Simeon OL decommits from Lovie's next class

Simeon OL decommits from Lovie's next class

Illinois football started Sunday with three commits in the Class of 2020, but that number was at two by Sunday night.

Chicago Simeon offensive lineman Marcus Harper, who committed to Lovie Smith's program on April 7, announced via a note posted to his Twitter account on Sunday night he was decommitting from the Illini.

Harper thanked Smith and Illinois offensive line coach Bob McClain, along with the Illinois staff, in his note before saying he was going back on his verbal pledge he gave three weeks ago.

"I have built relationships with you all that I don't want to lose," Harper wrote. "But after much thought, and talking with my family, I am decommitting from the University of Illinois. There is no love lost (and) Illinois is still in consideration."

With Harper's decision, Illinois' two commits so far for the 2020 class are running back Reggie Love from Trinity Catholic out of St. Louis and wide receiver Jaydon Thompson from Chicago Marist.

In other Illinois football news, a pair of former Illini joined seventh-round pick Nick Allegretti in taking a shot at playing in the NFL.

Kicker Chase McLaughlin and linebacker Del'Shawn Phillips each signed contracts as undrafted free agents, with McLaughlin joining the Buffalo Bills and Phillips heading to the Atlanta Falcons.

Phillips, who started in 11 games at linebacker in 2018, finished as an All-Big Ten honorable mention (media), while McLaughlin earned the Bakken-Anderson Big Ten Kicker of the Year award.

In baseball

Sarver saves UI. Locked in a 4-all tie at Nebraska, Illinois got the help it needed from a local product.

Kellen Sarver, a former Centennial standout, delivered a two-run double in the ninth-inning to guide the Illini to a 6-5 victory in front of 4,191 fans in Lincoln, Neb., as well as a series win — their third straight in Big Ten play after dropping their first two league series this season.

"We found a way to get our jobs done," UI coach Dan Hartleb said. "There are some things we have to clean up, but we win a series on the road against a Nebraska team that was on top of the conference. That's not easy at any point. Proud of our guys for getting us through the adversity."

Illinois (28-14, 8-7 Big Ten) received a two-run home run from Jack Yalowitz in the fourth inning and held a 4-0 lead entering the bottom of the sixth. That's when Nebraska (23-16, 12-6) started to show life at the plate, knocking across its first run before tying the game behind a three-run seventh inning.

When Sarver doubled into deep right center field in the ninth, though, the Illini took the reins for good.

"That was a great at-bat," Hartleb said. "(Sarver) had a really, really good approach. He caught a mistake and drilled it. Unbelievable at-bat and a huge hit for the team."

The Cornhuskers did manage to knock across another run in the bottom of the final frame and had runners on second and third with two outs, but Parkland product Garrett Acton forced a groundout to earn his program-record-tying 14th save of the season. With 11 games left in the regular season, Acton has matched the record set in 2015 by Tyler Jay and equaled last year by Joey Gerber.

Starting right-hander Cyrillo Watson allowed three runs over 6 1 / 3 innings, tying a career high with eight strikeouts, while Sean Leland earned the win before 1 2 / 3 innings of one-run ball.

Illinois gets a short break before starting a five-game week on Tuesday at Southern Illinois. The Illini then host Indiana State on Wednesday before welcoming Indiana for a three-game weekend series.

In softball

Illini fall late. Two runs in each of the first two innings made for a promising start for Illinois in Sunday's series finale against Ohio State.

The offensive drought that followed, though, proved too costly, with Ohio State prevailing 5-4 in front of 1,324 fans at Buckeye Field in Columbus, Ohio.

The Buckeyes (32-14, 15-5 Big Ten) handed the Illini (27-22, 6-14) their eighth straight loss after rallying for five unanswered runs after Illinois took an early 4-0 lead.

"We played quality softball (Sunday) but fell short in the end," UI coach Tyra Perry said. "We have to keep working to improve our overall game. I believe in this team, and we will continue to fight."

A two-out, two-run double with the bases loaded from freshman Kailee Powell in the first inning got Illinois off to a quick start and a 2-0 lead.

Senior Kiana Sherlund then delivered a two-run home run in the second inning to extend the lead to 4-0 — though, it would be the last time the Illini crossed home plate.

The Buckeyes used the third and fourth innings to bring across a trio of runs against Illini freshman hurler Sydney Sickels, who finished the day with five strikeouts over 5 2 / 3 innings in the pitcher's circle.

But once Sickels surrendered a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth from Emily Clark, Ohio State had all the edge it would need to seal the series.

Following a brief, one-walk stint from Danielle Brochu, Arcola native Taylor Edwards entered and tossed five pitches for the Illini's final strikeout of the game.

Illinois, which outhit the hosts 8-6, received a team-high two hits from both Powell and Annie Fleming.

Illinois returns home for its final four games of the regular season this week, starting with Tuesday night's matchup with DePaul before hosting Purdue over the weekend for three games at Eichelberger Field.