Ryan Feltner started on the mound for Ohio State and hit 97 miles per hour on the radar gun on Saturday. According to D1Baseball.com, Feltner, a junior, is the top 2018 Big Ten prospect.
And Illinois (27-15, 11-6) still managed to push five runs across the plate against him, more than enough in an 11-3 victory over Ohio State (29-15, 10-7) to even up the weekend series.
After trailing 3-0 after three innings, the Illini capitalized on chances in the fourth. First baseman Bren Spillane led off the frame with a single, and left fielder Doran Turchin drove him in with two outs.
An error by second baseman Kobie Foppe on a Jeff Korte grounder extended the fourth inning and advanced Turchin to third. Grant Van Scoy drew a walk, bringing Jack Yalowitz up with the bases loaded.
“That was a good arm we faced today,” said Korte. “He was struggling there a bit, so I knew he would throw a fastball. He just left it up and away and I put a good swing on it.”
Yalowitz took a pitch off of the elbow, bringing Turchin home and cutting the deficit to one run. Zac Taylor drew a four-pitch walk to drive in the tying run.
Spillane led off the fifth inning with his Big Ten-leading 17th home run of the season to give the Illini their first lead of the game.
Illinois added another run in the fifth when Jeff Korte hit his 10th double of the season to drive in Turchin all the way from first base.
Spillane recorded his 50th and 51st RBI of the season in the game, the second coming on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.
“We had a lot of quality at bats and didn’t swing at pitches out of the zone today,” said Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb. “Our guys had good intensity and didn’t let the first few innings affect them.”
Cyrillo Watson pitched two scoreless innings to close the game for the Illini. Watson allowed one run in four innings in a midweek start versus Southern Illinois on Tuesday.
“I think Cyrillo has some of the best stuff on our team,” Hartleb said. “I’ve been pleased with his progressed (recovering from midseason injury).”
Quinn Snarskis has been the guy in Illinois’ rotation who consistently keeps the Illini in the game and gets the ball to the bullpen.
It did not seem like that would be the case Saturday when Ohio State leadoff man Dominic Canzone doubled off the right-field wall on the first pitch of the game. Canzone advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, but Snarskis did not allow the run to score.
After allowing three runs on three hits in the second inning, Snarskis settled in, limiting the Buckeyes to zero runs on two hits in his final five innings of work.
“Sometimes you settle down and you’re too amped up,” Hartleb said. “(Snarskis) got out of the situation in the first and he didn’t make any mistakes when they scored three. He stayed composed.”
Snarskis (5-1) was pulled after seven innings, three earned runs and six hits in favor of Watson. He retired the last eight batters he faced.
“Quinn is a competitor,” Korte, Illinois’ catcher, said. “When he doesn’t have his best stuff, he’ll still throw strikes. No matter how bad he starts, he’ll always come back. He’s my roommate, he shows it every night when he plays Fortnite, he just gets hyped up about everything.”
Second baseman Ben Troike recorded an infield single in the first inning to extend his on-base streak to a Big Ten-high 47 games, dating back to last season.
Troike homered for the second-straight day with a two-run shot to left in the sixth inning.
Jack Yalowitz moved down in the lineup from first to last after Friday night’s game. Yalowitz followed an 0-for-5 showing in the series opener with an 0-for-3 game with one RBI on Saturday.
After batting .335 in 2017, Yalowitz’ average has dropped to .213 this season.
Turchin went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI versus the Buckeyes.
Originally slated for a 1 p.m. start, Sunday’s series finale between Illinois and Ohio State has been pushed to a 11 a.m. first pitch due to rain in the forecast.
With no midweek game on the schedule for the Illini, Sunday’s game is Illinois’ last until the team opens its final road series of the regular season at Michigan on Friday.
“We need to do the same thing we did today,” Korte said. “They misplayed the ball to second base and it continued the inning. Pitching and defense, that helps you more than winning does.”
Illinois is 3-2 in Big Ten series this season, with a chance to improve to 4-2 with a Sunday win.