Illinois Baseball sweeps Sunday doubleheader at Minnesota

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Illinois baseball team clinched Sunday a series win over Minnesota with 4-2 and 13-3 victories at Siebert Field. The Illini go for the sweep Monday at 12 p.m. CT. 

“Our guys did a really good job today,” said head coach Dan Hartleb. “We came out and beat a good pitcher in the first game and that set the tone. Really, really good wins. Today was a good day for us in a lot of areas.”

Illinois (22-11, 3-5 Big Ten) has won five straight series at Minnesota (2006, ’08, ’13, ’17, ’19). A win Monday would secure the Illini’s first series sweep against Minnesota since 1997.

Zac Taylor led Illinois with two hits and two RBIs in each game of the doubleheader. Ben Troike added a career-best-tying four hits in the opener.

Minnesota (14-18, 6-5 Big Ten) lost its fourth straight Big Ten game in the nightcap. The Illini’s 13 runs in Game 2 tied the most the Gophers have allowed this season. 

Game 1 – Illinois 4, Minnesota 2
Illinois tagged Minnesota All-American Max Meyer for his season highs in runs allowed (3) and hits allowed (9) to beat the Gophers 4-2 to start the series. The Illini scored single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to come from behind for the win. 

“We did a really good job against (Meyer),” said Hartleb. “He’s going to be a top round pick next year.”

Ben Troike led the lineup with a career-high-tying four hits, while Cam McDonald also tied a career high with three hits including a go-ahead single in the seventh. Zac Taylor drove in two runs.

Andy Fisher (4-1) gave Illinois its first strong outing of the day by scattering 10 hits over six innings and allowing only two runs. Fisher and the Illini bullpen held Minnesota to 1-11 (.091) with runners in scoring position, as the Gophers stranded 10 on base including five in the first two innings.

Sean Leland, Quinten Sefcik and Garrett Acton each faced three batters in clean innings of relief. Acton picked up his 11th save, tied for the fourth-most in program history.  

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Game 2 – Illinois 13, Minnesota 3
Illinois scored six runs in the fourth and four runs in the seventh to open a 11-2 lead en route to a 13-3 win. The Illini walked a season-high 11 times, including a program record-tying five walks issued to Kellen Sarver

Zac Taylor got the scoring started with a solo home run in the first inning and Illinois never looked back. Taylor added an RBI single later. 

Illinois’ six fourth-inning runs were scored without the benefit of an RBI hit. Runs scored on a wild pitch, a passed ball, two fielder’s choices, a bases-loaded walk, and a catcher’s interference.

Ty Weber (3-1) took advantage of the run support and was sharp on the mound. He allowed only two runs on five hits in six innings, while striking out a season-high seven batters. 

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Notes

• Illinois has won five straight series at Minnesota (2006, ’08, ’13, ’17, ’19).
• Illinois is 21-4 when allowing six or fewer runs.
• Illinois is 20-4 when leading or tied after four innings.
• Illinois is 19-7 on the weekends (Fri.-Sun.) and 3-4 during the week (Mon.-Thur.).
• Illinois is outscoring opponents 21-6 in the first inning.
Garrett Acton’s 11 saves are tied with Nick Blackburn’s 2016 season for the fourth-most in Illinois history. Joey Gerber (2018) and Tyler Jay (2015) own the record of 14.
Ben Troike tied his career high with four hits in the first game.
Cam McDonald tied his career high with three hits in the first game.
• In four plate appearances in Game 2, Jeff Korte was 0-0 with two runs and an RBI. He walked three times and was hit by a pitch.
Grant Van Scoy snapped a career-long 11-game hitting streak in the opener. He hit .425 (17-40) during the streak.
Michael Massey missed both games with an injury.
• Minnesota was 1-11 (.091) with runners in scoring position in both games of the doubleheader. 
• Opponents are hitting .191 with runners in scoring position against the Illini (60/314).
• Illinois scored 17 runs in the doubleheader despite stranding 26 runners on base. 
• The start of the series was delayed two days due to blizzard conditions in Minnesota. 

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