Illinois baseball looks to keep up strong hitting against Purdue

By Joey Figueroa

On the heels of two successful midweek matchups, the Illinois baseball team is set for another Big Ten series.

Illinois (26-6-1, 5-1 Big Ten) will try to extend its season-long seven-game winning streak against Purdue (11-21, 1-5) this weekend at Illinois Field.

The Illini are fresh off Wednesday’s 7-2 win over Saint Louis, during which six different Illini scored at least one run and only two struck out. With 64 total hits over its last five games, the Illinois lineup is hot and only gaining confidence. 

“Hitting is a very contagious thing,” junior catcher Jason Goldstein said. “We just need to continue with a solid approach and having consistent at bats. If we do that, and if we don’t go through lulls like we did earlier in the season, I think we’ll be in very good shape.”

With the nation’s tenth-best ERA, the Illinois pitching staff has rightfully earned a lot of attention this season, but with four straight games with at least seven runs, the Illini bats are proving themselves as well.

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After struggling earlier in the season, Goldstein credited a meeting with the coaching staff for his recent offensive surge that earned him Big Ten Player of the Week honors.

Head coach Dan Hartleb spoke on the importance of having a lineup that will pay attention to the coaching staff’s advice.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys that are really listening,” Hartleb said. “They’re not being stubborn or standoff-ish about it, and that’s really important that you have coachable guys.”

Hartleb also praised first-year assistant coach Spencer Allen for his calm teaching approach with the hitters. 

Junior outfielder Ryan Nagle, who is in the midst of a 14-game hitting streak and is just 10 hits shy of his season total from last year, said the new members of the coaching staff have made a difference.

“They taught everybody some different stuff this year, so it’s just nice getting to know a few different things that we didn’t get the last couple years,” Nagle said. “New coaches bring new styles to us, and it’s been really working.”

Illinois’ streaking offense will face a Purdue team with one of the worst team ERAs in the Big Ten­­ — only one Purdue starter has an ERA below five.

Purdue is also last in the Big Ten in hitting. Batting .362 for the year, junior first baseman Kyle Wood is fourth in the Big Ten in hits and the Boilermakers’ lone .300 hitter. 

Before its win over Illinois State on Tuesday, Purdue had lost 10 of its last 11 games. The Illini have won seven of their last nine meetings with the Boilermakers, including a 2-1 series win to commence Big Ten play last season.

With Illinois off to its best start in school history, Hartleb has been satisfied with all facets of the team’s play.

“Everything is clicking,” Hartleb said. “Our guys are doing a great job and they really believe we are going to win each and every time out.”

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