Baseball team plans to hurry home for hoops

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Erik Hall

Baseball will spend spring break in Bradendon, Fla. playing six games in seven days. They start with a game against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.

“We are there to play baseball,” said senior first baseman Dusty Bensko.

“If we have a game to take care of, we are going to be focused on that. Right when it’s over we are running to the TVs to see how they did.”

There are plenty of Illinois baseball players with interest in the NCAA Basketball Tournament that starts today.

All four Illinois pitchers with a start this season earned at least two varsity letters playing high school basketball. Six of the 10 position players who have started for Illinois this season played varsity high school basketball.

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“We will miss probably the first game of the day, but there is nothing better than coming home and watching highlights all day,” said junior pitcher Andy Sigerich. “A lot of the guys on the team are really excited about it. You can’t ask for more. You play in morning and watch basketball all afternoon.”

The Illini should be done playing by 1 p.m. each day. Illinois’ latest starting time comes at 10 a.m. against Dartmouth on Friday, March 25.

The 6-foot-9-inch Sigerich earned three letters playing high school basketball at Downers Grove North. He helped the Trojans win two regionals and a sectional championship.

Sigerich predicts an Atlantic Coast Conference versus Big Ten showdown in the Final Four. He expects Duke, Illinois, Wake Forrest and Wisconsin to win the regionals.

Illinois head baseball coach Itch Jones would like to see an Elite Eight match-up between his alma mater Southern Illinois and his current employer.

“I think Southern has got a pretty good basketball team, and they are pretty sound,” said Jones who lettered as a freshman on the Saluki basketball team. “I think that Illinois is going to be tough to beat, and I hope Southern can go as far as they can. The team I want to see go the furthest is the Illini.”

Bensko had the opportunity to play college basketball. He was recruited by several schools including No. 9 seed Iowa State. Bensko received attention after earning MVP of the 2000 Class A Illinois High School Association state basketball tournament.

“Iowa State talked to me a lot and sent me letters, but no one really pursued me because I informed them I wanted to play baseball in college. I’m too slow (for basketball),” Bensko said. “It’s always fun to see how Iowa State did and wonder what could have been.”

Bensko expects the Illinois basketball team to reach the championship game. According to Bensko, the Illini will beat Bill Self and Kansas in the national championship game.

“I’d like to see us smoke Bill Self,” Bensko said.

If the Illinois basketball team reaches the Sweet 16 then the Illinois baseball team and Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team may be cheering together for the orange and blue.

Wisconsin-Milwaukee head baseball coach Jerry Augustine is the uncle of Illinois basketball forward James Augustine.

The Illini and the Panthers play a 9:30 a.m. baseball game March 24. It is possible that Illinois and Wisconsin-Milwaukee could play a regional semifinal game March 24 in Chicago.

“Unless it’s 85 (degrees) and sunny and there is a reason to do something outside, I think most of the guys on the team are going to be watching basketball,” Sigerich said. “It happens once a year, everyone is excited.”