Illinois wins 1st game, unable to take series against Minnesota



By Jason Grodsky

For the second straight weekend the Illinois baseball team was unable to earn a series win or split after winning the first game of its four-game series against Minnesota.

Behind sophomore pitcher Tanner Roark’s team-high fifth win the Illini remained perfect in Big Ten series openers, beating the Gophers 10-5 on Friday night at Illinois Field. But Illinois (20-20, 8-10 Big Ten) couldn’t control the Gophers in the next three games, losing 19-4 and 14-5 on Saturday and 15-6 on Sunday.

“This weekend was exactly like last weekend for us,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “We had a couple good innings and started well, but when our pitchers are giving up runs they aren’t just giving up one or two, it’s multiple runs and it’s in big innings. We just have find a way to settle down now.”

Roark gave up five runs in seven innings pitched Friday, but was helped out by an Illini offense that took advantage of five Minnesota errors.

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Only five of Illinois’ 10 runs on Friday night were earned runs. Senior catcher Lars Davis led the Illini with two hits, two runs and three RBIs to support Roark and improve the Illini right-hander to 4-0 in Big Ten games.

“Tanner wasn’t as sharp as he had been in his last two starts, but he pitched well and let the (Illinois) offense take over,” Hartleb said.

Despite Roark’s seven fair innings, the rest of the Illini pitching staff was unable to keep the Gophers at bay the remainder of the weekend.

In front of the seventh-best crowd in the history of Illinois Field, the Illini pitching staff gave up 33 runs on 31 hits in the Illini’s doubleheader on Saturday.

Four of the Illini’s six pitchers that pitched in Saturday’s doubleheader gave up at least six runs. Illinois pitchers also walked 13 batters in the two games and were hindered by five Illini errors in game two.

Following the two games on Saturday, the Illini’s team ERA in Big Ten games was 8.45 and after Sunday it didn’t get any better.

Despite getting home runs from Illinois freshman right fielder Nick Stockwell and senior left fielder Ryan Snowden, the Illini still couldn’t overcome the Gophers hot bats in the series finale.

Minnesota’s 15-6 rout completed the series win over the Illini and made it the ninth time in 18 Big Ten games that the Illini have given up double-digit runs.

“We’re fighting for our lives for the Big Ten tournament and teams aren’t going to get any easy for us so we’re going to have to play better,” junior second baseman Ryan Hastings said.