Illinois heads to Florida for break



By Jason Grodsky

With the cooperation of Mother Nature the past few days, the Illinois baseball team was able to practice outside for the first time since fall workouts.

The Illini escaped the dome of the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility at Illinois Field in preparation for the team’s upcoming spring break trip to Florida.

“It’s nice to finally get outside and out of the dome,” senior catcher Lars Davis said. “It’s good for us to get some work and preparation in before we head to Bradenton (Fla.).”

Illinois will play seven games in eight days starting Friday at the IMG Baseball Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

The Illini will begin the trip with four straight games against Vermont, Jacksonville State, Yale and Dartmouth before getting a day of rest and then concluding their trip with a game against Massachusetts and two more games with Dartmouth.

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“We have struggled a little bit early, so we’re looking to get back on a winning streak,” Davis said. “Playing seven games will give us an opportunity to see where everyone fits into the lineup and give us a more solid lineup heading into the Big Ten season.”

The Illini will also get a chance to get to know each other even better than they already do, as everyone going on the trip will have a chance to room with different players than they normally stay with on weekend trips.

“It really helps our team chemistry,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “It makes the team become closer because our guys have a chance to live with other guys they don’t normally stay with.”

Illinois is coming off a three-game losing streak after getting swept by Texas-Arlington. In the Illini’s last four games, they have given up an average of 11 runs per game.

But the Illini feel that despite the fact they have lost their last three games, they are moving in the right direction.

“It will be good to get everyone back on the field and see how everyone has progressed,” Hartleb said. “We want to be able to get as many guys out on the field to improve our depth, but at the same time we have put our backs against the wall a little and need to go get some wins.”

A big reason for the Illini’s early season struggles has been their inability to tack on runs to leads. In all three of Illinois’ losses last week, the Illini had the lead at least once early on, but were unable to hold on to those leads in the late innings.

However, in the Illini’s two wins this season, they have been able to string together an average of over 12 runs per game.

“We just need to start playing consistent and putting things together,” Hartleb said. “There are times where our offense has performed well and we’ve seen bright spots in our pitching, we just have to start doing those things on a more consistent level.”