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Game Report: Cody Sedlock

CHAMPAIGN, ILL.—Cody Sedlock doesn’t seem bothered by much.

He’s not bothered by the scouts and radar guns that pop up on every pitch. He’s not bothered by talk about the impending MLB draft. He’s not bothered by a lack of run support. And he’s definitely not bothered about how many pitches he throws.

He threw 120 on Thursday in what amounted to a must-win game for Illinois, just a year after a record-breaking season that culminated in hosting a super regional against defending College World Series champion Vanderbilt. Now the Illini were forced to beat Michigan at least twice this weekend just to be eligible for the Big Ten conference tournament.

They didn’t get one of those wins Thursday, despite Sedlock’s best efforts. He allowed just three hits and a run, a homer by Johnny Slater in the fifth inning, and that was enough as junior lefthander Brett Adcock outdueled the No. 43 prospect in the Top 200, 1-0.

Sedlock struck out seven and walked three and lowered his ERA to 2.49. Despite that great ERA, he’s just 5-3 as the Illini have scored just eight runs in his past five starts. A year after setting a school record with 50 wins, the Illini are 26-23 and staring at the end of their season if they don’t win the next two.

But you can’t pin that on Sedlock. Outside of a March 11 start vs. UNC Greensboro, he has not allowed more than three runs in his 14 starts, and has thrown at least 104 pitches in eight of them. His 120 pitches Thursday were 12 short of his season high and in four of his past five starts he’s pitched at least—at least—nine innings. He pitched 10 2/3 innings against Ohio State, striking out 14 with no walks in a 1-0 win on April 22.

Coach Dan Hartleb—whose team lost the heart of its pitching staff to the 2015 draft in Tyler Jay, Kevin Duchene and Drasen Johnson—recognizes the balance of needing to win now and Sedlock’s future. But he’s confident in the durable, 6-foot-4 righthander.

“He’s a guy (who) conditions himself probably better or as good as anybody we’ve ever had,” Hartleb said. “He’s a very strong, big guy, and he didn’t have a lot of tough innings. Cody’s been efficient all year.”

Hartleb said Sedlock knows better than most the proper balance, which is why he doesn’t worry about pitch counts.

“He’s done a great job for us this year because he cares about competing and cares about winning,” Hartleb said.

Sedlock called the home run pitch to Slater, “a decent pitch, right above the knees.” But the Illini couldn’t get much going against Adcock, although they got the tying run to second in the ninth.

Still, you won’t hear Sedlock complain.

“We’ve had that quite a bit this year, you know,” he said about low-scoring games. “That’s always fun. To be honest, I’d rather pitch in a close game than a blowout game.”

Sedlock’s best pitch is his fastball, which was consistently 94-95 mph and well-spotted with good, late sink. His final strikeout in the ninth was on a 93-mph fastball. He throws a curveball and slider as well and sporadically throws the changeup. He said he threw the change just four times Thursday.

The curveball was working Thursday and he said he alternates use of both breaking balls.

“It honestly depends on the day. For example, against Maryland (on May 7), my curveball was my plus offspeed pitch. Other days, it’s my slider. One thing I want to do is work on my changeup more.”

Sedlock also shows good aptitude. In the fourth inning, he threw mostly offspeed pitches and looked sharp, striking out the first two hitters. The curveball showed excellent separation, ranging from 78-83 mph, with good if inconsistent shape.

“That’s been my game plan the past five outings because the scouting reports says, ‘hit the straight one,'” he said.

“I go out there and throw straight fastballs and get ground balls the first few innings. I know I can always rely on my offspeed to get swings and misses, so in the middle innings I work on the breaking ball a little bit and then go fastballs in. Then, in the later innings, I unleash the tank and go fastballs.”

Sedlock’s freshness comes in part from pitching only sporadically as a freshman and sophomore as he waited his turn behind Jay, Duchene and Johnson.

Now he finds himself in the same place as his old teammates, in the draft spotlight.

“I’m good friends with all of them, and I saw how they all dealt with it,” he said. “There’s good ways and bad ways to deal with it, so it’s helped me a lot.

“I try not to think about (the draft). Once you step on the mound, it’s just me and Jason (Goldstein) behind the plate. The draft is still quite a bit away.”

That attitude does not surprise his coach a bit.

“You know competitors just go out, they’re concerned about winning games,” Hartleb said. “He’ll take care of the draft stuff when that happens.”

Adcock Impresses

Lost in the scout buzz over Sedlock, Brett Adcock was just as good Thursday. The big-bodied lefthander, who’s listed at 6-foot, 230 pounds, struck out nine in 8 1/3 innings and allowed just three hits. His fastball sat 90-91 and he showed no fear, pitching inside all game along. The curveball was a bit firm at times at about 80-81 but froze hitters.

Despite his size, Sedlock moves fairly well around the mound, fielding two chances well and showing a good arm.

The Wolverines were without two-way star Carmen Benedetti, who, according to a report, went face-first into the left field wall during batting practice. His status for the rest of the weekend was unclear. Benedetti ranks 196th in the BA Top 200 Prospects, with most teams scouting him as a lefthanded pitcher.

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