Illinois baseball wraps up 2022 home schedule with series against Nebraska

Sophomore+Justin+Janas+catches+the+ball+at+first+base+during+the+game+against+Miami+Ohio+on+Saturday.+The+Illini+will+be+up+against+Nebraska+for+their+last+home+games+of+the+regular+season+from+Friday+to+Saturday.+

Sidney Malone

Sophomore Justin Janas catches the ball at first base during the game against Miami Ohio on Saturday. The Illini will be up against Nebraska for their last home games of the regular season from Friday to Saturday.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

This weekend, the Illini host their final home series of the 2022 regular season as the Nebraska Cornhuskers come to town.

The Cornhuskers arrive sitting 10th in the Big Ten at 19-27 (7-11 in conference), while the Illini dropped to fourth and are 26-19 (12-6).

Having dropped the last two conference series, the Illini want to get back on track with a series win before the postseason begins.

The pitching has been lights out recently despite these conference losses, as the staff has allowed just six runs during their four-game win streak.

“Our entire pitching staff works hard every weekend,” said sophomore pitcher Cole Kirschsieper. “It was just a matter of time before everyone started to click together.”

Kirschsieper was a big part of the recent pitching success, not allowing a run in his seven innings against Miami University Ohio.

“My fastball command has been a lot better and a lot sharper lately,” Kirschsieper said. “I really was able to use my other pitches off of the fastball as well.”

The Illini have waited for the pitching that has shown up against Miami and Indiana State all season, but it could not have arrived at a better time.

“I think that guys on the team have matured and honed in on the job that they need to do,” Kirschsieper said. “Every start doesn’t go a pitcher’s way, and it’s about bouncing back, which we did.”

After preparing for a small ball lineup last weekend, Kirschsieper knows preparation will be different for Nebraska but will be ready for his start.

“This week, we just want guys getting on the mound and hitting spots,” Kirschsieper said. “We will prepare for (Nebraska) individually before the games too.”

The pitching improvements are a welcome sign for a team still on the outside of the 64-team bubble for the NCAA Tournament, according to the weekly Division I baseball website.

Every game remaining could have postseason implications, so the offense will need to keep up its hot hitting of late.

Juniors Cam McDonald and Jacob Campbell have shown up in seemingly every series for the Illini combining to lead the team in average, RBI, home runs, SLG%, and OB%.

The Illini will likely continue to need other contributors as well, like junior Branden Comia and sophomore Justin Janas, if they are going to make a run at the postseason. 

The series is not only big for playoff implications, but also for the players who have poured their heart and soul into the program to celebrate Senior Day. The senior celebration will occur before the game on Sunday, capping off a full weekend at Illinois Field.

After last weekend’s postgame firework show was canceled, it will now follow the Friday night game against the Cornhuskers.

Saturday is “Bark in the Park” Day, and all dogs in Champaign-Urbana are welcome to attend and support the Illini.

The Illini will be broadcast on ESPNU Friday, B1G+ Saturday, and ESPN2 on Sunday. The games will also be available on the radio at WDWS 1400-AM.

Up next is a matchup with Penn State at University Park, which will be the final series of the regular season before the Big Ten tournament on May 25.

 

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