Roommates compete to get to second base

By Erik Hall

Sophomores Ryan Hastings and Shawn Roof are competing to be Illinois’ starting second baseman. Each has started at second base in half of the baseball team’s six games.

However, when one of them wins the starting spot on the diamond, he loses in the kitchen.

“We joke about it everyday at home,” Roof said. “We say that whoever gets to play that day, the other one makes dinner for him.”

Hastings and Roof share an apartment this year.

The two will probably continue to share the role as starting second baseman when the Illinois baseball team starts a three-game series against Texas-Arlington today.

The Illini play at 6:30 p.m. today. They finish the weekend with a 3 p.m. game Saturday and 1 p.m. game Sunday.

“Second base is still up for competition,” said Illinois head coach Itch Jones. “Hastings still isn’t swinging the bat very well, and he’s not hitting the ball very hard. Right now, Roof is probably going to be the second baseman.”

As freshmen, Hastings and Roof started together on the right side of the infield. Hasting started 48 games at second base in 2004. Roof started 14 games at first base last season as part of a three-man platoon.

“It’s funny because last year he would just mess around, and he would throw balls in the dirt (between innings) and try to make me mad,” Roof said. “Now, we’re kind of competing against each other. But it’s a friendly competition. We haven’t fought yet, but maybe the next week or so we might.”

Senior Dusty Bensko is the primary cause for this season’s competition between the two roommates. Bensko has experienced an offensive resurgence and has staked out first base in all six Illinois games.

This has left Hastings and Roof competing to start at second base.

“Last year, Hastings got off to the great start, and Roof didn’t get in much (at second base),” Jones said. “I don’t care, one guy over the other. Right now, Roof is swinging the bat better and he’s gotten on base more.”

Entering this weekend, Roof, a righty, has a batting average 134 points higher than Hastings, a left-handed batter. Roof has a .267 batting average compared to Hastings batting average of .133.

Roof leads Hastings in on base percentage as well. Roof has a .313 on base percentage, and Hastings has an on base percentage of .235.

Both players have 15 at-bats.

“There is not much I can do,” Hastings said. “I can just go out and play every day. I’m going to go out and do what I can, and Shawn will do the same thing. You got to go out and compete and play your hardest every day and see what happens.”

Hastings does have a slight advantage in defensive statistics. Hastings has made 23 plays and has zero errors. Roof has made 13 plays with one error, but has turned three double plays compared to zero by Hastings.

“It’s kind of tough how we both are pretty competitive guys, but I think we look in the mirror at the end of the day and we don’t care,” Roof said. “Obviously, it would be sweet if I locked it up, but it would suck if he locked it up. I think for the team, it would help if one of us locked it up.”