Illinois baseball drops home opener to Indiana State in extra innings

By Adam Rosen, Assistant Sports Editor

For the first time in 304 days, the Illini took the field and stepped up to the plate at Illinois Field in Champaign. In the comfort of their own home, Illinois looked to end the opposing Indiana State Sycamores’ five-game win streak.

In the single-game series, the Illini were hoping to provide the fans with a show in their home opener. However, the game did not start out well for the Illini offense, and with the exception of one inning, the Illini offense could not get it going, losing out 7-3.

After several innings of shutout ball by both pitching staffs, the Sycamores cracked through the seams and took a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning. Only one of these runs was earned, as two scored after an error by senior lefthander Ryan O’Hara.

In the fifth inning, Illinois got themselves into another jam but was able to get out of it unscathed. The offense could not take advantage of that momentum, and the score remained 3-0 through the stretch.

The story of the game from head coach Dan Hartleb’s point of view was missed opportunities.

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“We beat ourselves,” Hartleb said. “If you look, we had an opportunity in the first inning, lead-off hitter doubles and on the first pitch we grounded out to the shortstop.”

“Take me out to the Ballgame” seemed to light a fire in the Illini, and as the bats woke up, senior outfielder Cam McDonald hit a dribbler up the middle driving in the tying runs. The bats would simmer down for the eighth inning, as the game was tied going to the ninth.

The top half of the ninth inning was filled with drama. With a runner on third, Indiana State nearly took the lead back, but sophomore infielder Ryan Moerman chased the runner down and tagged him out before the run could score. Moerman’s heroics allowed the Illini to stay in the game before going into extra innings.

The Sycamores turned their pitching success into hitting success in the top of the 10th inning, plating four runs and taking a 7-3 lead, which was too much for the Illini, who could not muster another comeback in the bottom half of the 10th.

Despite the loss, freshman right-hander Jake Swartz did provide some positives for the Illini, which Hartleb spoke about in the postgame.

“I thought he did a good job in his first collegiate start,” Hartleb said. “I was pleased with what he did and what he showed us, hopefully he can build on that.”

Illinois will once again travel this weekend, as the originally scheduled home series against Southern Illinois was moved as a precaution for poor weather. The Illini will enter that series at 7-7.



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