Illinois drops two, allows 27 runs to Purdue in double header

By Steve Contorno

Head coach Dan Hartleb was noticeably upset after Friday night’s loss to Purdue, with good reason. Hartleb watched his starting pitcher give up five first-inning runs 30 minutes after a game in which Illinois’ starter was charged for six runs and lasted just two innings.

“It’s obvious we didn’t pitch well and when you don’t pitch well you’re not a very good team,” Hartleb said.

Sophomore pitcher Kevin Manson was the victim of Purdue’s bats in the first half of the doubleheader, allowing one run in the first and five in the second before getting pulled after giving up a single with no outs in the third. The Illini went on to lose 14-4.

Junior Scott Shaw was pummeled for 11 runs, all earned, in the nightcap. Four of those runs came at the hands of Boilermaker first baseman Ryne White, who hit two-run home runs in back-to-back at bats off Shaw in the first two innings. Purdue won that game 13-8.

The Illini (29-23, 20-9 Big Ten) have now allowed at least nine runs in their last seven games.

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“It just concerns me period,” Hartleb said of the recent woes of his hurlers. “Guys got to get back to the basics; we gotta throw strikes and get ahead in the count. If you look, we’ve constantly been behind in the count and you just don’t get guys out that way.”

Illinois was the benefactor of two Indiana wins against Michigan State, guaranteeing the Illini a spot in the conference tournament. However, Illinois entered the day with a chance to steal second place from Purdue with a sweep. Now, they need to pull off two wins Saturday to have a chance to get back into third place. Penn State passed Illinois by going 2-0 in its first two games this weekend.

Center fielder Kyle Hudson said he wasn’t too concerned with the way Illinois has played down the stretch, despite winning just five of their last 13 contests.

“I know how we can play, we’re just not stringing hits together right now. Our pitching’s a little off but we’ll get that corrected and start putting some runs together and our pitching will be fine,” Hudson said.

In the two games, Purdue (29-22, 15-14) tallied 34 hits and batted through their lineup three times. The Boilermakers never trailed in the two games and took leads they never gave up in both first innings.

“It’s tough when you get down by so many runs in the beginning,” said Hudson, who was a combined 5-for-10 from the plate. “Our job is to get on base and score as many runs as possible. Obviously, we didn’t do that today.

“The momentum was to their side most of the time,” he added.

With the Big Ten Tournament looming next week, Saturday’s games will be important for the team to get back into rhythm.

“You always want to go into the tournament situation with a win streak or playing good ball,” Hudson said. “We need to go out tomorrow and forget about today and play like we can play.”

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