UI roundup: Troike’s bunt single, Massey’s grand slam key seven-run inning


UI roundup: Troike’s bunt single, Massey’s grand slam key seven-run inning

CHAMPAIGN — Close wins. Late-game heroics.

That's what had characterized the first two games of the Illinois baseball team's series against Rutgers, as the Illini claimed a pair of one-run affairs.

Sunday's finale was nothing like that, thanks to a seven-run third inning that buoyed Illinois to a 10-4 victory over the Scarlet Knights at Illinois Field and clinched a three-game series sweep.

"We had a really good weekend," said Illini coach Dan Hartleb, who collected his 400th career victory, putting him third in school history behind Lee Eilbracht's 518 and Itch Jones' 474.

With Illinois (23-8, 9-3 Big Ten) trailing 1-0 and two runners on in the third inning, Hartleb called for Ben Troike to lay down a bunt.

Troike's "perfect bunt" inside the third-base line placed him at first base with a single, and Michael Massey stepped to the plate with the bases loaded.

Massey fouled off two pitches down the right-field line before straightening one up for a grand slam that sailed over the center-field wall.

"They threw him a fastball and he didn't miss," Hartleb said of Massey's blast, which put Illinois ahead 4-1. "We put pressure on them all game."

But, the Illini weren't done. Far from it.

Jack Yalowitz brought home Doran Turchin on a two-run homer to right field on a 0-2 pitch, and Illinois scored another run with a sacrifice fly to pull out to a 7-1 advantage through three innings.

Despite some early struggles — Rutgers (18-14, 4-5) struck for two hits and a walk in the opening frame — Ty Weber eventually settled down, inducing enough soft contact to pitch a complete game.

With the wind blowing out at 25 mph, Weber (4-1) recorded 11 ground ball outs. He scattered four hits, four runs and a walk across his 106-pitch outing and notched six strikeouts.

Rutgers' biggest blow happened in the fourth inning on Kyle Walker's three-run homer that chopped Illinois' advantage to 7-4.

The Illini added some insurance, however, with a one-run fourth and tacked on more in the fifth with Zac Taylor's RBI triple and Troike's RBI single.

Illinois, which has won 22 of its past 27 games, hosts Valparaiso (11-19) on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

In men's tennis

Illini roll. Fresh off its first Big Ten loss of the season, Illinois recovered 24 hours later with a 4-0 triumph at Penn State on Sunday.

The Illini (17-6, 8-1 Big Ten) took the doubles point, and Aleks Vukic, Zeke Clark and Alex Brown won in singles to clinch the match.

In women's tennis

UI sweeps. Illinois concluded its regular season home slate on Sunday with a 4-0 win over Wisconsin at Atkins Tennis Center. The Illini (19-3, 8-2 Big Ten) claimed the doubles point before Daniela Pedraza-Novak, Mia Rabinowitz and Sasha Belaya won in singles to seal the match.

In women's golf

Park delivers win. Heavy rain caused the final round of play at the Lady Buckeye Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, to be canceled, so Illinois earned its second straight tournament title with a 36-hole total of 579 (3-over par). The Illini's Grace Park won the individual competition at 3-under par.