The Illini return to Champaign with three blemishes on their previously unbeaten record, and finished their road trip with only one win.
Illinois lost Friday night to Coastal Carolina handily, 11-3. Then, in a late game on Saturday, the Illini won 5-4 in walk off fashion. Sunday afternoon was not great for the Illini as they dropped a 7-4 contest against Connecticut. In their rematch with Northeastern on Monday, Northeastern had the upper hand and beat the Illini 8-1.
In the Illini’s losses of the trip, they issued almost 20 walks and only managed to score 8 runs compared to 26 from their opponents.
Zac Taylor brought the thump on the trip, hitting two bombs and driving in three. Kellen Sarver went 4-for-9 during the trip and extended his hitting streak to six games.
Seven Illini players started all four games: Kellen Sarver, Zac Taylor, Jack Yalowitz, Cam McDonald, Ben Troike, Michael Massey and Branden Comia.
The Coastal Carolina offense hit the ball well against starting pitcher Andy Fisher (1-1) and the Illini. Fisher went 4.1 innings and gave up six runs (five earned). The Chanticleers put up 11 runs on the Illini, but the Illini had some bright spots.
Zac Taylor and Michael Massey highlighted the brief offense the Illini had. Taylor homered and Massey singled and later scored.
Coastal Carolina got two homers from Keaton Weisz and Keiton Rivers, and Scott McKeon had three hits. Illinois also helped its cause by walking seven batters.
ILLINI MVP: Zac Taylor continued to shine in multiple facets. Taylor’s power was evident with a solo bomb in second inning, and he added a Big Ten-leading ninth steal later in the contest.
Northeastern (Part 1)
The Illini were able to get back into the win column in walk-off fashion Saturday night against Northeastern.
The game’s conditions were anything but ideal, as rain pushed the game into the wee hours of the morning, but the Illini were able to get the 5-4 win.
Ryan Haff was the Illini hero as he hit a chopper just barely fair which caused Northeastern picther Andrew Misiaszek to commit a throwing error as Kellen Sarver scored the game-winning run and the Illini celebrated in South Carolina.
Starting pitcher for the Illini Ty Weber no-hit Northeastern through 5.1 innings and left the game in the seventh after giving up three runs. At the time he was removed, Weber was in line for the win.
The Illini scored the first four runs of the contest, and Jacob Campbell led the team with the first two hits of his collegiate career.
Head Coach Dan Hartleb told FightingIllini.com: “Everybody battled...We made a couple key plays and we were fortunate to win that one.”
ILLINI MVP: Ty Weber pitched like an ace in a game in which the Illini wanted to get back in the win column. Northeastern did not get its first hit until the sixth inning and Weber’s performance gave the Illini a great chance to win.
The Illini suffered their second loss in three games in a 7-4 loss to Connecticut on Sunday.
Huskie ace Mason Feole gives Connecticut a good chance to win every time out. Sunday afternoon was a different story, as Branden Comia and Zac Taylor hit solo homers early and gave the Illini a first-inning lead.
Michael Woodworth had the best performance of the game for either team, as he led Connecticut with three hits and came around to score three times.
Cyrillo Watson pitched well for the Illini, allowing three runs in 6.1 innings. But the pitching staff as a whole struggled to get outs. The Illini arms issued nine free passes and one hit batter. The defense did not help much either as three of the seven runs allowed were unearned.
The Illini had a 2-0 and a 3-1 lead, but Connecticut handed Illinois its second loss of the season.
Hartleb told the website, “Any time you put yourself in situation where you give that many free passes you normally don’t win those games.”
Illini MVP: Freshman middle infielder Branden Comia continued to perfrom well for the Illini. In his first at-bat against Feole, Comia took him yard. The Illini have played nine games, and Comia has reached base in all nine to start his collegiate career.
Northeastern (Part 2)
The second game against Northeastern was not as good as the first for the Illini, falling 8-1 on Monday afternoon.
Having dropped three games out of the four on the weekend trip, the Illini did not have much to be happy about after their seven-run loss against Northeastern on Monday.
The Illini were shut out through seven innings as Sean Mellen turned in a gem on the mound. The Illini finally got on the board in the ninth inning with an RBI single from Grant Van Scoy.
Illini MVP: In a game without many bright spots, Michael Michalak turned in two hits. Michalak has had only 17 at bats this season but with two hits on Monday, his average is up to .412.
Quote of the Weekend
“We didn’t play very well this weekend.” - Hartleb, to FightingIllini.com.
The Illini head to Phoenix next weekend for a three-game series at Grand Canyon. This will be their last road trip to a warm city before their home opener on March 15 against Southern Illinois.
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