Smile Politely

Huskers, snow dampen Illini home opener

Outfielder Will Krug blasts out of the box Saturday.

Illinois Field, it’s been too long. We’ve seen the Illinois Baseball players do well on the road. It was time for Illini fans to see them play on their own home turf. However, as enjoyable as it was to actually see the team up close and in person, they just couldn’t manage a series win in their home opening series. 

After winning twelve of their last thirteen games, the Illini Baseball team tried their luck against Big Ten opponent Nebraska this past weekend. While it was a competitive, topsy-turvy series, Illinois came up with the short end of the stick. They won just one of three games against the tough Cornhuskers team. That puts Illinois in fifth place in the Big Ten with a 1–2 conference record and a 14–6 overall record.

Weekend Roundup

Friday’s game starter, Kevin Johnson, had trouble from the get-go. While he got through the first two innings unscathed, he threw plenty of 3-2 counts increasing his pitch count. It was the third inning when the Huskers got to KJ and scored four runs off of him. The Illini did manage to tie the game 5–5 by the end of the sixth. Justin Parr’s 2-run single and Brandon Hohl’s rbi double helped do the damage. In the end though, Nebraska’s three-run seventh inning was the deciding factor and the Huskers won 95

The Illinois Baseball program smartly decided to reschedule Sunday’s game for Saturday due to the impending weather. So we had a doubleheader on our hands. The Illini players were in a much riled-up mood for Game One. This game was quite a roller coaster, as the lead changed six times. At the end of six, it was 7–7, and both teams were poised to win it. Thomas Lindauer led off the bottom of the ninth with a double and a hit by pitch and an error later the bases were loaded with no out. With pinch hitter Alex Lincoln up, Coach Hartleb called for a squeeze bunt. Lincoln came through with a successful dribbler (above), and Illinois recorded an 87 win. Bryan Roberts, who pitched the final two innings, got the win for the Illini. It was Roberts’ third win in as many appearances since coming back to the Illini after being injured. 

The final game on Sunday was probably almost as exciting, but, alas, it didn’t go quite as planned for Illinois. Down 4–2, the Illini rallied to tie it 4–4 on Kelly Norris-Jones’ 2-run double in the bottom of the third inning.  It was goose eggs till the seventh inning, when Nebraska took advantage of an Illinois error to score two runs to win 6–4. There were lots of wasted opportunities on Illinois’ part. In both the fifth and the seventh innings, Illinois loaded the bases, but couldn’t score a run. 

On a side note, it was good to see a sizable crowd at the games, especially considering it was Spring Break weekend for University of Illinois students. Saturday’s game was attended by 716. Again, whoever decided to reschedule Sunday’s game was on the ball. The weather Saturday was a bit breezy, but it was 48 degrees and sunny, and it was hard to believe there was a blizzard on its way the next day. 

Around the Big Ten

Here are the current standings in the Big Ten Baseball.

Ohio State and Indiana were big winners in the conference this past weekend. Ohio State destroyed Purdue defeating them all three games and outscoring them 25–4. The Buckeyes were helped by Big Ten Player of the Week Kirby Pellant, who went 6 for 9 with 7 rbis.

Indiana swept Penn State as well this weekend and their scoring margin was almost as wide (22–6). The Hoosiers rise to #24 in the NCBWA polls. Not only that, Indiana is dominating the Big Ten in pretty much every statistical category.  As a team, they lead the conference in hitting, homeruns, runs scored ERA, and a host of other categories. And of course they lead in the important stat, wins, with 18. 

Chris Webb’s crunches the numbers on both teams in his article, Arms race: Buckeyes or Hoosiers?

 Stat of the Week

Illinois outfielder Justin Parr is third in the Big Ten in rbis (22) and sixth in batting average (.384). Twin brother Jordan Parr is tied for second in homeruns (3) and tied for fifth in stolen bases with 8. 

Around the Web

Battle of the Busch is coming up. The annual matchup between Illinois and Mizzou at Busch Stadium is April 2. has info on getting tickets.

Former Illini 2B Ryan Hastings and current Eastern Illinois University Assistant Athletic Director got a chance to talk to Dave Loane during the Women’s NIT Monday. Here’s a photo of the two.

WCIA has a video news clip bragging on sophomores David Kerian, Will Krug, and Michael Hurwitz. 

Next up

Illinois was scheduled to play Illinois State this Tuesday, but anyone in the C-U area knew that Field Turf or not, Illinois Field was in no condition to host a game due to the snow. The game was postponed indefinitely, and both teams will attempt to find a date later in the season to play. 

This weekend, Illinois will host Oakland University Grizzlies for a three game non-conference series. I have to wonder if the players feel a bit frustrated by that. After their less than stellar homestand against Nebraska, they won’t be able to rise in the Big Ten standings playing a non-conference team no matter how well they do.  I imagine they’re anxious to get back into the Big Ten fight. They’ll next get their chance against a conference opponent at Indiana on April 5. I imagine they’ll have their hands full at Bart Kaufman Field then. 

Friday’s game time against Oakland is 5:05 p.m. 

Go Illini!

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