Defense, pitching falter in loss to Southern


Second baseman Josh Parr tags a runner out at second base during the Illini baseball team’s game against Eastern Illinois at Illinois Field in Urbana, April 14, 2009.

By Meghan Montemurro

Saying Illinois head baseball coach Dan Hartleb was not pleased with his team’s performance against Southern Illinois in a 9-6 loss Wednesday night would be an understatement.

“We played terrible,” said Hartleb after the game. “We were pretty terrible in every aspect at one time or another.

“We aren’t doing things fundamentally well.”

While scoring six runs in an inning certainly helps a team on the diamond, the Illini (21-10) squandered their 6-5 lead. The pitching staff and defense allowed four Saluki runs in the fourth and eighth innings in the Illini’s loss.

Three errors by the Illinois defense, all which occurred in the 4-run innings, hindered the team’s ability to escape the jams with minimal damage. Freshman Corey Kimes, the losing pitcher for Illinois, allowed five hits and two unearned runs in 2 1/3 innings.

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For an offense that managed only one run on five hits against No. 29 Eastern Illinois in a Tuesday home loss, facing a 5-0 deficit on the road with zero runs on the scoreboard through five innings could cause a team to panic.

In stepped senior center fielder Joe Bonadonna to lead off the sixth inning. A single off Saluki freshman reliever Neil Hudson began the six-run sixth inning to secure a 6-5 lead, which featured the Illini batting around. Bonadonna ended the inning on a foul out to right field.

“We scored those runs and gave us that lead. We really needed that,” Bonadonna said, stressing that the defense can’t go out and surrender big innings after the offense puts runs on the board. “We need to get to playing our game.”

However, after a run scored on a sacrifice fly, a triple by Southern Illinois first baseman Chris Serritella drove in two runs in the bottom of the eighth. The two runs broke the tie and effectively erased Illinois’ only lead.

Sophomore second baseman Josh Parr led the Illini offense, collecting two hits to go 2-for-4 in the game with an RBI. Parr, like Hartleb and Bonadonna, acknowledged the team played poorly against the Salukis (15-20) but said, “Coach talked to us after the game, and (the players) had a separate meeting. We’ll be fine.”

Illinois must quickly forget the game as an important three-game home series against No. 23 Minnesota begins Friday in the battle for first place in the Big Ten. For Hartleb, the remedy is simple.

“We just have to do things fundamentally correct,” he said.