Wed, June 11: No vacation for UI's Lavery

DANVILLE – After juggling college, baseball and football for an entire spring, you'd think Tim Lavery might get a break this summer.

Lavery, who just completed his freshman year at the University of Illinois, spent the last few months splitting time between Illini baseball and spring football.

Now that the school year's over and Lavery's pitching for the Danville Dans, it'll be a nice, easy summer. Right?

"Actually, I've still got school and football," said Lavery, who competed for the UI starting quarterback job during spring practice. "I've got summer school, and we run and lift weights all week."

His busy schedule had him on the mound facing Twin City on Tuesday night at Danville Stadium. And he looked pretty good in his debut, pitching seven solid innings before the bullpen and some shaky defense turned a 4-2 lead into a 7-5 loss.

Lavery, a 14th-round draft pick by the Chicago Cubs after his senior year of high school, gave up two runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

"I hadn't pitched for a week and a half, so I was a little shaky," Lavery said. "I was surprised with how well I threw my curveball tonight because I hadn't thrown it that well in the spring."

He was 3-2 with a 5.14 earned run average for coach Itch Jones' Illinois team, and Lavery's hoping to improve his command over his fastball, change-up and curveball this summer. So far, so good, catcher Justin Beasley said.

"He had his change-up working, and he was hitting his spots well," said Beasley, who caught about 100 Lavery pitches. "Any time a pitcher is hitting his spots, that opens up more options."

Hitting receivers and running option plays are also a part of Lavery's summer. He starts running at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and begins weightlifting at 10 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Summer school, occasional 7-on-7 football games and Central Illinois Collegiate League baseball leave little free time. But Lavery said it's not so bad.

"During the spring, Itch and (UI head football coach Ron Turner) laid off me," Lavery said. "Coach (Tim) Bunton is doing the same thing. If we've got a 7-on-7 and I can't get to practice quite on time, he understands.

"And at the same time, coach Turner knows I'm playing baseball this summer, but he still wants me to be busting my butt in the weight room."

Lavery said he wants to go undefeated this summer and could have notched his first win were it not for a five-run Twin City eighth inning. The Dans committed two errors and botched a couple of bunts as all five runs were unearned against relievers Scott Guess and Jason Frey.

"We're still short-handed, but that was sloppy," Bunton said.

Beasley, who was 2 for 4 and blasted a homer off the bottom of the scoreboard in left-center field, said the defense will improve with time.

The Dans still are waiting for a couple Louisiana State players to arrive. They had Mississippi State's Travis Chapman in the lineup, and he was 2 for 3 despite getting about an hour of sleep.

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