IOTW: Turchin’s steady approach leads to early season success

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IOTW: Turchin’s steady approach leads to early season success

Illinois outfielder Doran Turchin waits for the pitch during the game against Indiana State at Illinois Field on Sept. 24. Turchin was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 14th round of the MLB Draft.

Illinois outfielder Doran Turchin waits for the pitch during the game against Indiana State at Illinois Field on Sept. 24. Turchin was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 14th round of the MLB Draft.

Illinois outfielder Doran Turchin waits for the pitch during the game against Indiana State at Illinois Field on Sept. 24. Turchin was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 14th round of the MLB Draft.

Illinois outfielder Doran Turchin waits for the pitch during the game against Indiana State at Illinois Field on Sept. 24. Turchin was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 14th round of the MLB Draft.

By Gavin Good, Assistant sports editor

Doran Turchin is a man of habit.

His weekdays are scheduled from start to finish, and his weekends are spent on the baseball diamond.

The junior left fielder has been a core part of the Illinois baseball team since arriving as a freshman in 2016. He started 51 games in center field in his first year, and in his sophomore year, he started 48 games in the outfield.

Through that time, not much has changed for Turchin.

“It’s repetition for me now. It’s my third year,” Turchin said. “Things really haven’t changed in those three years, so you get used to the routine pretty quick.”

On Mondays, Turchin wakes up for a 7:15 a.m. lifting session. Afterward, he eats breakfast, usually at the Varsity Room at Memorial Stadium. Many Illinois athletes get breakfast and dinner there, and Turchin is no different.

After a breakfast that is often made up of foods like French toast, pancakes, sausages and customized omelets, Turchin heads home to shower.

Then it’s off to study.

For about three hours, Turchin applies himself to his academics. Then he’ll leave to grab lunch, often at Subway or Cactus Grill, his two favorite spots to fuel up before practice.

Early hitting begins around 2:30 p.m. (after stretching), and some throwing warmups usually take place after that. These both occur before team practice gets underway.

Dinner follows shortly after, usually at the Varsity Room, which serves a variety of dishes and occasionally has ethnically themed meals like Mexican or Asian cuisine.

Since his classes are all stacked into Tuesday and Thursday each week, Turchin’s Wednesdays and Fridays mirror Monday.

Tuesday and Thursday are filled with classes for his communication major, and then it’s off to practice, or sometimes airports in Indianapolis or Bloomington, Indiana, if there is a road trip that weekend.

At the plate, Turchin’s approach has also remained much the same during his time at Illinois.

“(Baseball) is a game of failure,” Turchin said. “So if you just do what you can control and put a good swing on the ball, whatever happens, happens. I want to find the barrel and let the game play itself really.”

The focus is on making contact at the bat’s sweet spot, right on the barrel. Picking the right places on the field to hit to is also a major aspect of hitting successfully at a high level.

“For me, I want to stay gap to gap, so left-center or right-center, on a line,” Turchin said. “If I miss a ball, I get on top of it. It could still be a line drive through the middle. Or if I get underneath it enough and it gets backspin, those are the kind of balls that have the change to get out. Really I just try to stay through the 400 sign, dead center and on a line.”

On Sunday against Virginia Commonwealth University, Illinois had a 5-1 lead after the sixth inning, but the Commodores crept back in, and in the eighth it was 5-3.

Turchin had yet to get a hit in the game, and he was focused on making a play. His roommate, Jack Yalowitz, had just struck out.

He had a message for Turchin.

“He just said to me, before I even got to the plate, ‘Just pick me up right here Turch, pick me up,’” Turchin said.

He did.

The Oak Creek, Wisconsin, native seized on an outside pitch and belted it over the right field fence for a two-run homer, giving the Illini a commanding 7-3 lead.

It was the insurance the team needed to get the job done, and Illinois left Conway, South Carolina, with two wins after dropping the first two games of the weekend.

“Going into that, I knew I had to get the job done; I had to pick my team up,” Turchin said. “I was struggling throughout the game, and there was one opportunity right there where I could turn a bad day into a good day and help get the team a W.”

Maintaining his focus on selecting the right pitch — something with pace over the edge of the plate — and getting back to his usual approach was what Turchin credited for the hit.

Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb agreed with his player’s assessment. He also said not trying to pull pitches too often and staying in his comfort zone at the plate will be key for him this season.

“He’s got really good gap power and once he gets consistent with using the middle of the field, and then if it’s a little bit outside, driving it the other way, his overall production will go up,” Hartleb said. “So I was really happy to see him make that adjustment and take an outside pitch and hammer it.”

Though the Illini have only played six games on the season, Turchin leads the team with three home runs and is on an early pace to easily beat his total of eight last season, which was third-best on the squad.

He’s not concerned with that though. For Turchin, it’s about results, not statistics.

“The main thing for me is I want to win, and I want to win a lot,” Turchin said. “That turns into Big Ten Championships and things like that, and those are memories you’ll never forget with your teammates and friends.”

He wants to bat well, but he realizes he is only one player and that baseball teams revolve around many working parts. It’s about maximizing those working parts for the best all-around production, not about one man’s batting average.

“If we win the Big Ten Championship and I hit .200, at least we won the Big Ten Championship,” Turchin said. “If (we) win the Big Ten Championship and I hit .300, it’s bonus-bonus. Now, say I hit .300 and we don’t win the Big Ten Championship, in my eyes it’s not a good season because we didn’t win the Big Ten Championship.”

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