Champaign, lll. — Illinois pitching stepped up in a 4-1 win Wednesday night at Illinois Field on a night when the offense got off to a cold start.
Illinois got two very important wins this week against the No. 19 ranked Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Pitching had a great night for the Illini, only giving up one run against a Chanticleer offense that boasts a team batting average of .322.
“This team is resilient,” said Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb. “They worked hard, they played hard, we didn’t do that many things wrong this past weekend just things didn't go our way. We can’t dwell on it.”
The Chanticleers struck first when Mike Koenig grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Zach Biermann with the bases loaded. Lavender struck out the next batter to get himself out of the jam.
“It’s all mentality,” Lavender said. “It comes down to just throwing strikes, you throw strikes we have one of the best defenses in the country behind us they will make plays, so it just about making quality pitches.”
The offense couldn’t replicate the quick start it had Tuesday night, when it scored four runs in the first inning. The Illini went the first three innings with only one hit, but were able to get a string of singles from Michael Massey, Cam McDonald and Jack Yalowitz to tie it up in the fourth.
From there Andrew Dyke scored the winning run on a passed ball in the seventh and Massey hit a sacrifice fly to drive home Ben Troike for an insurance run. The final run came in eighth when Dyke singled and drove in the Yalowitz with the help of an error.
Hartleb took out Lavender in the fourth and the bullpen finished the game off without giving up a run. In 4.2 innings of work the bullpen — including Tyler Engel, Quinten Sefeik, Ryan Schmitt, Sean Leland, and Garrett Acton — only gave up a one hit. Acton closed out the ninth inning and earned his 10th save of the year.
“We thought all along that we have a good bullpen,” said Hartleb. “[Josh] Harris comes out last night, gets us out of a big inning and he doesn’t have to throw tonight. It’s nice to be able to look down the bullpen know you have someone come in and get guys out in tough situations.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Un-jammed: Nathan Lavender had plenty of runners in scoring position in his 4.1 innings of work, but only gave up one run. Lavender had two men on base with no outs to start the first two innings, but got out of both innings clean.
In the fourth he loaded the bases with one out and gave up his only run on a fielders choice. Impressive pitching from the freshman to get out of three jams in four innings.
Bunt to Boom: After fouling off two pitches, Ben Troike hit a double to the left field corner to put Michael Michalak in scoring position in the seventh. Andrew Dyke, who pinch-ran fro Michalak, and Troike both would score to put the Illini in the lead.
TWEET OF THE GAME
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Man on second and third and Nathan Lavender gets out of the jam with this filthy pitch.
HE SAID IT
“I don’t think you are or can be a good team that plays at a high level unless you play good opponents, and if you look at our schedule we have played really top opponents.” - Hartleb, on strength of schedule.
The Illini will take on the Maryland Terrapins this weekend for a home series starting on Friday at 6 p.m.
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