van Scoy struck out but reached first base on a wild pitch. Michalak advanced to third then scored on an error by the Terp catcher. In the eighth, both Doran Turchin and Jack Yalowitz drove in runs on sacrifice flies.
Starter Ty Weber was solid giving up two runs in 5 1/3 innings. Ryan Thompson provided ample relief striking out for batters and keeping the Terps scoreless in 2 1/3 innings. Thompson earned his team-leading sixth win. Joey Gerber shut the door for his eighth save of the season.
At this time of year, I tend to start to pay more attention to the Big Ten baseball standings. Check out first place Michigan. They started the season, 4-11 but have won their last fifteen games. That of course, includes a 6-0 Big Ten record. They are the only team left who hasn’t lost against a Big Ten team. Minnesota has sprung to second place with a 5-1 mark.
At the bottom, Northwestern and Penn State share the cellar with identical 1-8 records. Nebraska is a surprising 11th place with a 2-6 record. Even more surprising, their overall record is not much better at 14-16.
This weekend’s opponent Rutgers has made some improvements in their squad in the past year. They are competing with Illinois, with a 4-2 conference record and a 17-11 overall mark. It has been a rough introduction to the Big Ten as the Scarlet Knights have suffered 7-17, 27-28 and 7-16 conference records since joining the Big Ten.
At 6-2, reliever Ryan Thompson has pitched 9.9% of the innings for the Illini yet has 31.5% of the pitching wins for the team. It’s worth mentioning, he has struck out 27 batters in 24 innings.
Finally, if you wanted to know what former Illinois star Tyler Jay looks like with a beard, well, @IlliniBaseball has a tweet for you…
#Illini in the minors update » https://t.co/q6QcC68dVp@TyJay_11 » AA @ChattLookouts@CodySedlock » A @FrederickKeys@AWalton2 » A @VisaliaRawhide @pat_mac27 » A @TimberRattlers pic.twitter.com/tPxHH8YIdO
— Illini Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) April 9, 2018
These former Illini are making money by playing baseball!
This Tuesday, Illinois will host Illinois State for a 4pm game at Illinois Field. Note the time change. Rutgers is coming to Champaign this weekend for a three-game set.