Illinois baseball closes regular season with series win


By Adam Rosen, Assistant Sports Editor

In their final regular season series of the season, the Illini hosted the University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks in Champaign. A regular season filled with some bright moments but defined by inconsistency, Illinois has a chance to end on a high note before the conference tournament begins.

Likely the final home games for graduate third baseman Branden Comia and graduate center-fielder Cam McDonald, it was bound to be an emotional set of games for the Illini. On the bump for the series opener was junior right-hander Jack Wenninger, who has been solid for the Illini all year.

But it would be the Skyhawks taking an early 2-0 lead until the fourth inning came along, and Comia did his thing, tying the game on a base hit into the gap. The Skyhawks once again took the lead in the sixth inning with a scoreline of 3-2. From that point on, it was all Illinois.

Illinois scored five unanswered runs to win the first game of the series 7-3. McDonald led the way with four runs driven in. For game two, freshman righthander Julius Sanchez would be the man on the mound for Illinois, seeking his first win on the season.

Once again, the Skyhawks struck first, this time on a two-run homer in the first inning. They added another run, taking a 3-0 lead before the Illini could even step to the plate. The Skyhawks kept adding on, taking a 6-0 lead heading into the fourth inning. Illinois responded with one run in the bottom of the inning but could not keep up the pace.

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    The Illini tried to rally and went back-to-back in the ninth on solo homers but fell just short in a 6-4 loss to the Skyhawks. Sophomore catcher Camden Janik had an outstanding night for the Illini despite the loss, going five-for-five on the night.

    Senior Day saw freshman righthander Jake Swartz take the mound in an emotional game, where the fans got a chance to wave goodbye to several seniors and graduate students who played their hearts out for the Illini.

    The Skyhawks went down 2-0, but in the fourth inning, they stormed back into the game. The visitors put up a six-run inning to take a 6-2 lead. The Illini woke up in the fifth inning by scoring five runs, including a go-ahead grand slam from Branden Comía, sending the fans into a frenzy.

    The Illini added another batch of runs, taking a 15-7 lead into the ninth and final inning of the regular season. Head coach Dan Hartleb also made several changes in the inning to allow some seniors to make their final appearances at Illinois Field.

    The Illini closed out the game and the regular season by winning two of three against the Skyhawks. Up next is the Big Ten tournament, where Illinois will look to go on a run.



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