Illini prepare for weekday matchup with ISU

Illinois baseball head coach Dan Hartleb is hoping an off day will help his team bounce back Tuesday night when it faces Illinois State in Normal, Ill.

Per NCAA rule, the Illini must have an off day during the week, and with five games in seven days, Hartleb decided to give his team a rest from practice on Monday.

A short turnaround has the Illini getting ready for their first weekday game of the year after losing two out of three last weekend against Nebraska. The Illini feel like they beat themselves during the weekend, and think they know what they have to adjust to get back on the winning side.

“We have to communicate on the field. We have to make that adjustment for sure,” left fielder Justin Parr said. “We just have to throw strikes from our pitching staff. We have to attack the zone and then our hitters need to be aggressive. We had a lot of good counts (Sunday); we just need to take advantage of them.”

The team said that it can beat anyone if it can execute its game plan, echoing Hartleb when he says the Illini need to worry about their own play on the field.

“We just worry about ourselves,” Hartleb said. “We do the same things that we always do. We try to take care of our strengths.”

“We worry a lot about what we do,” first baseman Jordan Parr said. “Strengthening things we need to work on, or continuing to work on things that have been successful for us these first five weekends.”

Tuesday’s game will also be a chance for freshman John Kravetz to rebound after a poor outing on Saturday. Kravetz lasted just one inning and suffered his first loss of the season (3-1).

“I just want to throw more strikes and throw more off speeds for strikes, use all my pitches.,” Kravetz said. “I kind of fell a little in love with my fastball a little bit and I just want to get back to what I was doing before.”

Before his performance against Nebraska, he was leading the team with a 1.99 ERA. After giving up 8 runs to the Cornhuskers, it jumped to 4.13.

Illinois State comes into the game with a two-game winning streak and is hitting .310 on the year with 18 home runs — nine more than the Illini.

The schedule only intensifies now for Illinois. They have at least one midweek game from now until May. All but two of those games are against Illinois schools, which the Illini have gone 3-1 against this year.

Pitching depth will be essential, as Illinois begins a stretch of 20 games in the next 28 days.

Junior Kevin Johnson and Kravetz have been the most consistent starters on the team this year, but the other starters have struggled.

Rob McDonnell was the team’s No. 2 starter coming into the year, but has been sidelined with elbow problems. Freshman Josh Ferry, meanwhile, has an ERA above six. Matt Milroy has started two games for the team this year, but is winless, also with an ERA above six.