GSA Spotlight: Illinois’ Bren SpillaneGolden Spikes Spotlight
Illinois always knew Bren Spillane had the potential to be a big-time player. Before the season began, the Illini coaches were asked to size up the 2018 team. In that, pitching coach Drew Dickinson said that Spillane was a potential breakout player. After all, he showed premium raw power in the fall and had all the tools to take a huge step forward.
Well, that assessment is proving to be accurate, as Spillane, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound, junior is doing his best Tyler Jay impersonation this season. No, Spillane isn’t a pitcher. But back in 2015 when the Illini made a run to the super regional round, Jay was the face of the program and had eyeballs everywhere keeping track of the Illini. Spillane has had that same impact so far this season, as the Illini sit ranked No. 25 with an impressive 15-5 overall record, 3-0 mark in the Big Ten, and perhaps most important, a highly respectable RPI of 34 with room to go up.
This hasn’t been a one-man show. The Illini have established consistency and have built a well-rounded offensive lineup with enough arms to have a strong campaign. But Spillane is the most important piece to the puzzle, as he ranks fifth nationally in batting average, and also has developed into a force on the base-paths. He’s been one of the nation’s most well-rounded players, and is one of several reasons why the Illini are where they are at this stage of the season.
“We’ve had some really good hitters come through here and I’ve seen some guys go through some streaks, but the thing that impresses me about Bren is that I think he has more power than anyone we’ve ever had at Illinois,” Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said. “He can mishit balls that can go out of the park, and sure, he’ll strike out at times. But he’s learned not to chase a bunch of bad pitches.
“He’ll also go out there and steal a bag for you, and he’s a really, really good team player,” he continued. “He’s playing with a calm about him, and he’s been really impressive.”