Illini baseball drops home series to Big Ten-leading Hoosiers

Illinois’ Ryan Nagle (9) slides back to first base after trying to steal second during the game against Indiana at Illinois Field on Friday. The Illini lost 9-3.

Ryan Castellanos had more nerves when he faced Indiana the first time than in Sunday afternoon’s 11-3 loss.

He won last year’s contest 3-2 for Illinois, earning him his first win in his first start as a college pitcher.

His nerves didn’t bother him as much this year, either. And rightly so, with 14 more starts and six more wins since he first faced the Hoosiers last April, Castellanos is a much more experienced pitcher than he was a year ago.

Still, he would have much rather had last year’s result after being pulled in the fourth inning with three walks and six runs allowed.

“I wish I could have today back for sure,” he said. “But that’s baseball, you can’t let it sit with you too long.”

Before Sunday, Castellanos led the NCAA with one walk in 40 2/3 innings pitched — a statistic he prides himself on.

He began the series finale by giving up a base hit to the first batter and walking the second.

The Hoosiers then grounded into a double play in their next at-bat, but with one runner on second, Scott Donley hit a two-run homer, putting Indiana up 2-0.

Illinois capitalized on Indiana’s poor pitching in the third inning, scoring three runs and going up 3-2.

Casey Fletcher led off the third and took a base after the fifth pitch from Indiana’s Brian Korte hit him.

Ryne Roper didn’t let Fletcher stay on first for long, tripling into left center on the next pitch to bring in the Illini’s first run.

Korte hit the following batter, Michael Hurwitz, with a pitch and surrendered two more runs and a hit before escaping the inning on a pop up to shortstop. Before Sunday, Korte had hit just four batters in his four-year career.

“They were a good club with good arms, but they weren’t anything we hadn’t seen before,” Krug said.

By the top of the fifth, though, the Hoosiers were following the Illini’s example at the plate. After Castellanos walked the first batter, Indiana doubled, singled and homered to score four runs and end the Illini starter’s day on the mound.

Reliever J.D. Nielsen allowed another two hits but closed out the inning with no further damage, leaving the Illini trailing 6-3.

Illinois didn’t score for the rest of the game, while Indiana packed on another five runs in the seventh and eighth innings.

After more than an hour-long rain delay, Indiana was given the win and Castellanos was pinned with his third loss of the season.

Minutes later, the loss was already out of his mind.

“It’s over with,” he said. “I’m done with it.”

Friday night showed similar struggles from the Illini mound, giving up nine runs on 13 hits to lose Illinois the opener, 9-3.

While pitching improved enough to tie up the series Saturday afternoon, the Illini offense lacked much productivity with seven hits in their 2-1 victory.

Those same offensive woes carried over to Sunday, when the Illini managed just three runs on three hits compared with the Hoosiers’ 11 runs on 15 hits. 

“If you look at today’s game, we got outplayed in all three areas,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “We have to play with confidence.”

Indiana holds a three-game lead over Illinois at 13-2 in conference play.

Even wishing he had a better start Sunday, Castellanos can still tip his cap to the Hoosiers, especially with his Illini still tied with the Nebraska Cornhuskers for second in the Big Ten at 10-5, with nine games left to play.

“It’s a blow, but it’s not a fatal blow,” he said “We’re still good.”

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