Illinois baseball prepares to close out regular season with away series at Penn State

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Left-handed pitcher Cole Kirschsieper prepares to pitch the ball on Mar 27, 2021 against Northwestern. The Illini baseball team will be heading to the BIG Ten tournament during May 25-29 for a chance for placement in the NCAA tournament since the last time they earned a spot in 2015.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

Illinois baseball will be entering the regular season’s final weekend, sitting 28-20 overall and 14-7 in the conference. The team will be visiting Penn State in Happy Valley. Illinois is well aware of how critical every game remaining is to the playoff hopes, but sophomore Cole Kirschieper believes the pitching staff will be ready.

“I mean, everyone has been doing well lately,”Kirschieper said. “Throwing a lot of strikes is mainly what we need to do and work on during the week.”

Although Kirschiper and the other starters will not take Penn State lightly, the Nittany Lions have the third-worst batting average and second-fewest runs scored in the Big Ten.

“When we prepare for teams on Thursday or Friday before the games, we get into their strengths and weaknesses,” Kirschieper said. “So we will be ready.”

The Nittany Lions are second-worst in fielding and seventh in overall pitching, but with all of their overall rankings seventh or worst, they sit fifth in the league. While they may not have pretty statistics, they have found ways to win ball games this year which is all that matters at the end of the day. The Illini will need to be ready to play their best baseball of the year starting Thursday in order to win the series.

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    For a team that has only had one NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015, the Illini want to prove that they belong there again. The offense will likely be what wins games for the Illini, as they have been all season, because of guys like junior Cam McDonald.

    McDonald has reached base in every game this season and has surpassed the Illinois on-base record for consecutive games this season, as his streak dates back 59 games to the 2021 season.

    Junior Jacob Campbell and sophomore Justin Janas have been impressive for the offense as well this season and stepped up in big moments. Janas leads the Big Ten in on-base percentage, and McDonald is top three in batting average and hits.

    With the pitching finally coming around and performing like a top-four staff in the Big Ten during the last three weeks, it will be important for the offense to keep up their firepower.

    The games this weekend will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network and can also be listened to on the radio at WDWS 1400-AM.

    Next week, the Illini will return to action in Omaha, NE, for the Big Ten tournament on May 25-29 in what will be their final chance to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.

     

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