Illinois baseball faces Nebraska on the road this weekend

By Ethan Swanson

Tweet: .@IlliniBaseball travels to Nebraska for its first conference road series of the year. #Illini

Sitting at 10-12 and coming off a mid-week loss to Indiana State,MG the Illinois baseball team is looking to establish one thing above all this weekend: consistency.

“We’re a little inconsistent right now,” senior left-handed pitcher J. D. Nielson MG said. “We have a ton of talent, but we have to put it all together. One game we’ll pitch really well, and another game we’ll hit real well: it just really hasn’t meshed for us yet.”

This weekend, the Illini will hit the road to take on Nebraska (17-7) MG in their first Big Ten series away from Illinois Field.

However, the Huskers aren’t the ideal team to face if getting back on track is the objective.

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Nebraska is 9-1 at home and seven members of the team’s starting lineup boasts a batting average above .300. The Huskers have won 14 of their last 15 games MG, including a two-game series sweep at Indiana State with scores of 10-4 and 11-4, respectively.MG

“Honestly, I haven’t looked at Nebraska’s stats or anything else,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “I don’t care what Nebraska does. I know that if we do the things we’re capable of doing, then we have a chance to win a lot of games. We need to take care of the things we’re not getting accomplished right now.”

Illinois has hung its hat on pitching thus far this season, compiling a respectable 3.56 team ERA through its first 22 games.MG

The Illini will send a solid rotation to the mound this weekend, as Hartleb said he plans to start Cody Sedlock, Doug Hayes and Cole Bellair MG – each of whom have an ERA less than 3.30. Bellair leads the team with a 0.65 ERA through 27.2 innings pitched.MG

The Illini have struggled of late in the batter’s box.

Illinois has a mediocre team batting average at .242 MG, and catcher Jason Goldstein is the only player on the Illini roster batting above .300 MG. In eight of the Illini’s last 12 games, the team has scored four runs or fewer, losing all eight games. In Tuesday’s loss to Indiana State, the Illini had just two hits and no runs through the first seven innings before scoring four runs in the eighth.MG

“We haven’t been aggressive in advantage counts, and we were very passive,” Hartleb said. “When we did swing at pitches in advantage counts, they weren’t good pitches to hit. We’re very capable of hitting, but we need to continue to grow and learn and put ourselves in a position mentally to do things the right way.”

Although the Illini have not seen the early success they hoped for, the team does not doubt its level of talent and potential to win consistently. Illinois is a relatively young team with 13 freshmen on the roster MG, but both the players and coaches know there are still a number of veteran players who understand what it takes to have success in the Big Ten.

The Illini hope this weekend will be a reflection of that.

“It’s going to be a hostile environment going in there, but it should be a good contest for us,” Nielson said. “We’ll show where we’re going to be after this weekend.”

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