Illinois baseball wraps up regular season at home

By Adam Rosen, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois baseball (23-24) will host its final regular season series of the year starting a day earlier than usual, with the three-game set beginning on Thursday. The hosts will welcome the University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks, who boast a six-game winning streak.

The Illini are coming off their final Big Ten series of the regular season, in which they lost two of three to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, which could put a dagger in their hopes for a Big Ten tournament appearance. The Illini have finished at least 0.500 in conference play across four straight seasons, but with this final series being nonconference, they will have to rely on other teams in the Big Ten to make some noise.

UT-Martin has struggled this season, despite currently being on an extended winning streak. On the road, the Skyhawks have struggled mightily. A record of 7-18 on the road clashes compared to the Illini’s 9-7 home record. While the Illini have struggled to find consistency throughout the season, they can close on a solid note and end a couple of great Illini careers.

For graduate third baseman Branden Comia and center fielder Cam McDonald, this could be the final series of two legendary Illinois careers. Both players were on the All-Big Ten second team last year, and have spent their entire collegiate careers donning orange and blue in Champaign-Urbana.

McDonald also owns the program record for the most consecutive games reaching base, setting the record with 63 straight, Comia came close to breaking that record this season but fell just short.

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    Regardless, the fans will have a chance to thank the team for a record-breaking season that saw head coach Dan Hartleb become the winningest coach in program history. The Skyhawks will surely carry momentum, however, with that long winning streak on-hand.

    The Illini have an advantage in the on-base plus slugging percentage department, with a team OPS of 0.855 compared to the Skyhawks’ 0.838. The Skyhawks on the other hand have a higher batting average, with the team hitting 0.290 compared to the Illini’s 0.271.

    As far as the pitching staff, neither team has much of a clear advantage. The Illini have an earned run average of 5.91, just a bit lower than the Skyhawks’ 6.28. The teams differ heavily in their walks-hits per inning, however, with Illinois possessing a 1.52 to the Skyhawks’ 1.73 WHIP.

    The first pitch of the series is scheduled for 6 p.m. Senior Day on Friday is expected to begin at the same time and the regular season finale on Saturday is scheduled for a first pitch time of 1 p.m.



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