Illini to face Knights over weekend


Austin Yattoni

Illinois outfielder Jack Yalowitz swings at the pitch during the game against Milwaukee at Illinois Field on March 14, 2018. Yalowitz was recently named the Big Ten player of the week.

By Tatiania Perry, Staff writer

To kick off the first weekend of a nine-game homestead, the Illinois baseball team will take on Rutgers for a three-game series over the weekend.

Illinois (20-8, 6-3 Big Ten) and Rutgers (17-11, 4-2 Big Ten) are meeting for the first time this season. Rutgers ranks No. 4 in the Big Ten, just below the Illini’s No. 3 ranking.

Their last meeting was in May 2017, where the teams split a doubleheader. With the help of former Illini Pat McInerney and Bren Spillane, the Illini took home a 7-5 win in the second game.

Fast forward to this year, Spillane leads the offense and the Big Ten in nearly every statistical category. Spillane holds the No. 1 spot in the nation in slugging (1.040) and OPS (1.582) and ranks second in home runs (14) and batting average (.455).

Although the junior has been hot, the Illini have been outhit in their most recent games but have still found ways to win.

“There are times when you are hot offensively and you hit the ball all over the ballpark, and there are times you have to find ways to score when you don’t get your hits,” said head coach Dan Hartleb.

The Illini have won seven of their last 10 games on stolen bases and walks to go along with the homers slammed by Spillane and a few other top contributors.

Spillane, however, is monitoring an injury and will only be used when necessary.

“I talk to the guys every day; we need to improve in every area,” Hartleb said. “We need to continue to work on moving runners, and we just need to make solid contact.”

John O’Reilly will more than likely be the starting pitcher that Rutgers will rely on in the first game this weekend. O’Reilly recently pitched his first career complete game to defeat Penn State. And after six scoreless innings in an 11-1 win over La Salle on Friday, O’Reilly lowered his earned run average to 4.04.

Freshman pitcher Harry Rutkowski will also likely make a mound appearance and is 4-1 with a 3.42 ERA.

For the Illini, Andy Fisher, Ryan Thompson and the closer Joey Gerber will likely make some mound appearances.

Fisher is 6-2 with a 3.68 ERA pitching for eight of the nine innings against Maryland on Friday, Thompson is 7-5 with 3.00 ERA and Gerber 12-2 with a 3.29.

“The thing we talked about from the beginning of the year is that everybody needs to be productive for us, and I think that’s what made us a good team,” Hartleb said. “We’ve got guys that can produce and will produce.”

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