Illini offense bucks Broncos

 

 

By Dave Fultz

The Illinois baseball team started off the season’s longest home stand in a big way Tuesday as they routed the Western Michigan Broncos by a score of 11-4.

There was originally a rare mid-week doubleheader scheduled between the two teams, but rain forced one game to be cancelled.

“I think that it’s important for us to go out there and execute and do things properly in mid-week games,” Illini manager Dan Hartleb said after the game. “It was nice to be able to get the game in today, despite the weather turning and the rain and everything.”

The story of the day was the Illini (10-11) offense, which knocked around Broncos (8-15) pitchers for 11 runs on 16 hits.

“Offensively, if you look at the line score, we scored in every inning except the first inning,” Hartleb said. “Our offense stayed after it, and I thought we did a very good job of hitting with men in scoring position. It was a good day from an offensive standpoint.”

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    Junior catcher Lars Davis, who came into the game batting .459, continued his hot hitting. Davis had four hits, scored four runs, and raised his batting average to .478.

    “I’m just trying to see the ball well and stay relaxed out there,” Davis said. “I’m trying to get pitches to drive with runners in scoring position and do whatever I can to help the team.”

    The Illini also played well defensively despite the conditions that forced the cancellation of Tuesday’s first game.

    “It’s always tough playing in rainy or wet conditions and I thought we did a really good job with that today,” Davis said.

    Hartleb credited his team’s hard work for their defensive success.

    “I think we are a good defensive team,” Hartleb said. “We are capable of putting up a lot of zeroes in the error column. Our players work very hard defensively and it’s nice to see us come out with no errors even with the wind and wet conditions today.”

    Freshman pitcher Billy Barrett pitched the team to a win in his first career start, despite giving up three earned runs on four hits in just 3 2/3 innings.

    The Illini bullpen picked up the slack as four pitchers combined to allow just one earned run in 5 1/3 innings of work.

    “I think (Barrett) was a little nervous early and left a couple of pitches up,” Davis said. “But once he started to get into a groove, he pitched a lot better.”

    Barrett wasn’t pleased with how his first start but realizes that a win is a win.

    “I didn’t hit my spots as well as I should have early on, and left the ball up in the zone. The guys picked me up with a lot of (run support) after they hit those two home runs off of me. In the end, all that matters is the W.”