Illini see 1st longball in Florida weekend

The Illinois baseball team had not seen a home run hit in any of its first 7 1/2 games.

While the Illini lost all three games this past weekend, Willie Argo’s third at-bat of Saturday’s contest against Stetson ended Illinois’ drought.

In the at-bat, Argo homered to left field on a 2-0 count, putting the Illini up 2-1. It was the first home run of the season for or against Illinois.

“It felt good, especially at the time,” Argo said. “It was a tie ballgame, and that put us up, so that was big for us. That was the most important thing, it put us in the lead. So it was good to get on the board there.”

The first homer of the season came late for Illinois this year, as all of college baseball made the switch to a less impactful, less powerful bat. At the same point in the season last year, Illinois players and opponents had already blasted eight home runs. Argo said the reduced power numbers didn’t surprise him.

“That was the first one we’ve seen by any team,” he said. “We’ve played nine games. That was the only one I’ve seen in baseball yet. These new bats don’t have quite as much power. I think you can still get it out if you get it on the barrel and you hit it well.”

Errors, walks plague Illini

Unforced errors continued to hurt the Illinois baseball team last weekend as it dropped three consecutive games at the Bright House Invitational in Deland, Fla.

The Illini made seven errors on the weekend with at least two in every game. The squad’s record when committing more than two errors in a game is 0-5. When committing fewer than two, the Illini are 3-1.

The effect of the errors was compounded by the number of walks the Illinois pitching staff issued to opponents. In three games, the staff walked 15 batters, while the Illini drew only eight. The free passes produced a particularly devastating effect in Friday’s loss to Central Michigan, when the bullpen walked seven Chippewa hitters in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings to squander a 5-0 lead.

Pitchers perform first deep games on mound

After not seeing a starting pitcher pitch past the fifth inning in Illinois’ first two series of the season, last weekend two members of the staff achieved the feat.

Sophomore Kevin Johnson pitched seven scoreless innings Friday night, allowing only five hits and one walk while striking out three. The outing lowered his earned run average on the season to 1.08. Johnson said he had “pretty much everything” working during his third start of the season.

“I mean I had my fastball working good,” he said. “I was able to locate it to both sides of the plate. I was throwing my change-up in pretty much any count, and I actually threw a lot more breaking balls than I had been throwing my previous two outings, and I was able to get that over for a strike too. So I had all three pitches working.”

Senior hurler John Anderson followed Johnson’s performance with a solid outing of his own Saturday night. Anderson went 6.1 innings, giving up four runs — three earned — on seven hits and one walk.