Baseball sweeps Indiana to earn series win

By Jason Grodsky

The Illinois baseball team swept Saturday’s doubleheader against Indiana to earn a series win over the Hoosier and kept up with Michigan State and Purdue for the final spot in the Big Ten Tournament.

Behind sophomore pitcher Mike Stankiewicz, the Illini defeated the Hoosiers 3-0 in game one and then used a big, two-out rally late in game two to complete the doubleheader sweep with a 5-2 win.

Stankiewicz threw a complete game shutout in game one for the Illini. The right-hander gave up just six hits and walked only one batter in the seven-inning contest.

In his last two starts, Stankiewicz has regained his form that he displayed in his first three starts of the Big Ten season. Stankiewicz began the Big Ten season going 2-1 and allowing only two earned runs in 15 innings pitched while striking out nine. After a rough two-game stretch – giving up 16 earned runs in 6.1 innings pitched – Stankiewicz is back to his old form, giving up only two earned runs in 15.2 innings pitched in his last three outings.

“It was just a matter of going out there and throwing strikes,” Stankiewicz said. “I’m on a pretty good roll right now and hopefully I can take this into next weekend. But right now I’m pleased with the way things are going.”

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But while Stankiewicz led the Illini to victory in game one, they were given a dose of their own medicine in the first five innings of game two.

Indiana pitcher Matt Bashore baffled the Illini batters through five innings in the nightcap and looked to be poised to match Stankiewicz’ complete game.

But with two outs and nobody on base in the sixth inning, the Illini finally solved the left-hander, stringing together six straight two-out singles and scoring four runs in the inning to take a 5-2 lead.

“We battled all game and we knew if we could string a couple hits together we would have a shot to win,” said sophomore outfielder Joe Bonadonna, who was 3-for-3 with a run scored in game two.

Illini senior closer Jake Toohey finished the Hoosiers off in the top of the seventh to earn his sixth save of year and give the Illini a series win heading into the finale on Sunday.

The Illini (27-22, 13-12 Big Ten) got over the .500 mark in the Big Ten and maintained its one-and-a-half game lead over Michigan State and Purdue for the final spot in the Big Ten Tournament coming up in two weeks. The Illini will host Michigan State for their final Big Ten series next weekend.

“We just have to keep winning,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “If we win then nobody can catch us. Every win is important from here on out and I feel we’re learning to win and are playing very composed as a team right now.”