Illinois baseball drops two of three to Michigan in mediocre weekend

Illinois’ David Kerian (12) prepares to catch a ball during the game against Michigan at Illinois Field on Sunday. The Illini lost 4-2.

Sophomore shortstop Adam Walton was frustrated with the Illinois baseball team’s performance over the weekend.

The Illini dropped their first Big Ten series of the year to Michigan, falling to 18-13 on the season and 6-3 in Big Ten play. Illinois won the first game against the Wolverines (16-19-1, 6-6) on Friday 1-0, before losing the next two 17-9 and 4-2. Walton thought the Illini should have taken at least two out of the three games.

“We didn’t execute (with) runners in scoring position, and we didn’t do the little things to win the series and they did,” Walton said. “It’s definitely disappointing. We’ve got to clean it up. We’ve got to get better as a team in every aspect.”

One of those aspects Walton said the Illini will need to improve on is base running. The Illini were picked off six times over the three game series and four times on Sunday alone.

Illinois kicked off the weekend on a high note, winning the Friday’s game 1-0 on the back of a combined shutout from junior starting pitcher Drasen Johnson and sophomore relief pitcher Tyler Jay.

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Michigan and Illinois were back in action on Saturday afternoon, and it didn’t take long for the Wolverines to get on the board, as the team scored five runs in the first inning and another in the second. Michigan took advantage of the 25 mile per hour winds with two home runs and seven doubles in the game.

After Illinois first baseman David Kerian’s three-run home run in the third inning pulled the Illini within 6-3, Michigan and Illinois exchanged four-run innings in the fourth. Juniors Will Krug and Michael Hurwitz both drove in two runs on a single and a double, respectively, for the Illini, bringing the score to 10-7 Michigan.

The Wolverines would score another run in the sixth before exploding for six more runs across the final three innings. After the fourth inning the Illini only scored two runs. Michigan eventually took the second game of the series 17-9.

Illinois allowed a season-high in runs and hits, giving up 23 hits on the day, which Kerian said was due in part to both the wind and the Wolverine’s offensive ability.

“They might not have had a few of those home runs that they did have but they still hit the ball really well,” Kerian said after Saturday’s game. “They squared up every ball, and we just weren’t able to keep up with them.”

Illinois struck first in Sunday’s game, scoring on an RBI single from Kerian. The hit scored junior outfielder Will Krug who, after singling to right field, had advanced to third on a groundout by junior designated hitter Michael Hurwitz.

Michigan answered in the third with a sac fly of its own that scored a run and tied the game at one. The Wolverines scored again in the fifth on another sac fly.

Illinois was able to tie the game at two in the sixth, but Michigan scored a run in both the eighth and ninth innings and won the game 4-2.

Illini head coach Dan Hartleb said the team didn’t play “smart baseball” on Sunday and needs to be able to produce with more regularity.

“We may have lost (Sunday), but we shouldn’t have lost the way we lost,” Hartleb said. “We did things to lose the game, and we didn’t give ourselves opportunities to win. When you give yourself opportunities to win and do things right and you lose the game, it’s part of athletics. Today, we didn’t do things to win the game, and that’s frustrating.”

Nicholas can be reached at [email protected] and