Smile Politely

After sweeping Baylor, Illini head north

Michael Hurwitz celebrates his home run in Waco with his teammates. Photo by Dewi Krug.

With a ninth-inning comeback rally on Friday and superb pitching all around on Saturday, the Illini Baseball team managed to sweep the once-ranked Baylor Bears in Waco, Texas, this past weekend. That brings their record to 10–4, which is good for second place in the Big Ten. Coming off that, the team is scheduled to be a little closer to home this coming weekend. They won’t be in the friendly confines of Illinois Field, but they’ll be taking on the Southern Illinois Salukis down in Carbondale with one special game at the home field of the Frontier League’s Southern Illinois Miners.

There was a lot of hype in the off-season about the Baylor series. This was one of our 2013 opponents that made our schedule “competitive” according to the media hype. That may be, but Illinois responded quite well to the pressure.

Game One on Friday was a roller coaster ride. Illinois didn’t waste any time getting on the board. In the first two at-bats, Will Krug doubled and Michael Hurwitz knocked out a homer. Right quick, Illinois was up 2–0. Meanwhile, Kevin Johnson kept the Bears scoreless till they finally responded with two runs of their own in the fifth inning. Baylor came up with an unearned run to take the lead in the eighth. Krug and Hurwitz both walked to set up a rally, and Justin Parr came through with an RBI single to tie the game. Two batters later, it was David Kerian who got the game-winning hit, driving home scoring Hurwitz. Illinois won 4–3 with Ronnie Muck (1-0) getting the W.

On Saturday, it was a doubleheader with the Bears’ and Illinois’ pitching at its best. Between the performance by our relievers in the first game and John Kravetz’ effort in the second, Illini hurlers pitched 15 2/3 straight scoreless innings against the Bears.

In the first game of the day, Baylor got off to a 4–3 lead by the fourth inning, but the bullpen of Kevin Duchene, Drasen Johnson, Tyler Jay, and Reid Roper held Baylor to just two hits in six innings in the extra inning affair. Meanwhile, it was Will Krug (3 for 6) and Thomas Lindauer (second HR of the season) providing the offense. Pinch hitter Ryan Nagle was the big hero though. He came to bat in the top of the 11th with Brandon Hohl on second base and drove him home with an rbi single. Freshman Tyler Jay got his first win of his career and Reid roper saved his 3rd game of the season as Illinois won 5–4.

In the second game of the doubleheader, John Kravetz (2-0) came to pitch. He pitched eight innings and didn’t allow a run until he left in the ninth. Ronnie Muck easily cleaned up the small mess and Kravetz got away with just one run allowed, and Illinois cruised to a 6–1 victory. It was Krug (3 for 4) and Lindauer (2 for 5) again with the offensive firepower, joined by Jordan Parr who was 2 for 4 with his third homer of the year. 

This was a big series win for the Illini. They are now second place in the Big Ten behind Minnesota. Not only that, they have gotten the attention of the national pollmasters. That’s right; a few votes were thrown towards Illinois’ way in the NCBWA poll

Stat of the Week

Will Krug was 7 for 13 for the weekend with 5 runs scored. Since he and Michael Hurwitz have batted one-two in the lineup, Illinois has gone 9–1. 

Around the Web

I want to say thanks to Dewi Krug (mother of Illini Will Krug) for contributing the fantastic photo of Michael Hurwitz that you see. It was during his homerun in Friday’s game. You can see Dewi’s whole gallery of Illini Baseball photos here. Great shots!

The Daily Illini has a revealing look at pitchers Bryan Roberts and Luke Joyce who stay here in Illinois while rehabbing.

Illinois isn’t the only Big Ten team on its way to getting national attention. Indiana was ranked #24 in the Baseball America poll.

Next up

As I mentioned, the Illini is playing in-state this weekend. It’s an extended four-game series against the Southern Illinois Salukis. Every year, no matter how good either team is, this series is hard fought and the outcome is never a sure thing. The games are scheduled for March 15–18 and Friday’s game time is 3:00 p.m. 

And in case it isn’t already on your schedule, Illinois Baseball’s home opener is just a week away. The magic day is March 22, when Illinois takes on Nebraska at Illinois Field. Hope to see you there!!

Go Illini!

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