Consistency an ongoing issue for Illinois baseball

David+Kerian+bats+during+the+game+against+Penn+State+on+May+11.+The+Illini+won+8-6.

David Kerian bats during the game against Penn State on May 11. The Illini won 8-6.

By Nicholas Fortin

The Illinois baseball team has struggled with consistency this season.

The Illini started the season by dropping four of their first six games before ratting off a four-game series sweep that included two wins over then-No. 23 Florida.

One week later, Illinois was on the other end of the brooms at the hands of Western Kentucky, who beat the Illini in three games over two days.

“We just have to put complete weekends together,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “It can’t be that one weekend we do things well and the next weekend we don’t. We just have to gain consistency.”

Hartleb said the Illini were able to excel in certain areas each day, but there was an aspect in each game that caused them to trip up.

In Illinois’ first game against Western Kentucky, the bullpen gave up three runs in the eighth inning before losing 4-3. The second and third games saw the Illini offense struggle to produce runs, especially in the third game where it finished with no runs on four hits.

Junior first baseman David Kerian said he thought the Illini were inconsistent in their effort from inning to inning, which cost them games.

“For most innings I feel like we played better than the other team, but it was just a couple innings that they did better than us, and those are the innings that they ended up winning the game with,” first baseman David Kerian said.

Hartleb was more direct in his analysis of the team’s performance.

“All aspects have to get their jobs done,” he said.

 

Illinois falters in close games

Illinois had trouble closing out the Hilltoppers this weekend.

The Illini lost all three of their games by a combined four runs, a fact that junior pitcher John Kravetz said needs to change for the Illini to have success.

“The thing is we had chances all three games to win it and we just didn’t come through,” Kravetz said. “We weren’t clutch in pitching or hitting. It wasn’t that we got seriously outplayed or outhit. I thought we were pretty evenly matched. They’re just a solid team.”

Illinois is now 2-4 on the season in games decided by two runs or less.

“We were in all three games and in the ninth inning we had a chance to win all three times,” Kravetz said. “We need to find a way to win those games. We need to hit better, pitch better at times.” 

 

Illini battle weather in Kentucky

Besides Western Kentucky, Illinois had another opponent off the field over the weekend.

The Illini’s first game against the Hilltoppers, which was originally scheduled for Friday, was postponed due to “soggy field conditions” at Nick Denes Field, according to a press release.

Illinois and Western Kentucky made up the game as part of a Saturday doubleheader.

Friday’s postponement was the second weather-related incident Illinois has dealt with this season.

During the Caravelle Resort’s Baseball at the Beach Tournament on Feb. 21-23, the Illini pushed two games back and scheduled a new opponent due to inclement weather.

Nicholas can be reached at [email protected] and @IlliniSportsGuy.