CHAMPAIGN — Zak Hartleb was in the Illinois dugout.
Haley Hartleb was home from college for the weekend.
Gina Hartleb was there alongside daughter Haley, a student at Indiana, in the stands at Illinois Field.
All three of them watched on Saturday as history was made with Dan Hartleb achieving a milestone win.
Wins, in fact.
The 56-year-old Hartleb — now in his 17th season in charge of the program — earned wins No. 500 and 501 as the Illini baseball coach with a doubleheader sweep of Miami (Ohio). Dominant pitching carried the day for Illinois en route to a 2-0 victory in Saturday’s first game before the Illini defeated the RedHawks 5-1 in the finale.
“That’s the best part of getting to 500 is moving past it and continuing to win,” Hartleb said postgame. “You know, to me, it’s nice. It’s a millstone. But bottom line: We have a lot of season to go here. So a lot of work in front of us. ... We came out with two big victories.”
Pressed about it later, Hartleb acknowledged what it means to join the 500-wins club. He’s now 17 wins away from tying Lee Eilbracht for the program’s all-time victories mark.
“I do appreciate it,” Hartleb said. “A lot of people are involved in it. So to have my family (all here) and be able to celebrate that and pictures after the first game, it’s fun. They have given up so much to allow me to do this stuff. To have them here was cool.”
Cole Kirschsieper and Ty Rybarczyk combined for the shutout in the opener for Illinois (25-19), with Kirschsieper scattering five hits and a walk in seven innings versus Miami (19-28). The left-hander Kirschsieper added three strikeouts to improve to 6-2 as a starter.
Rybarczyk earned the save and clinched Hartleb’s 500th win after allowing only a walk in two innings.
Centennial graduate Kellen Sarver’s two-run single in the sixth inning accounted for all of the offense.
Riley Gowens following up by delivered another seven strong innings for the Illini in the late game, with the lone mistake a solo homer in the second inning to Zach MacDonald.
Gowens struck out seven and walked two to earn the win, while Joseph Glassey and Tommy Green were on the mound for an inning apiece, with Green striking out the side in the ninth.
Sarver’s bases-loaded walk put Illinois ahead 2-1 in the fifth inning. The Illini tacked on three runs in the eighth, on a two-run single from Jacob Campbell and Cam McDonald’s RBI double.
“The pitching staff was awesome. Absolutely awesome,” Hartleb said. “But it was an absolute battle. The second game, you look at what we did offensively, we really, really struggled with runners in scoring position.”
Illini earn split. Illinois split an afternoon doubleheader on Saturday against Penn State in front of a record 1,530 fans at Eichelberger Field in Urbana, recording a 4-3 victory to start things off before the Nittany Lions bested the Illini, 2-0, in the finale.
Illinois had to rally in the late innings in the first game, however, with Avrey Steiner hitting a go-ahead, two-run single in the sixth inning. Sydney Sickels earned the win after allowing three runs on three hits and two walks. She tallied 12 strikeouts to improve her record to 12-8 inside the circle.
Steiner finished with three hits.
Penn State first baseman Lexie Black’s two-run homer off Lauren Wiles was the difference in Saturday’s final game with the Illini (34-18, 15-6 Big Ten) finishing with only four hits.
Wiles permitted three hits and struck out four in picking up the loss versus the Nittany Lions (30-21, 12-10).