Illini squeak out win over Hoosiers

By Jason Grodsky

The Illinois baseball team improved to 6-1 in Big Ten series openers on Friday night.

The Illini defeated Indiana 6-5 at Illinois Field despite committing six errors in the game. Sophomore pitcher Tanner Roark and senior pitcher Jake Toohey both overcame the Illini’s defensive woes to lead the Illinois to victory.

Only two of the five runs Roark gave up in his seven-and-two-thirds innings pitched were earned. Despite falling behind 3-0 in the top of the first inning after the Illini committed three blunders, Roark bounced back to not allow another run until the top of the fifth.

“If you look at the first inning it was a good inning for Tanner, but we didn’t play any defense at all,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “But Tanner didn’t let any of that stuff bother him and he kept throwing strikes and kept his composure and allowed our offense to get us back in it.”

Trailing 4-2 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Illini busted out for four runs to take the lead, getting a two-run double from junior designated hitter Daniel Webb and an RBI single from senior shortstop Shawn Roof.

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After advancing to second following his single Roof stole third base, setting the school record for stolen bases in a season with 36. Roof then scored on junior second baseman Ryan Hasting’s sacrifice fly ball to center field to give the Illini a 6-4 lead.

“Coach (Itch) Jones told me sophomore year I would never steal a base in college and now look what happened,” Roof said. “But now getting the record is over with and now we get a chance to win some ball games and that’s the most important thing right now.”

After cutting the lead to 6-5, Indiana put a runner on third base with less than two outs in both the eighth and ninth innings. But Toohey shut the door on the Hoosiers, getting a ground-ball out to end the eighth inning and then striking back-to-back batters out in the ninth to end the game.

“Jake competes very well and he’s the one guy on our team that we can go to if we need a strikeout,” Hartleb said. “His composure was outstanding. He’s definitely our guy we want out there in those situations.”