Illinois baseball heads to Bradley for interstate midweek matchup

Sophomore+infielder+Cal+Hejza+catches+the+ball+during+the+game+against+Purdue+on+April+3.+The+Illini+will+be+heading+to+Peoria+to+play+against+Bradley+on+Wednesday.+

Sidney Malone

Sophomore infielder Cal Hejza catches the ball during the game against Purdue on April 3. The Illini will be heading to Peoria to play against Bradley on Wednesday.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

The Illini will travel an hour and a half northwest to Peoria, Ill. for a matchup with Bradley on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. 

The Wednesday bus ride will be the third shortest distance traveled this season for the Illini as they visit a struggling 13-20 Bradley Braves club. This will be the first meeting between the two teams in 2022, as the March 22 contest was canceled due to inclement weather in Champaign.

Currently sitting at second in the Big Ten with a conference record of 11-3, the Illini cannot afford a loss to an opponent of this caliber with NCAA Tournament hopes on the line late in the season.

The Illini are coming off of their first Big Ten series loss of the season to No. 24 Maryland. The Terrapins left Champaign taking two games in the three-game set. A dominant 19-1 win on Friday night was impressive, but the Illini didn’t save enough runs for the final two games.

Despite the series loss, the Illini showed they could compete in their first ranked matchup in 47 days.

Dropping three of the last four midweek games and allowing an average of 10.5 runs per contest during that span, the team is looking to right the ship with four weeks remaining.

Junior Cam McDonald had another big weekend as the Illini’s leader in hits, RBI and home runs on the season. McDonald tallied five RBI on the homestand, and his continued success will be critical down the stretch if the team wants to make a postseason run.

“I think that we have stayed together as a team this season and figured out how we want to roll as a squad,” McDonald said of their surge to second in the Big Ten.

McDonald admitted that the team let down a little bit at the end of the Maryland series.

“But the confidence is still high,” McDonald said. “I’m looking forward to see what we do next.”

Junior Jacob Campbell was another big bat in the lineup against Maryland as he hit .545 with five RBI against the Terrapins.

For a team who’s pitching has been inconsistent lately, productive at-bats in the lineup will be the key to winning games for the Illini, and that doesn’t always come from the starters.

 “You always have to be ready at any given time,” sophomore Andrew Kim said. “You never know when you’re going in, and the coaches have to trust you.”

Kim hit a pinch-hit three-run home run in the win over Maryland on Friday night which added to the lead late in the game.

Clutch at-bats off the bench are important for teams hoping to make runs in the postseason, and Kim thinks that everyone on the team, including the bench, is locked in.

“The team atmosphere and team mindset are all business and bought into the program right now as we finish the season,” Kim said.

The game will be broadcasted on the radio at WDWS 1400-AM or watch the game on the ESPN app, where it will be available on ESPN+.

 

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