Illini go 3-2 on weekend behind Comia, Acton


Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Senior pitcher Garrett Acton prepares to fire a pitch during a match against Oklahoma State on Feb. 29, 2020.

By Rich Eberwein, Staff Writer

The Illini fought their way to a third-straight winning weekend after grabbing two wins against the Elon Phoenix in North Carolina.

Senior Ty Weber toed the rubber in the opener on Friday and showed signs of mortality after throwing 73 pitches in just three innings. Sophomore Ty Rybarczyk was brought in to relieve Weber in the fifth, but was routed for six runs over 2 1/3 innings and received the loss.

“We were behind in the count all night,” said head coach Dan Hartleb. “We had to throw a lot of balls in hitters counts and they made us pay for it. It was disappointing.”

The Illini dropped the opener 10-6 but the offense put up 11 hits, with four men posting multi-hit games, including Freshman Danny Doligale who put up a career-high three knocks.

On Saturday, freshman Cole Kirschsieper dazzled on the mound once again, tossing 6 2/3 shutout innings while giving up only four hits and striking out four in the 6-1 victory.

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“Cole did a great job,” Hartleb said.“I was anxious to see how he would handle that stopper role and he had a really good performance.”

Senior Ryan Schmitt handled the last 2 1/3 innings and surrendered one run. Illini runs were scored on RBI singles from sophomores Branden Comia and catcher Jacob Campbell, who drove in another two insurance runs on an RBI double in the ninth.

On Sunday, Comia extended his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games and led the offense to a nail-biting 8-7 victory. Junior Garrett McGowan and redshirt sophomore Kellen Sarver had two hits each and the Illini seemed to be in control with a commanding 8-2 lead going into the eighth inning. The Phoenix came back and rallied after a booming grand slam courtesy of Elon junior Jack Roberts. Flame throwing senior and Illinois closer Garrett Acton was called on to shut down the eighth; which he did after walking a man to hold the one-run lead. A one-two-three ninth won the game, preserved Acton’s 0.00 Era, and moved him to all-time Illinois saves leader (25), breaking the previous record of 24 held by current minor league Reds pitcher Tyler Jay.

“Garrett came in and did a really good job,” Hartleb said. “In the crazy game of baseball, it’s really nice to have a guy like Garrett on the back end.”

With the Elon series in the books, Illinois has won seven of its last nine games and looks to keep the momentum going when they travel to Carbondale this weekend to face the Southern Illinois Salukis who have a 10-8 record. The Illini are 8-5 overall and will also take a quick road trip to Ohio during spring break when they face Dayton and Miami on the 17 and 18 before their first three-game homestand against Iona from the 20-22.

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