Illinois baseball sweeps Big Ten powerhouse Michigan State


Caden Bargowski

Sophomore Ryan Moerman dusts himself off after stealing second base against Indiana on April 14. Moerman smokes a walk-off homer for a 10-9 win.

By Adam Rosen, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois hosted another tough opponent at Illinois Field in its third-to-last season series. This time, the Michigan State Spartans came to Champaign as the No. 2 team in the Big Ten.

Illinois entered the series having lost four of its last five and desperately needed a series win. However, a series win would not be an easy task as Michigan State entered on a five-game winning streak, looking totally prepared for the Big Ten tournament.

On the mound in game one for the Illini was junior righthander Riley Gowens. Graduate third baseman Branden Comia led off the game with a solo shot, but Michigan State followed up and led the second inning off with one of its own. 

The middle innings were filled by runs from both teams, as neither pitching staff could hold the opposition back. By the time things rolled around to the later innings, Illinois maintained an 8-7 lead. Things would not get any calmer.

The teams traded runs in the seventh and eighth innings, with Illinois leading; however, Michigan State hit a game-tying double in the ninth inning. Illinois got the last laugh as sophomore left fielder Ryan Moerman smoked a walk-off homer for a 10-9 win. Head coach Dan Hartleb was pleased with the effort, to say the least.

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    “As soon as he hit it, I knew it was gone, so it was fun to see the guys celebrate,” Hartleb said. “It was a tight game, they’d go up, and we’d go up. I thought we battled and didn’t give up in tight spots.” 

    Junior righthander Jack Wenninger took the mound for Illinois on Saturday, looking to help his team clinch a series win. Despite struggling in the second inning, the Illini offense was able to keep hopes alive, as junior first baseman Drake Westcott had four RBIs through the first three innings, all of them on two-run homers. 

    Sophomore Camden Janik broke the game wide open in the fourth with a grand slam to make it 10-3 Illinois. Westcott added his third homer of the day, powering the Illini’s cruise to a 14-7 victory over the Spartans in game two.

    Freshman righthander Julius Sanchez was the man on the mound for Illinois, looking for a signature weekend in a long season. With a win, Illinois would complete its second sweep of conference play. 

    Westcott announced his presence with a first inning home run, and senior catcher Jacob Schroeder followed up with one of his own. In the third, Westcott added his fifth long ball of the weekend to put Illinois up 4-1 after the first three frames. 

    Illinois added another run to counter a Michigan State comeback effort. The seventh inning began with Illinois leading 5-3 and just nine outs from a much-needed sweep.

    Junior right fielder Danny Doligale, Moerman and Comia added some insurance runs in the eighth inning to give the hosts a 10-3 lead. Illinois hit six home runs in the game, totaling 14 over the entire weekend. Illinois completed the sweep with a shutdown ninth inning.

    A critical series win for a struggling team, the Illini have six games remaining and momentum toward their final conference series of the season.



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