For the third week in a row, the Illini come back to Champaign after winning two of three games in their weekend set.
This time around, Illinois took on Elon in North Carolina for a series where offense came in bunches. Head coach Dan Hartleb’s squad has now won seven of its last nine games played, and sits at 8-5 after the season’s first four weeks.
Illinois bats outslugged in North Carolina
Any time you see Ty Weber scheduled to pitch, you can expect a low-scoring game — usually. Friday’s contest against Elon was a bit different.
Weber gave up three runs (two earned) in three innings, and his relief was not much better. The usually sound Ty Rybarczyk was tagged for six runs in just 2.1 innings, which gave Illinois too tall of a task in terms of coming back.
Freshman Danny Doligale stayed hot, in fact — his RBI triple put Illinois ahead in the sixth, but it was not enough. The right fielder had three hits in five tries Friday.
Branden Comia also added a pair of hits, bringing his batting average to a whopping .489 this season.
In terms of production Cam McDonald drove in a pair of runs, while Brody Harding, Tayler Jackson, Nathan Aide and Doligale all drove in one.
Elon ultimately took the opener 10-6.
Kirschsieper’s stellar outing and Illini bats even series
Cole Kirschieper started on Saturday and played the role of stopper for the Illini. The freshman allowed only four hits in 6.2 innings and struck out four batters on his way to his team-leading third win of the year.
Offensively, Branden Comia kept the Illini on a roll. The sophomore extended his career long hitting streak to nine games with a two-run single early on. Taylor Jackson led Illinois with three hits, while Cam McDonald and Brodie Harding each had a pair as well.
Sophomore backstop Jacob Campbell did a lot of cleaning up, driving in three runs on a pair of knocks.
The Illini came within an out of shutting out the Phoenix, but settled for a 6-1 win to even the series.
Acton captures saves record as Illini take series
It wasn’t a game that the Illini expected to use their closer in, but an eighth-inning Elon grand slam led Hartleb to use his closer Garrett Acton for a six-out save — and he delivered to eclipse Tyler Jay for the most saves Illini history (25).
Aside from Acton, the story of the game was the Illini’s bats, who put up eight runs. The offense was led once again by Branden Comia, whose two hits allowed him to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.
Kellen Sarver produced on Sunday as well, going 2-3 with three runs driven in.
Sophomore starter Aidan Maldonado got the win. He allowed two runs (one earned) in 5.1 innings.
The rest of the offensive production was scattered in the Illini lineup — all helping to give Illinois a 8-7 win over Elon to clinch the series.
He Said It
“In the crazy game of baseball, it’s really nice to have a guy like Garrett Acton on the back end.” - Hartleb, on Acton setting the record
In Case You Missed It
Seven s in the last nine games.— Illinois Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) March 8, 2020
Highlights from the series-clinching win at Elon, via @FloBaseball ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/OBNvoxwXC6
Tweet of the Weekend
No #Illini has more saves.— Illinois Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) March 8, 2020
Congrats to @gacton34, the all-time saves leader in Illinois history. pic.twitter.com/Q3d1oYbx6X
The Illini are back in action next weekend in a three-game set at Southern Illinois.