Illini split home pod against Spartans, Boilermakers

Sophomore+Ryan+Kutt+is+met+by+his+teammates+after+an+inning+of+pitching+at+a+game+against+Purdue+on+Sunday.+The+Illini+and+the+Boilermakers+both+won+two+games+at+this+weekends+series+at+Illinois+Field.

Cameron Krasucki

Sophomore Ryan Kutt is met by his teammates after an inning of pitching at a game against Purdue on Sunday. The Illini and the Boilermakers both won two games at this weekend’s series at Illinois Field.

By Jared Ebanks, Staff Writer

The Illini bats had a field day against the Spartans in the first half of their pod at home, putting up 28 runs and 31 hits. Illinois walked away with a series win against the Spartans (3-1) this season. 

Illinois was able to finally combine their excellent batting performances with a well pitched game top to bottom in Friday’s contest, winning 13-4.

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The Illini defense came out sluggish to start the contest, giving up two quick runs in the first inning. The quickness of the runs must have struck a sore spot for the Illini as they would not allow another Spartan run the entire game. 

“The first inning or so we were not good defensively. And then we turned around and were really good defensively,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “The thing I’ll really credit our guys with is, we get off to a rough start, things don’t go well, we give up some hits, we don’t make some plays and we stayed very very focused. We did a great job.”

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    The story of the game was Cole Kirschsieper’s performance from the mound. Hoffman allowed six hits and four runs in his first three innings, prompting Hartleb to turn to the lefty for the remainder of the game. In his six innings pitched, Kirschsieper threw six strikeouts and allowed only one run – providing the Illini bats freedom to swing in the concurring innings. 

    “He’s one of the guys that I sat down and watched him work in the bullpen this week,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “Mark Allen, our pitching coach, did a great job with the entire staff. I’m sitting down there, I’m watching him and he pounded everything at the knees and lower in his bullpen, it was really impressive. Then he went out today and did the same thing. A good week of work for him and it really paid off for him.” 

    Kirschsieper didn’t let a Spartan batter get anywhere near the heat he was throwing – retiring the final 18 batters faced. No Spartan recorded a hit in the final five innings of the game. 

    Trailing 4-1 after the first two innings, the Illini responded with 12 unanswered runs over the remaining five innings. The bottom half of the batting order was consistent all night long – Sarver and McDonald each provided three-hit performances. 

    16 total hits in the game allowed for multiple bases-loaded scenarios and the Illini capitalized. With the score tied at four in the bottom of the fifth, Jacob Campbell came through with a huge bases-clearing double that started the five run inning. Campbell’s contributions were nothing short of impeccable with four RBI’s on the night. 

    Five sac flies on the night propelled the Illini base runners around the diamond. 

    The offense surged in Saturday afternoons contest against the Spartans as well, coming away with a 15-8 victory. Hampe’s bat stayed red hot, adding on an additional 3 RBI’s – one in the first, fifth and eight innings. His consistency was insane. 

    Sarver went 4-for-5 and put up his second three-hit day of the weekend propelling the bottom half of the lineup. 

    Run production is one thing that has come naturally to this Illinois team. When Illinois puts up six runs in a game, there’s a high chance they’re walking out of Illinois Field with a win. The team is 10-4 when they score six or more runs in a game. 

    The fifth inning also seems to be the Illini’s sweet spot this season, as they exploded for four runs. The bats went berserk in the seventh putting up six straight runs. 

    Lavender got the ball to start Saturday’s game and pitched for 5.2 innings. While he gave up four runs, he struck out seven batters in the process. 

    While they already played earlier in the day, Purdue came out Sunday and played a complete game absent of any fatigue. Illinois dropped their first matchup with the Boilermakers 6-4. Run production came to a sudden halt after racking up hits upon hits the previous two days. 

    The very first pitch Riley Gowens threw Sunday afternoon was doubled to left field. The third pitch ended in a two-run homer by senior Ben Nisle. 

    However Gowens adjusted, allowing just two hits and a run in the following 4.5 innings – striking out six Purdue batters. The right-hander found his groove in the top of the third, retiring seven straight Boiler batters.

    The Illini would also score on their third at bat of the game off of Branden Comia’s RBI single that scored Jackson Raper. Although, the next Illini run wouldn’t come until the bottom of the fifth. 

    In his seventh game of the season, freshman Xavier Watson recorded the first home run of his college career, a solo shot to left field. Purdue would respond with a run in the sixth and seventh innings, giving Cam McDonald the perfect opportunity to let loose. 

    In the bottom of the eighth with two outs on the board, McDonald would rip his second home run of the season to right field – tying the contest at 4-4. The very next inning Purdue answered back with a go-ahead two run double by Miles Simington to put the Boilermakers up for good.

    Illinois Field was the windiest its’ been during the conclusion of the four game series on Monday. In their first Monday game since 2019, the Illini couldn’t get anything going offensively. 

    The first inning was straight deja vu from Sunday’s contest as the Boilermakers knocked a two-run homer on the third pitch of the afternoon. 

    After strong performances in their first two games of the pod, the pitching staff struggled for the second straight day against Purdue, giving up five runs in just the second inning. Five plus Illini pitchers would walk 12 total Boilermaker batters in the afternoon. 

    The Illini would dig themselves quite a hole early on with a seven run deficit. 

    “The thing I think that’s frustrating is the fact that we continue to do the same things,” Hartleb said. “We need to see some progress from some guys. I know that’s the thing that frustrates me is that guys aren’t making progress. We have to be able to figure that out as a coaching staff and be able to get through to the guys.”

    Illinois’ first runs of the game came in the bottom of the fourth courtesy of Kellen Sarver, who sent a two-run single straight up the middle. Sarver would contribute three straight games of three-hit outings during the pod. 

    The offense would surge in the bottom of the seventh, after seeing three runs by the Boilermakers in the top frame. Justin Janas provided an RBI single sparking four straight Illini runs – yet they still sat in an eight run hole.

    Purdue would go on to win the contest 20-6. Aidan Maldonado (0-2) suffered the loss in his first start of the season.

    The Illini (10-14) walk away with a split on the pod going 2-2. They head to West Lafayette next weekend to face the Boilermakers again in a three game series.

    @JaredEbanks

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