Bounce Back

Mar 12, 2019

My apologies for the lack of the preview of the Grand Canyon series last week. Had to pay my respects to a man who helped raise me and make me the man I am today -- my grandfather, Ed.

I figured the least I could do was write a little follow up of the series.

Most importantly, the Illini bounced back from a 1-3 weekend in South Carolina the week before by sweeping GVU at home -- the first time the Antelopes had been swept at home since 2016. Along the way, the Illini 9 outscored the 'Lopes 20-7.

Let's look at some of the highlights:

  • R-Sr. LHP Andy Fisher bounced back from a rough outing against No. 16 Coastal Carolina. The Ohio native tossed no-hit innings before this happened:

.@andfisher8's no-hit bid is over in the 8th inning.

-- Illinois Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) March 9, 2019

Now in some baseball circles, bunting to break up a no-hitter will spark some animosity. But I get it. A five-run lead with aluminum bats is not at all insurmountable.

That was the only blemish on an otherwise outstanding effort by the southpaw, who finished with one hit allowed in seven-plus innings of work with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks.

.@andfisher8 keeps rolling ยป 7.0 IP, 0 H, 3 BB, 6 K, 102 pitches#Illini 5, Grand Canyon 0 | END 7

-- Illinois Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) March 9, 2019

  • Sr. OF Jack Yalowitz continued his stellar senior season by stringing together seven hits and six RBIs in the series. Much of that damage was done Friday night, when the Loyola Academy grad was 4-for-4 with a double, 2 home runs and 5 RBIs to account for 83 percent of the Illini offense. Or as the Illini Baseball twitterer put it: Yabos for Yalo!

YABO for @JYalo_13 AGAIN

?? 4-4, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI ??#Illini 6, Grand Canyon 3 | T9

-- Illinois Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) March 9, 2019

Yalowitz is now hitting .354 through 13 games with 2 doubles, 2 home runs and 11 RBIs. And he may become even more important with the Illini's hottest hitter, Zac Taylor, leaving Sunday's game in the sixth inning after hitting the wall hard trying to run down a fly ball. Yalowitz slid to center in Taylor's absence.

  • Speaking of Taylor, the senior from Downers Grove was looking to put together a cycle on Sunday, but missed out on a chance to homer after leaving with the aforementioned injury. At this point, Taylor is enjoying a Justin Parr-type senior season -- hitting .400 with 7 doubles, a triple, 3 home runs, 8 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.

Let's hope the removal was just a precaution as the Illini enjoyed a big league and Hartleb started getting multiple bench players looks as we inch closer to conference season.

  • How about Sean Leland? As a senior at Orland Park Sandburg, the righty was the No. 66-rated senior in the country by Prep Baseball Report in the Class of 2014. He headed to Louisville and earned Freshman All-American honors by posting a 2.05 ERA in 40 innings pitched. But he's been snakebit since then.

So imagine how good it felt to come out on Saturday in relief of starter Ty Weber and pitch the most innings you've thrown in a college game since going seven strong against rival Kentucky for Louisville back in 2015 as a freshman. Leland was simply dominant, going 4.1 innings and allowing just 1 hit with 8 strikeouts.

.@LeLANDB4Time_ strikes out the side on 13 pitches in the sixth.

Leland and Weber working on a combined one-hitter (don't worry, it wasn't a bunt).#Illini 3, Grand Canyon 2 | END 6

-- Illinois Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) March 9, 2019

  • Even though Mike Massey hasn't started a game at second base yet, the Illini middle infield of shortstop Ben Troike and second baseman Branden Comia hasn't missed a beat. Check out these two gems from Saturday: Troike in the second and then Comia in the third inning


We've seen it many times. @B_Troike5 making it look routine.#Illini 2, Grand Canyon 1 | END 2

-- Illinois Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) March 9, 2019


Infield getting it done today. @b23comia with the double play.#Illini 2, Grand Canyon 1 | END 3

-- Illinois Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) March 9, 2019

  • -- Champaign native Kellen Sarver continues to be a pleasant surprise. The redshirt freshman is hitting .368 in 38 at-bats with 2 doubles and 7 RBIs while playing first base and some designated hitter duties. The lefty swinger had his second three-hit game of the season on Sunday and finished with 2 RBIs as well.

So the Illini return home following their four-weekend road trip to open the home slate with a pair of non-conference series. The Illini will host in-state rivals Southern Illinois and Illinois State for three game series the next two weekends, respectively, before opening Big 10 Conference play on March 29 against the hated Hawkeyes of Iowa.


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