Tie brings out mixed emotions for Illinois baseball


Illinois’ Casey Fletcher waits for his turn at bat during the game against Michigan State “I felt like we had all the momentum after tying it in the ninth,” Fletcher said of Illinois’ tie on Sunday to Florida Gulf Coast. 

Following the weekend, the Illinois baseball team made things clear: Ties aren’t the worst thing in the world, but they leave everyone involved wanting more.

After the Illini’s 4-4 tie with Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday, head coach Dan Hartleb said he knew neither team liked how the game ended and both wanted a win. Senior Casey Fletcher expressed his disappointment with the team’s finish.

“I felt like we had all the momentum after tying it in the ninth,” the right fielder said. “But hey, what can you do?”

Even though it’s not a win, the tie preserved Illinois’ undefeated season, meaning the Illini are without a loss after seven games for the first time since 1986.

The last time the Illini tied a game was against Sam Houston State in 2005, a 1-1 game that went 14 innings. That season, the Illini followed the tie with 11 wins in their next 14 games, well on their way to a regular season Big Ten Championship.

Florida Gulf Coast last tied a game in 2003 against Barry University. The Eagles became a Division I program in 2008, so Sunday’s game was the team’s first tie as a Division I program.

Before the game, the coaches agreed on a 5:45 EST curfew, because the Illini return flight home was scheduled for 7:40 EST. 

Duchene still benched

Junior pitcher Kevin Duchene has not seen the mound through two weekends. He remains benched by Hartleb, who said that before the Illini ace will play, Duchene must be “doing all the right things.”

Duchene, who received multiple preseason All-Big Ten first team selections, did not travel with the team to Florida over the weekend or to Texas for the season-opening weekend.

In his absence, the Illini have thrown four starting pitchers in seven games. Seniors Drasen Johnson, John Kravetz and Rob McDonnell have all started two games apiece and junior Tyler Jay, usually a closer, has started one.


Jay building scoreless innings streak

The junior closer has not been credited with giving up a run yet this season through 11 innings across four appearances. Jay has pitched 13 1/3 consecutive innings without giving up a single run, earned or unearned, dating back to last year.

On Sunday, Jay was on the mound when Florida Gulf Coast scored two runs that were assigned to Kravetz, who allowed the baserunners to get on in the first place.

Jay committed an error that allowed a run to score in the ninth inning of Saturday’s 7-6 Illini victory over Fordham, but that run was credited to sophomore Cody Sedlock.

Sedlock allowed all three Fordham baserunners that inning and took the blame for all three runs scored.

Jay last gave up a run in Illinois’ 7-4 loss to Nebraska in the 2014 regular season finale. He allowed a walk-off three-run home run to the Cornhuskers’ Pat Kelly. That loss was Jay’s first of the season. He is 2-0 so far this year with one save and 13 strikeouts.

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