Baseball team blasts Blueboys 17-0



By David Just

It didn’t take long for the Illini to take control of Wednesday night’s game against Illinois College. And once they did, they never looked back.

After two quiet innings, the Illini jumped on Blueboy starter Ben Eilerman in the third inning, scoring eight runs on seven hits and sending 13 batters to the plate. It was plenty more than the Illini would need in the 17-0 shutout victory.

Every Illini starter reached base in the run-filled third, starting with right fielder Craig Lutes’ bloop single to left. After Casey McMurray popped out to the second baseman, Kyle Hudson walked and things got progressively worse for Eilerman.

The Illini (18-8) strung six straight hits together, including Daniel Webb’s third home run of the season that came with two runners on base. Webb finished the game 2-for-3 with four RBIs and a run scored. His RBI single in the fourth was the ninth Illini run.

“I was feeling really good at the plate coming into today,” Webb said. “(Eilerman) had gotten me out on an inside fastball my first time out, so I was just sitting on it.”

The game was a pleasant surprise for head coach Dan Hartleb after Tuesday night’s rain out in Peoria.

“The good part is that if you don’t find an opponent to play, then it becomes a practice day,” Hartleb said. “So it was nice to get everybody in the lineup and start a few new guys and keep everybody fresh for the weekend. “

The weekend Hartleb refers to might just be the toughest of the season for the Illini. Michigan comes to town atop the Big Ten standings, with Illinois one game back. With that in mind, Hartleb worked seven pitchers Wednesday night to keep the staff ready for the weekend.

Billy Barrett took the mound for his second career start and allowed just one hit and one walk in two innings. He also struck out three.

Freshmen Nick Chmielewski and Lee Zerussen and sophomore Wes Braun followed Barrett’s lead, allowing just one hit in their four combined innings of work. Illini pitchers kept the ball on the ground all evening, forcing 17 ground ball outs.

“I was coming off a bad outing against Indiana, so it was real nice to get that confidence back,” said Braun of his inning in relief. “As a staff it’s nice to get a shutout, and it gives us a little confidence going into the weekend.”

The Illini have been a force during midweek games this season, winning all five non-conference matchups since returning from their spring break trip. The team outscored those opponents 61-13.

“On any given day we’re a very solid team,” Hartleb said. “Our guys don’t let one or two innings bother them. They have an approach at the plate and they know what they’re trying to do.

“Baseball is a game where you have some slow innings, and maybe a game where things don’t go well. But if we keep taking that good approach, we’ll score runs.”