Baseball drops series to Hawkeyes at home



By Jason Grodsky

The Illinois baseball team started its weekend series with the Iowa Hawkeyes with a 6-2 win, but things went downhill for the Illini after that.

Illinois was devastated by a game-winning walk-off home run by Iowa shortstop Jason White in game two of the series and were unable to bounce back the rest of the series, losing the final three games, including a 17-12 slugfest in the finale.

“(Iowa) got hot as a team and we didn’t come out in the early innings as well as we would’ve liked to and the results speak for themselves,” senior first baseman Mike Rohde said. “Everybody on the team just didn’t do their job as well as they could have.”

Behind Illini sophomore starting pitcher Tanner Roark’s seven strong innings on the mound, the Illini began the series with a 6-2 win on Friday night. Roark struck out six Hawkeyes and gave up just one run to earn his team-high fourth win of the season.

“Tanner really settled down and got us deep into the ball game,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “He was very effective and hit all of his spots and was really one of the lone bright spots of the weekend.”

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Roark’s effort on the mound was backed up by freshman third baseman Brandon Wikoff’s day at the plate. Wikoff collected his second straight three-hit day, going 3-for-5 with an RBI. Sophomore right fielder Nick Stockwell also provided the Illini with a big bat, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.

On Saturday the Illini found themselves trailing early in game one of their doubleheader, falling behind 7-4 after three innings of play. But the Illini fought back to eventually take a 9-8 lead in the fifth inning with an RBI single by senior outfielder Ryan Snowden.

The Hawkeyes would have the last laugh, though, tying the game with a solo home run by Iowa left fielder Caleb Curry in the sixth inning to set the stage for White’s heroics in the seventh inning.

White’s one-out walk-off solo home run was his third home run of the game and sixth of the season.

Both late inning home runs came off Illinois senior closer Jake Toohey, making it his first blown save of the year.

“It always takes a little air out of your sail when someone hits a walk-off home run and then you have to come back and play another game 30 minutes later,” Illini junior catcher Lars Davis said. “We just didn’t compete like we need to in order to win three or four games.”

Iowa never trailed in game three of the series. The Hawkeyes scored twice in the first and second innings and then three times in the third to jump out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back from there en route to a 10-6 win.

In the series finale Sunday, Davis hit two home runs and the Illini scored in the first five innings of the game, including a six run fifth inning, but were still unable to overcome the Hawkeyes.

Iowa pounded out 18 hits and 17 runs against the Illini pitching staff to earn the series win and drop the Illini to 7-7 in the Big Ten and into fifth-place in the conference standings.

“This weekend was really an eye opener for us because we came in with a pretty good record in the Big Ten and now we end up .500. Now it’s going be a battle the rest of the way for us,” Rohde said.