What a difference a week makes.
A week ago, Illinois hosted Bradley in a slug-fest that featured nine home runs, 20 runs and poor pitching on both sides. Then the Illini swept Penn State in a crucial Big Ten weekend series.
Fast forward just one week, and the Illini and the Braves went deadlocked into extra innings at 2-2 in a pitchers’ duel. Illinois was desperately looking for its fourth win in a row.
And Illinois did just that.
The Illini bats came alive in the 10th, doubling the run total from the first nine innings to four as the Illini rallied to beat the Braves 4-2.
This win was as much a test for the Illini as any game they’ve played so far this season. Not only did they have to win this trap game on the schedule, but they also had to battle through 10 innings.
The Illini pushed ahead in the top half of the ninth inning with Kellen Sarver’s second home run of the season and put their conference leading closer Garrett Acton in the game to close it out.
Bradley was able to push a run across, resulting in Acton blowing another save, despite already having saved 13 games.
With the game tied at two, the Illini turned to their most consistent players to get theirselves their fourth straight win.
Grant Van Scoy started the inning off with a leadoff single, extending his on-base streak to 22 games. Then, Michael Massey drove Van Scoy in with a two-out, two-strike single to break the tie.
That gave Massey his 20th RBI of the season, as he drove in Ben Troike earlier in the game.
Zac Taylor furthered the lead to two runs with an RBI single of his own, and Acton was perfect this time around and the Illini secured the win.
“It was a good baseball game,” said head coach Dan Hartleb to fightingillini.com.
The Illini gave up 12 runs to the Braves a week ago, and six pitchers combined to give up only a pair this time around. Quinn Snarskis returned from injury with 2.2 innings of scoreless baseball. Nathan Lavender followed that up with 2.1 shutout innings.
Tyler Engel gave up the first run of the game in the sixth, followed by scoreless innings from Josh Harris and Quinten Sefcik before the game got to Acton.
TWEET OF THE GAME
AROUND THE BASES
- FIRST BASE - Grant Van Scoy has now reached base safely in a whopping 22 straight games.
- SECOND BASE- With gold glover Michael Massey back on defense, the Illini have seen their fielding percentage arrive at .981, ranking eighth in the nation. That number is slightly ahead of their record-setting clip of .979 from last season.
- THIRD BASE- Quinn Snarskis, Illinois’ opening day starter, started his first game since March 4th. Getting Snarskis right gives Hartleb depth in the rotation, as Andy Fisher, Ty Weber and Cyrillo Watson have pitched admirable thus far.
- HOME- Since returning to Illinois’ lineup, Zac Taylor has continued to produce. Taylor drove in another run in the Bradley game out of the third spot of the order.
This weekend the Illini put their four-game winning streak on the line as Nebraska welcomes Illinois for a three game series. Nebraska sits barely behind Indiana for the top spot in the conference and present a big challenge for Hartleb’s team.
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