Illinois baseball ends Big Ten play at Rutgers

By Adam Rosen, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois (22-22, 11-10) will take its final road trip of the regular season and of conference play with a trip to New Jersey. Their opponents, the Rutgers Scarlett Knights (30-18, 11-7) are the No. 3 team in the Big Ten. The Illini are coming off by far their best performance of the season with a dominant sweep over the Michigan State Spartans at home.

The Illini have struggled with inconsistent play all season long, but as the season winds down, they desperately needed a series win and they got it over the Spartans. Outscoring the Spartans 34-19 over the three games, the Illini walked off in game one and after that, it was off to the races for them. Junior first baseman Drake Westcott had a monster weekend with five home runs, three on Saturday and two on Sunday. The big weekend from Westcott saw him earn the nod for Big Ten Player of the Week.

The game one win was quite a dramatic one as well, with both teams scoring back and forth. But it was sophomore left fielder Ryan Moerman who stole the show. Moerman made a highlight reel sliding catch, one that caused an uproar of applause at Illinois Field, but he was not done yet. Moerman walked off the game with a 420-foot home run to left-center, and a ruckus ensued right after the ball was hit. A swarm at home plate and celebration powered the Illini to the sweep.

Illinois went 18-for-52 with runners on base, a mark of .346, something for the team to build upon as it faces another huge challenge. Rutgers has the second-best pitching staff in the conference in terms of its earned run average, boasting an ERA of 4.39. Illinois sits at 10th with an ERA of 5.94.

In terms of the hitting numbers, Rutgers has a clear advantage just looking at batting average, a mark of .295 compared to Illinois’ .272. However, looking at who gets on base and who hits for power more, the on-base plus slugging percentage battle is closer as Illinois boasts a team OPS of .866 to Rutgers’ .856.

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    Rutgers enters the series on a five-game winning streak, which was the same winning streak that Michigan State entered last weekend with before Illinois put an end to that with an electric crowd behind them.

    The series marks the first time the Illini have been over .500 in conference play this season. With a conference tournament berth on the line, the visitors will surely need to be at their best. The first pitch for both games one and two will be approximately at 5 p.m. and game three will begin around 11 a.m. All times are listed in Central Daylight Time.



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