Illinois baseball drops series in Bloomington, pitching struggles led to high scoring series

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Sydney Laput

Sophomore Danny Doligale runs back to first base during the game against Eastern Illinois University on March 8. The Illini fall against Indiana over the weekend losing two out of the three games.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

It was a great weekend for baseball in Bloomington, Ind., where the Illini visited the Hoosiers at Bart Kaufman Field.

Both teams’ pitching staffs continued their recent struggles, with a lot of runs scored in the three-game series.

Indiana came ready to play in game one, with four runs in the first two innings off starting pitcher sophomore Cole Kirschsieper.

The Illini finally got on the board in the top of the fifth inning with a solo shot by junior Jacob Campbell. This was Campbell’s third game in a row with a home run which tied him for the team lead with six.

The teams traded runs in each of the next two innings, making the score 6-3 Indiana after seven.

Juniors Cam McDonald and Kellen Sarver tallied RBI singles, before senior Taylor Jackson came through with an RBI double to cap a three-run rally with two outs, making the score 6-6.

After putting together what looked to be a promising comeback, the Illini could not scrap anything else together and were walked off in the ninth, dropping game one 7-6.

Game two was a completely different story for the Illini as they took the lead in the first inning and dominated the rest of the way. The bulk of the scoring came in the sixth inning as the Illini put ten runs across and ended up with 18 on the day.

Campbell hit yet another home run, breaking the four-way tie for first on the team and clearing the fences for four straight games. Jackson and sophomore Justin Janas also hit long balls on Saturday in the blowout, with junior Branden Comia tallying three RBI to join the party.

Sophomore Jack Crowder had it working for him all day long, getting the win and finishing with just one run allowed, five hits, four walks and four strikeouts in six innings pitched. The Illini gave up some late runs, but the win was never in doubt, taking game two 18-10.

On Sunday, the rubber match was another high-scoring affair as the Illini scored two runs in the first inning for the second consecutive game. The Hoosiers responded quickly to the Sarver two-RBI single with a three-run home run in the bottom of the first to take the lead.

In the top of the third, Campbell got a great pitch to hit and demolished a ball for a three-run blast for the fifth game in a row. McDonald scored on a balk later in the inning, and an RBI single from sophomore Danny Doligale finished a five-run third for the Illini, putting them up 7-2.

Sophomore starting pitcher Riley Gowens was beginning to settle in with three scoreless innings, before disaster struck in the fifth. The Illini used three pitchers in the inning, and eight Hoosier runs crossed the plate to take an 11-7 lead after five.

The Illini tallied four hits over the final four innings but never seriously threatened again as the Indiana bullpen was stout, giving up zero earned runs through seven innings.

This is a tough series loss for the Illini and will only push them further off the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, but there are still things that the team can take away from the series.

“We never stop fighting whether we are down a lot of runs or winning,” Campbell said. “We just keep scratching and clawing.”

Campbell was one of few positives in a disappointing weekend for the Illini and credited his hitting to his new approach at the plate.

I’m seeing the ball pretty well, and I am staying more balanced in my swing,” Campbell said. “With my head balanced, I can lay off pitches out of the zone and hit strikes.”

The Illini will need Campbell to keep up the clutch hitting in the final stretch if they want to make a push for postseason glory. He is ready to deliver.

“It will take some guys to step up and do their part,” Campbell said. “Getting hot now is what it’s all about.”

Next, the Illini return to Champaign for a much-needed seven-game homestand, starting with Indiana State coming to town on Tuesday.

 

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