Following two consecutive victories over Robert Morris and Webster, the Redbirds would enter Tuesday’s game against the Illini feeling confident, and it showed early.
Catcher Mike Hollenbeck singled in DH Jack Czeszewski in the first inning to start off ISU on what would be a crazy first couple of innings.
Later in the second, third baseman Brock Stewart hit a solo home run to right field. After being hurt early and struggling at the plate to start the year, it was his first of the season. Coach Mark Kingston was thrilled to finally see his third baseman get it going.
“Brock has been getting healthy lately,” Kingston said. “He’s been working on his swing, trying to shorten it up. And when he does, he’s one of our better hitters. He hit .330 last year, so he just needs to continue to focus on the future, not the struggles he’s had this year. When he’s hitting, our offense is much stronger.”
After a few hits and errors, the game would be blown wide open by second baseman Paul DeJong, who hit a grand slam to finish off the Redbirds fast attack of the Illini.
“Well I was fortunate to get up with two outs there after the error on the shortstop,” DeJong said. “I had a 2-1 count, and he gave me a pitch to hit and I made it hurt. It was up, up and in right where I wanted it. I put a good swing on it.”
“They made the big error to give us the second chance,” Kingston said of DeJong’s hit. “Paul definitely took advantage of it. He got a pitch in the middle of the plate, and he hit it a long way. So that really energized our dugout, and really got us going, and it was the deciding blow in the game.”
The Illini would finally get on the board in the fourth inning off a wild pitch by Will Headean, but that would be the only blemish on the day for him, as he would pitch out of a bases loaded jam to end the fourth. Headean’s ERA was 5.48 entering the game, but he would go 6 innings, given up just 1 run with 7 strike outs.
After the fourth inning, the game really sped up, as both teams pitched well, giving up few base runners and not letting anything come of them.
Pitcher David Saurez would enter the game in the ninth inning and give up three hits and one run to the Illini before a chopper to first baseman Brian Rodemoyer would end the game.
The Redbirds are now 22-11 on the season and 7-2 and home. They continue their run this weekend in a three-game series against Missouri State in Springfield, Mo. First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. Friday.