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Illinois kicks off homestand with 5-2 win over Indiana State

Junior Garrett Acton sets the program’s benchmark for saves in a season.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Illinois Fighting Illini beat the Indiana State Sycamores 5-2 at Illinois Field on Wednesday night.

Ben Troike delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the seventh after both Grant Van Scoy and Michael Michalak reached with walks.

Zac Taylor tacked on a few more with a two-run triple later in the inning. Taylor also singled earlier in the ballgame to secure his 14th multi-hit game of the season.

“I was just looking for something in the zone,” Troike said. “They brought in a righty, he walked Michalak before me, so I just knew that I’m looking one pitch, one spot. I remember he threw ball one to me, so I was just being really selective and looking for the right pitch, and fortunately he threw it there.”

Troike took that pitch and drove a single the opposite way, his only hit of the game, but not his only productive at-bat.

In the bottom of the fifth, Troike came up with Michalak on second base and grounded out to the right side, setting up Michael Massey to give the Illini their first lead with a sacrifice fly.

“I was looking for a pitch, something over the plate that I could get over to the right side and get that runner to third for Massey,” Troike said. “Mike’s a great hitter, and if you give him a guy on third with less than two outs, he’s gonna do his job.”

For the Illini, it’s as simple as that: do your job.

Quinn Snarskis took the mound for the Illini in his fifth start of the year, and the Sycamores jumped on him right away with a run in the first inning.

The Illini answered with a two-out RBI single from Cam McDonald, the team leader with 32 RBI’s.

Snarskis gave up leadoff hits in both the first and second inning, but settled in after that. He went five innings, gave up three hits, and the only run he allowed came in the first inning.

It was important for the Illini that Snarskis went deep into the game, as the Illini bullpen pitched almost five innings on Tuesday night in their 12-3 loss to Southern Illinois. Josh Harris and Co. took over for the final four innings and didn’t surrender a hit. Harris worked a scoreless sixth and Quinten Sefcik came on in the seventh.

Sefcik hit the first batter, walked the second, and hit the third in the head on a bunt attempt to load the bases. A warning track sacrifice fly from Chris Ayers tied the game at two, but that was all the damage the Sycamores would do.

Sefcik pitched a scoreless eighth inning and turned the ball over to Garrett Acton in the ninth, who secured his Big Ten leading 15th save and a school record in the process. 15 saves in a season is the program’s best, breaking Joey Gerber and Tyler Jay’s mark that was set at 14.

“It’s the culmination of my efforts here all year and also our team efforts,” Acton said. “You can’t get saves without being in position to win, and my job is the product of everybody else doing their job in front of me.

“It’s a great accomplishment for me, but I have to keep moving forward.”

Head Coach Dan Hartleb had high praise for his team’s closer.

“Garrett [Acton] has done a great job for us the entire year,” Hartleb said. “Really happy for him and looking forward to a lot more of those saves this year so he can push that record forward.”

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Get em on, Get em over, Get him in — In the bottom of the fifth, Michael Michalak led off with a double. The Illini needed to grab a lead and put together two productive at-bats back-to-back. Ben Troike grounded out to the right side and Michael Massey lifted a sacrifice fly to give the Illini a 2-1 lead.

You shall not pass — After surrendering 15 baserunners earlier in the week to Southern Illinois, the Illini responded by only walking three and hitting three batters.

Dink — A pitch that was tapped just barely fair kept the Illini from giving up a huge seventh inning. Jeff Korte jumped out of his crouch, gobbled up the ball, and tagged CJ Hundley. A groundout from Clay Dungan allowed Quinten Sefcik to escape the jam with a tied score.

AROUND THE BASES

FIRST BASE — Zac Taylor and Michael Massey extended their reached-base streaks to 16 and 12 games, respectively. Jack Yalowitz and Kellen Sarver each snapped their streaks at 13 and 11 games, respectively.

SECOND BASE — In the top of the second, Jeff Korte caught his team-leading forth baserunner stealing.

THIRD BASE — Jack Yalowitz returned to right field after missing a game with an injury.

HOME PLATE — This is Illinois’ final home stand of the year, all of which are against teams from the state of Indiana. The Illini’s home record improved to 13-3.

TWEET OF THE GAME

HE SAID IT

“Every single day that’s what [the coaching staff] preaches. In practice, in BP, before games, during games, they really hammer it home. If every guy does their job and does the little things right, then at the end of the day, we come out on top.” — Ben Troike

“My mindset is just to go out and get my job done.” — Garrett Acton

WHAT’S NEXT

The Illini continue their home stand by welcoming No. 19 Indiana for a Big Ten Conference battle Friday through Sunday. Friday’s game begins at 6 p.m., Saturday’s at 3 p.m. and Sunday’s at 1 p.m.. All three contests can be streamed on BTN Plus.