Last weekend Illinois baseball hosted the #19 Minnesota Gophers at Illinois Field. The Illini lost the first and third games but managed to win the second game to go 1-2 in the series. The schedule went through multiple changes throughout the weekend due to weather and the games would end up being played as a doubleheader on Friday night and the final game on Sunday. Sunday was also Honor and Serve Day at the ballpark, the players wore special camouflage jerseys that were auctioned off for charity and Illinois ROTC members took oaths on the field between innings.
The top two starters for the Illini, Cody Sedlock and Doug Hayes did an admirable job against a very dangerous Gopher offense in the doubleheader on Friday. In game one, Sedlock held Minnesota to three runs in six and two thirds innings and the bullpen combination of J.D. Nelson and Andrew Mamlic gave up none in their two and one third innings but the Illini offense was held to a single run which would not prove to be enough. In game two, Doug Hayes pitched a masterful nine inning shutout and while the Illini offense continued to be weak, their two runs did the job to get the W. For his outstanding performance on the mound, Hayes earned the B1G conference Pitcher of the Week award. Illinois second baseman Michael Hurwitz continued his hit streak through the first two games, bringing it to the fifteen game mark, but it would end in game three with an 0-4 performance at the plate.
Game three on Sunday was a completely different affair than the previous two as the wheels fell off for the Illini with six pitchers combining to allow fourteen runs and seventeen hits in the game. Starter Cole Belair only made it through two innings, allowing five runs, before getting replaced and the only pitcher out of the six that appeared not to give up a run was Luke Shilling who came in for the ninth when the game was all but decided. Illinois was able to put six runs on the board but the game felt like a blowout from early on and a feeling of surrender surrounded the Illini players. There were a lot of heads down and hands on hips on the bench that spread the feeling that Illinois had given up and was outmatched by the skilled Gopher squad. Hopefully head coach Dan Harmon will use this as a teaching point with the team going forward because it was disappointing to watch the reigning B1G Champions look so defeated and lifeless.
Illinois will play two non-conference games this week, the first on Tuesday against Missouri at GCS Ballpark, the second on Wednesday against Southern Illinois at Illinois Field, before traveling to Maryland for a three game series Friday through Sunday. The final three home games for Illinois will be played at Illinois Field May 19-21 against Michigan.
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About the author: Tyler Courtney
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