Illinois baseball prepares for second straight southern trip with weekend series against Sam Houston

By Adam Rosen, Staff Writer

Illinois baseball travels south again this weekend to Huntsville, TX, taking on the Sam Houston State Bearkats in a three-game set. This is Illinois’ fourth opponent of the young season, and its second to last series on the road before the long-awaited home opener.  

The Illini enter off of a huge series win against previously No. 18 Southern Mississippi, where they dominated in the first of three games and lost a 14–13 thriller in 11 innings, before pouring on runs like a waterfall in the rubber match to win the series 2–1. 

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Looking ahead to the matchup this weekend, despite the ability to get out of jams, the pitching has still struggled throughout the first eight games of the season. For head coach Dan Hartleb, there is plenty to clean up.

“It was good to see us get out of those jams,” Hartleb said. “The next step is that we put ourselves in a lot of those jams, and a lot of those jams were based on walking or hitting guys.” 

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    As for the game that went to extra innings, Hartleb believes the Illini had several opportunities to win but did not capitalize on them. 

    “The fact of the matter is that we had opportunities to win it,” Hartleb said. “There were specific things we could have done that would have got us the win, but it was a learning experience.” 

    The team did bounce back the next day, winning 9–4, showing the team’s resilience, and as can be expected, Hartleb was delighted to see his squad’s response. 

    “It was a very tough loss, and the guys took it tough,” Hartleb said. “I was very pleased with the way they bounced back today and the energy they had.” 

    Looking ahead to this weekend, Hartleb had only good things to say about the opposing Bearkats.

    “They have been playing extremely well,” Hartleb said. “It’s like any other road trip we take, we scheduled good people, and we need to play at a high level which makes us better.”

    Junior righthander Riley Gowens had another good start on Friday, and through nearly 10 innings of work, possesses a 3.72 earned run average with 18 strikeouts. Hartleb spoke highly of his fastball, as well as junior righthander Jack Wenninger’s. Both were “able to throw secondary stuff and multiple pitches for strikes” according to Hartleb.

    As a team, the Illini are getting on base nearly 40% of the time, with a marquee stat of 11 home runs and 41 walks. However, they have accumulated nearly 100 strikeouts in the young season. The pitching has racked up 70 punchouts and 45 walks, something that needs to be worked on as the Illini take on a Bearkats roster that features a very similar offensive profile to theirs.

    The first game will take place this Friday, with the first pitch set for 6:30 p.m.



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