Illini unable to hold leads, get swept by Mavericks

By Jason Grodsky

It was three straight days of deja vu for the Illinois baseball team in Texas.

In Illinois’ three-game weekend set with the Mavericks of Texas-Arlington, the Illini jumped out to early leads in all three games of 7-3, 3-2 and 5-2 in its three games, only to squander them away and lose 8-7, 13-6 and 12-5, respectively, to be swept for the second time this season.

“We need to start playing complete games,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “Guys have to start believing they can win.”

Friday night, sophomore outfielder Kyle Hudson and sophomore infielder Joe Bonadonna each had two RBIs, while senior outfielder Ryan Snowden scored three runs to help the Illini bust out to a four-run lead.

But the Illini saw their lead disappear as the game went into the bottom of the ninth. Texas-Arlington sophomore catcher Mitch Putman hit a solo home run to tie the score at 7-7 and send the game to extra innings.

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The Mavericks put the game away in the bottom of the 11th inning with a bases loaded sacrifice fly ball to take game one of the series 8-7, making it the second time the Illini have lost an extra inning game this season.

“Things just fell apart in the late innings for us,” Snowden said. “It was frustrating because we had the lead all game and it just slowly got away from us.”

Illinois again jumped out on top of the Mavericks early in Saturday’s game, taking a 3-2 lead courtesy of two RBIs from freshman third baseman Brandon Wikoff in the first three innings.

But the Mavericks blew the game open in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings, scoring four runs in the fifth inning against Illini starting pitcher Mike Stankiewicz and then tacking on five more runs in the sixth inning against Illini reliever Ben Reeser.

Illinois scored runs in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings, but it wasn’t enough as the Illini dropped game two of the series 13-6.

In the series finale on Sunday afternoon, the Illini looked as if they would salvage one game of the series.

Illini junior catcher Lars Davis blasted his first home run of the season in the third inning, a two-run shot to give Illinois a 4-2 lead. After taking a 5-2 lead in the sixth inning, the Illini looked to be in good shape, but then its bullpen hit rock bottom.

The Illini relievers gave up eight runs in the sixth, seven and eighth innings combined to blow the lead and give the Mavericks their third win of the weekend and improve their record to 9-10, while dropping Illinois to 2-7.

“We have to get back out on the diamond and put it behind us,” Davis said. “We need a good week of practice and just start a winning streak in Bradenton (Fla.) over spring break.”