The Illinois Fighting Illini baseball team (4-3), backed by a strong 5.2 innings from Jack Wenninger and a seven-run sixth inning, notched a series win after defeating No. 18 Southern Miss (5-2) 9-4 on Sunday.
Illinois opened the scoring in the first inning for the second-straight game, with a two-out rally. Cam McDonald got things started with a base hit, Drake Westcott and Camden Janik then followed with back-to-back walks. Ryan Moerman then brought home McDonald and Westcott with a single of his own to make it 2-0.
Those were more than enough runs for starter Jack Wenninger, keeping the Golden Eagles off the board over his first 5.0 innings of work, racking up two strikeouts along the way. Wenninger worked around a lead-off walk in the third and a lead-off double in the fourth to keep the Illini in front.
The Illinois offense then exploded for seven runs on eight hits in the sixth to take a commanding 9-0 lead. Cal Hejza led off with a double and then scored on Danny Doligale's triple. Branden Comia followed with a double of his own and McDonald also lined a triple down the right-field line to make it 5-0. Westcott singled, which was followed up with a Janik double and a Moerman single. Coltin Quagliano roped a ground-rule double and Brody Harding capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly, making it 9-0.
McDonald's triple was the 200th hit of his Illini career, taking the Ladd, Ill., native, 174 career games to reach that mark.
Wenninger recorded two more punchouts in the sixth, but was chased out of the game after surrendering a three-run home run. The Cary, Ill., native finished with a final line of 5.2 IP, five hits, three runs/earned runs, three walks and four strikeouts.
Southern Miss would push one more run across the plate in the seventh, but Julius Sanchez and John Lundgren combined to toss 2.0 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out two, to give Illinois the 9-4 win.
The Illini are the first non-conference team to win a three-game series at Pete Taylor Park since Oakland on March 6-8, 2015.
Ryan Moerman went 3-for-5 with a run and three RBI and collected seven RBI in the series, a joint team-high mark. Cam McDonald went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, a triple, one RBI and was hit by a pitch. Cal Hejza went 2-for-4 with a run and a double in today's series finale.
Illinois went 7-for-14 (.500) with runners in scoring position.
The Illini won 13-5 on Friday and fell 14-13 in 11 innings on Saturday.
The Illini head back south again starting Friday for a three-game set with Sam Houston State.