Purdue’s slugging duo too much for Illini to handle in series finale

By Steve Contorno

Illinois’ performances in Saturday’s doubleheader were the difference between night and day. It was also the difference between Black and White.

Purdue’s Dan Black and Ryne White went hitless in the first half of Saturday’s double dip, a 2-0 Illini win. But the two combined for five hits, four runs, five RBIs and two home runs in the nightcap. The Boilermakers won that contest 11-2 to take the four-game series 3-1.

White also had two home runs and two doubles in Friday’s doubleheader, while Black notched three doubles and scored four times.

“(Black and White) hurt us this weekend; they did a very good job,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “We didn’t keep guys off base in front of them and forced ourselves into a situation in which you have to pitch to them and they just responded all weekend.”

One pitcher did have success against Purdue’s duo – Phil Haig. In the first half of the doubleheader, the freshman hurler threw a two-hit shutout and saw just 25 batters in a seven-inning game. Not only did Haig keep Black and White from driving in runs, he kept them off the bases entirely.

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“I was watching film from (Friday’s) game and they were hitting the ball real hard and all over the field,” Haig said of Purdue’s top two sluggers. “So I just kind of went in with a game plan and kept them guessing. And it worked. I executed it.”

Hartleb, who has been critical of his pitching recently, was happy to see Haig step up.

“Phil was outstanding,” Hartleb said. “I was pleased after we had such a rough day yesterday on the mound that you have a freshman that walks out with that type of composure and got a big win for us.”

Haig was a spectator in the series finale, which was also the final home and regular season game for Illinois (30-23, 16-15 Big Ten). Unfortunately, Aaron Martin, the starter in the second game, wasn’t able to build off Haig’s success, surviving just 3 and 1/3 innings and allowing five earned runs. Haig pointed to his ability to keep the ball down as a key to his victory, something that his teammates weren’t able to match. Instead, Purdue (30-24, 21-10) teed off on Illinois’ pitching – which often was over the plate and saw a lot of hitter’s counts – tallying 20 hits and scoring runs in all but three innings.

Illinois will move on to The Big Ten tournament, which begins Wednesday with a match up against Ohio State. The Illini entered the weekend with a chance to take second in the conference but the three losses dropped them to fourth.