Baseball’s deficit proves too large despite late comeback against ISU

Illinois baseball’s five-game winning streak came to an abrupt end Tuesday night.

The Illini (8-9) gave up 13 runs in two innings in a 13-8 loss at Illinois State.

“We fell behind very early on,” Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. “But it was good to see that our guys kept playing hard.”

Lee Zerrusen started on the mound for the Illini. The junior came into the game with a 2-0 record and respectable 3.26 ERA but finished the game with his first loss of the year.

“I wasn’t able to get a feel for some of my pitches,” Zerrusen said. “I went to my fastball too much, and they just sat and waited on it.”

The Redbirds (12-10) went up 3-0 in the third inning after consecutive doubles from catcher Matt Mirabal and right fielder Jake Thornton.

Mirabal finished the day 2-for-5 with one RBI, and Thornton batted 2-for-3 with two RBIs.

Second baseman Kevin Tokarski also enjoyed a big day. The Illinois State leadoff man hit 3-for-5 with two RBIs.

Then the floodgates opened.

ISU tacked on one more run in the fourth before singles from Mirabal and Anthony Ruffolo loaded the bases with just one out.

A pair of wild pitches from Zerrusen made the score 6-0, and Illinois reliever Brian De la Torriente gave up a whopping seven more runs before the inning was over.

Zerrusen said he thought the bullpen gave him a lot of support.

“They did a great job,” Zerrusen said. “De la Torriente came in for a pretty tough spot, and after that inning it was straight zeros across the board.”

Still, the Redbirds led 13-0, and the Illini had mustered just one hit through the first five innings of action.

“In those two innings, we didn’t pitch well,” Hartleb said. “We didn’t give our pitchers much help defensively.”

A solo homer from junior outfielder Casey McMurray finally put the Orange and Blue on the board in the sixth, and a double from second baseman Pete Cappetta made the score 13-2.

McMurray finished the game 1-for-5 with two RBIs.

“We have to stop big innings like these from happening,” McMurray said.

“It wasn’t just pitching, and it wasn’t just hitting. It was defense too, and just everything.”

The Illini tacked on another run in the seventh after ISU starter Brad Sorkin was relieved by senior Jim Sajewich.

Sorkin, a freshman, gave up a mere four hits in his six innings of action en route to picking up his second win of the year.

Illinois would rally in the eighth against freshman pitcher Cam Verbeke.

The Illini scored five runs behind singles from McMurray and senior designated hitter Mike Giller, making the score 13-8.

But 13 runs proved too large a hole for Illinois to climb out of.

“It’s a disappointing loss,” McMurray said. “But tomorrow’s another day. That’s the good thing about baseball. We’ve just got to go out and get a win tomorrow (against Chicago State).”