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The daily pitch from Sports Editor Matt Daniels: May 16, 2024

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Sports Editor Matt Daniels with a look at what’s going on around the area:

Vytas Valincius, left, and Coltin Quagliano hope to bust out a few more home-run celebrations during the Illini baseball team’s three-game series at Purdue that starts Thursday night.

Three reasons we love sports today

1. Illinois baseball makes the short trip to play at Purdue in the final regular-season series, with a Big Ten title at stake. First pitch of the first game is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Alexander Field in West Lafayette, Ind. Tune in to WDWS 1400-AM and 93.9-FM to hear Scott Beatty on the call.

2. Illinois forward Coleman Hawkins scored 17 points and went 3 of 4 from three-point range during his scrimmage on Wednesday in front of NBA front-office personnel at the draft combine in Chicago.

3. The eight-team Charlie Due wood-bat tournament that Champaign Central baseball hosts at Spalding Park begins Thursday with three games: Normal West against Taylorville at 4 p.m., Rochester against Mattoon at 6 p.m. and the host Maroons against Urbana at 8 p.m.

Bailey Dowling

Former St. Joseph-Ogden standout Bailey Dowling begins her NCAA tournament stay with Alabama on Friday afternoon.

Numbers game: 27

Career home runs by former St. Joseph-Ogden standout Bailey Dowling (left) in her college softball career at Alabama. The three-time News-Gazette Player of the Year for the Spartans, who hit an IHSA record 65 home runs in just three seasons at SJ-O, is now in her fourth season with the Crimson Tide. Alabama (33-17) opens up the NCAA tournament by hosting South Carolina Upstate (30-21) at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

04152024  central-centenn soc  2

Champaign Central senior Cricket Wagner and the Maroons’ girls’ soccer team get another chance to beat Centennial when the two rivals meet at 5 p.m. Friday in the Class 2A Urbana Regional championship match.

Crowd control

Three events I’m paying attention to

1. Illinois at Purdue baseball. The Illini can easily put a crooked number on the scoreboard, but Purdue averages a Big Ten-best 8.3 runs. How an Illinois pitching staff that carries a 6.04 ERA handles the Boilermakers’ bats is vital this weekend.

2. IHSA girls’ track and field state meet. The action gets going Thursday in Charleston with Class 1A prelims before 2A and 3A prelims on Friday precedes Saturday’s finals for all three classes.

3. Centennial vs. Champaign Central girls’ soccer. Love to see the rivalry play out when IHSA hardware is on the line. The two teams meet at 5 p.m. Friday at McKinley Field in Urbana to determine who moves on to next week’s Class 2A Pleasant Plains Sectional.

Joe Brazas

Westville baseball coach Joe Brazas

Coach’s corner

Three questions with Westville baseball and girls’ basketball coach Joe Brazas. The Tigers’ baseball team opens Class 2A postseason play at 4:30 p.m. Thursday against Paxton-Buckley-Loda in a Unity Regional semifinal game in Tolono.

1. My favorite sports teams are … the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Bears and the Illinois men’s basketball team.

2. Three coaches I’d like to have dinner with are … Joe Brazas Sr., Eli Williams and Mike Matheny.

3. My biggest pet peeve is ... when you don’t give your best effort.

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