Illini baseball drops first Big Ten game to Purdue

Drasen Johnson pitched just one clean inning short of winning Illinois baseball its first Big Ten game of the season Friday night.

After throwing five strikeouts and allowing just one run, Johnson was unable to stop Purdue’s three-run comeback in the top of the eighth, which won the Boilermakers the game, 4-3.

“Drasen Johnson threw a heck of a ball game,” associate head coach Eric Snider said. “We’ve just got to play good defense behind him.”

While Johnson was pinned with the loss, the Illini made three errors early on, including two catcher’s interference calls on Jason Goldstein that allowed runners to reach base.

“You should always look to put up no errors,” leadoff hitter Will Krug said. “That should be something that you can definitely control and do on a daily basis.”

Illinois jumped out to a lead in the first inning following three straight outs by Purdue. Krug singled to shortstop before stealing second base and moving into a scoring position. Sophomore Ryan Nagle brought Krug home on a single to left field, but Purdue closed out the inning in the next at-bat with a double play.

Purdue tied the game with an unearned run in the third after a fielding error allowed the scoring runner to reach base.

In the fourth, the Boilermakers committed an error of their own and allowed the Illini to regain the lead, 2-1, which would hold until the top of the eighth.

Following a fly-out to start the eighth, Purdue recorded back-to-back base hits before a bunt scored the tying run and forced Tyler Jay to relieve Johnson on the mound. 

“I left a couple of balls up, and they put good swings on them,” Johnson said. “I always want to give my team a chance to win and I’ve got to be better next time.”

Jay walked his first batter to load the bases and struck out his next in an attempt to exit the inning without any more damage, but the Boilermakers’ leadoff hitter doubled into right field, scored two more runs, and extended their lead to 4-2.

The Illini narrowed the gap to 4-3 following a line drive to center field by Krug, but a double play finished them off and gave the Boilermakers just their fifth win of the season.

“Going into the ninth, I think we could have scored more than two runs,” Krug said. “There shouldn’t have been a bottom of the ninth.”

While the loss snapped the Illini’s four-game winning streak and handed them their first Big Ten loss, Krug is confident his team can still claim their first Big Ten series victory this weekend.

“We know our pitching can handle their offense pretty well, so we need to just stay with our game offensively,” Krug said. “It comes down to execution at the end, and we just didn’t have it today.”

J.J. can be reached at [email protected] and @Wilsonable07.