Illinois baseball outlast Bradley in windy midweek matchup


Sydney Laput

Junior infielder Branden Comia prepares to throw the ball during a warmup before an inning for the game against Eastern Illinois on March 8. The Illini achieved a victory against Bradley on Wednesday 9-6.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

On Wednesday night, the Illini visited Dozer Park in Peoria, Ill., for a midweek matchup against the struggling Bradley Braves.

Pitching struggles continued for the Illini when sophomore Clayton Johnson got on the bump and immediately allowed two runs in the first inning. This two-run deficit did not last long, though, as junior Jacob Campbell continued his hot hitting with a solo shot to left field in the top half of the second.

Bradley continued to put pressure on Johnson in their half of the second, loading the bases with only one out, forcing Johnson out of the game after just 1 ⅓ innings.

Junior Ryan Kutt came on in relief to avoid the big inning, and he did just that. Kutt only let one run score on a wild pitch and kept the deficit at 3-1 after two.

The two offenses were held in check in the third and fourth innings, despite the wind causing problems in the field.

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The only action occurred when Campbell almost hit his second home run of the day in the fourth, but the wind drew it back into the ballpark.

In the fifth inning, the wind did not hurt the Illini, as three straight singles followed a leadoff groundout to load the bases.

Junior Branden Comia worked a two-out walk to finally push another run across and bring to the plate sophomore Justin Janas in the three-hole.

The second pitch to the lefty third baseman snuck under the glove of the Bradley catcher Logan Delgado. This was fortunate as Janas grounded out the next pitch, but not before the Illini tied it up, 3-3.

After another quick inning from Kutt, the Illini went right back to work in the sixth after the Bradley starter was removed from the game. 

After two bases-loaded walks to go up 5-3, sophomore Danny Doligale got just the second base hit of the inning for an RBI single.

Comia knocked in the inning’s fourth run with a fielder’s choice, and the Illini led 7-3, heading to the bottom of the sixth.

Kutt finished the sixth, capping off his day at 4 ⅔ innings pitched, only allowing one hit, two walks and stifling a Bradley offense that started the day hot.

A quick top of the seventh got the Bradley bats back up to the plate in the bottom of the inning. Then, with Kutt removed from the game, the bats awakened again.

Sophomore Johnny Czeslawski only managed to record one out and was removed after a bases-clearing triple. An error at first by Janas scored another, and the Illini lead was cut to one after seven innings.

In the eighth, Campbell stepped up with a two-out bases-loaded single to scratch across two insurance runs for the Illini.

Senior Tommy Green came on late to record his second save of the season, and the Illini got a much-needed win before heading back into Big Ten play. 

Kutt ended up getting the win after a gutty performance out of the bullpen, which potentially saved the game for the Illini.

“I felt good man, all three pitches of mine were working,” Kutt said. “It kind of helped that the wind was blowing a little bit, making my changeup and fastball more effective.”

The effort from Kutt cannot be understated as the pitching staff had not performed well in the midweek games recently and was already trailing in the second inning.

“I’m just glad I was able to contribute because one, we were struggling in the midweeks and two i was able to have a winning effort,” Kutt said.

It was the first win of the season for the junior and it was especially important to right the ship in non-conference games for a team needing every win they can get down the stretch.

Kutt and the team are well aware what it takes to be a postseason team and are locked in going into the final weeks.

“We need to just worry about ourselves, we can’t control Rutgers or Maryland,” Kutt said. “We just need to worry about Indiana this weekend and carry good things into the playoffs.”

Next, the Illini will take on Indiana for a three-game road series in Bloomington, Indiana, as the team looks to continue its conference dominance in 2022. 



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