Illinois baseball plays Michigan State in pivotal series


Michael Chew

Infielder Ryan Moerman up to bat in the 6th inning for game 2 of Illinois’ 3 game series against Minnesota on April 22.

By Adam Rosen, Assistant Sports Editor

With just nine games left in the baseball season, the Illini are in need of several clutch performances. Sitting ninth in the Big Ten with a 19-22 record overall and an 8-10 record in conference play, Illinois faces a huge test this weekend. Coming to Champaign are the Michigan State Spartans (27-13, 9-5), who hold second place in the conference.

This series marks the fourth time that Illinois has played a top-five team in the conference, going 3-6 in those games and not winning any of the series. Michigan State has only played one top-five team in the conference; in-state rivals Michigan. The teams split the seasons series 2-2, but Michigan State is surely in a great position for the conference tournament.

Illinois, on the other hand, is in a rough spot. Illinois enters this series coming off a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to Indiana State, a team that won at Illinois Field in its 2023 home opener. The Illini were down 2-1 for the majority of the game but tied it in the ninth, taking the lead in the 10th. But after a controversial play, the Sycamores tied it up and won on a walk-off home run a few innings later.

Freshman righthander Julius Sanchez pitched a stellar game, going a career-high seven innings and allowing just two earned runs. In more good news for the pitching staff, junior righthander Jack Wenninger was named co-pitcher of the week by the National College Baseball Writers Association for his performance against Ohio State on Saturday.

The Illini will need that type of excellence on the mound all weekend, as the Spartans boast the best batting average in the Big Ten (.313), the third-best slugging percentage (.503), and the third-highest on-base percentage (.414). The Illini rank 10th, seventh and ninth in those same categories, respectively.

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    The Spartans also have an advantage on the mound, with the league’s fourth-best earned run average (4.99). Illinois enters with an ERA of 5.91 which ranks ninth in the Big Ten. Michigan State enters on a five-game winning streak, while Illinois has lost four of its last five games.

    The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday. Games two and three are set for 3 p.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Following this series, the Illini have just one more home series.



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