Illinois baseball will travel to the Stetson Invitational this weekend

By Cole Henke

Tweet: @IlliniBaseball is not going to have much time to scout this weekend in Deland, Fla. #Illini

 Against Tulane two weeks ago, Illinois baseball pitching
coach Drew Dickinson did not send reliever J.D. Nielsen to the mound in either of the first two games.

Dickinson didn’t think Nielsen would pitch
well. He didn’t want Tulane to see Nielsen early in the weekend and be
able to make adjustments to his pitching.

“If it is a Friday or Saturday game and we are losing, I am
not going to waste my two backend bullpen guys,” Dickinson said. “I am not
going to show the other team my hand like that.”

Dickinson will not have to worry about showing his hand this
weekend.

Illinois (3-3) will face Central Michigan (0-7) on Friday,
Stetson (4-5) on Saturday and Villanova (2-6) on Sunday at the Stetson
Invitational in Deland, Fla. This is the first time this season that the Illini
won’t play the same team multiple times in one weekend.

Head coach Dan Hartleb said there is a slightly different
approach to the three game series than playing three separate teams, but he
likes to schedule both kinds of weekends.

“The thing that I like about three-game-series weekends is
the fact that you have to make day-to-day adjustments because teams are going
to make adjustments against you,” Hartleb said. “The thing I like about the weekends
like we have coming up is that it gets you ready for regional type situation.”

This is the also only time until regionals that the Illini
will be playing a team only once in a weekend.

Illinois’ first opponent of the weekend, Central Michigan, has
had a rough beginning to its 2016 campaign. The Chippewas have yet to win a
game, and are losing games by an average of 6.3 runs per game. They have kept
some games close – The Chippewas lost to both Arkansas and Grand Canyon by only
one run – but they were also a part of losses at the Grand Canyon Classic last
week that could potentially be classified as murder in a court of law.

Saint Mary’s pummeled Central Michigan 15-4 last Friday.
Then Tennessee slaughtered the Chippewas on Sunday, 20-1.

The Illini have the statistical advantage on both sides of
the ball. The Chippewas have a team ERA of 8.52 compared to the Illini’s 2.77
team ERA, and the Illini’s team batting average of .250 tops the Chippewas team
batting average of .215.

Stetson and Villanova have both had better seasons so far than
Central Michigan. Stetson has the most wins in the invitational with four, and
Villanova went 14 innings with No. 15 Florida State in a losing effort.

Despite the seemingly tougher games coming in the latter
part of the weekend, Hartleb still plans to throw his ace, RHP Cody Sedlock,
against the struggling Chippewa squad.

“It is so tough (to change the rotation). Any team can beat
you on any given day,” Hartleb said. “I think sometimes if you switch the
rotation and throw your No. 1 in game three then you are telling your guys that
game one is not as important and then you might have a letdown.”

Illinois senior Adam Walton said he isn’t concerned with not
having time to adjust to his opponents. He said the only thing that his team
can do is focus on what they can do, and not their opponents.

“Since we aren’t playing them in a three game series, we don’t
get to pick up on as many tendencies,” Walton said. “Even though we are playing
three different team we have to approach it the same way. Take it one game at a
time and one inning at a time and just try to pick up a win each day.”