Righting the ship: Illinois baseball snaps three series losing streak with series win over Miami University Ohio

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Sidney Malone

Junior baseman Kellen Sarver eyes the ball while up to bat during the game against Miami Ohio on Saturday. The Illini won all three games against Miami Ohio over the weekend: 2-0, 5-1 and 6-2.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

Illinois picked up a series win this weekend over Miami University Ohio, which had been eluding them since its sweep of Northwestern on April 17. This sweep gives the Illini a four-game win streak and momentum going into the last six games of the regular season.

Game one of the series was postponed on Friday night due to weather, creating a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon.

After the pitching staff stepped up on Wednesday against Indiana State, the arms came out and dealt again, only allowing three runs in 27 innings of work on the weekend.

Game one was a low-scoring affair for the Illini, ending 2-0 with both runs coming on the same hit. Junior Kellen Sarver laced a single into right field in the bottom of the sixth, pushing across juniors Cam McDonald and Jacob Campbell for the game’s only runs. Sophomore Cole Kirschsieper got the win on the mound, improving to 6-2 on the season, throwing seven shutout innings and only allowing five hits.

The two-inning save was secured by junior Ty Rybarczyk, who faced the minimum in two hitless innings, only allowing one walk, which was erased by a double play in the ninth.

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    The Illini received another seven-inning start in game two, with sophomore Riley Gowens allowing one run on one hit, tallying seven strikeouts. Sophomore Joe Glassey and senior Tommy Green combined for the final two innings, preserving the win and adding four strikeouts.

    The scoring started earlier in the second game, as sophomore Justin Janas knocked in a run with a productive groundout in the first inning. 

    With a tie game in the fifth inning, Sarver got his third RBI of the day, working an eight-pitch walk with the bases loaded, which brought Janas home.

    In the eighth inning, the Illini broke through for some insurance, starting with a blooper off the bat of Campbell, which pushed two runs across the plate. McDonald followed with a double down the right-field line scoring Campbell, giving the Illini a 5-1 lead, which ended up the final score.

    Game three was very similar to game two, ending with a 6-2 Illini win.

    Although sophomore Jack Crowder got the start, he only pitched 2/3 of an inning before junior Ryan Kutt came in relief. Kutt was dominant for the third appearance in a row for a final line of 5 ⅓ innings, one run, six hits and three strikeouts. His performance earned the win as sophomores Jack Wenninger and Alex Vera finished the game to secure the sweep.

    The Illini got some production from the bottom of the lineup in game three, as sophomore Cal Hejza got the team on the board with an RBI groundout. 

    Next up in the fourth inning, sophomore Danny Doligale singled to knot the score at two. The usual suspects then stepped in to give the Illini the lead for good. Janas sent a ball to the wall in left, scoring one, and McDonald lined a ball into center for his 47th and 48th RBI of the season.

    Sophomore Branden Comia joined in on the action in the eighth with an RBI single to give the Illini a 6-2 lead heading to the ninth.

    A tremendous week for the pitching staff couldn’t have come at a better time in the season for the Illini as they secured a perfect 4-0 week. After midseason pitching struggles, this stretch of games has helped right the Illini ship.

    Next for the Illini, another three-game home series starting Friday, as Nebraska comes to Champaign sitting in tenth place in the Big Ten standings.

     

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