Illinois baseball falls to Eastern Illinois in 12 innings


Jack Larson

Center fielder Cam McDonald flies out to right field in the bottom of the eighth inning. Tuesday’s contest marked McDonald’s 200th game as an Illini.

By Adam Rosen, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois hosted their neighbors from just an hour south in a one-game midweek matchup. The Eastern Illinois Panthers made the trek to Illinois Field, looking to put yet another damper on an Illinois season defined by inconsistency.

This was the fourth of seven straight home games for the Illini, their season’s longest homestand. This past weekend, Illinois took a game against the top program in the Big Ten, the Indiana Hoosiers. However, the celebration of that win would be short-lived.

The Illini were swept in the doubleheader the following day by a total of 22-7 in the two games. The offense struggled to string hits together, especially with runners on base, only getting a base hit in 25% of opportunities with runners on.

The game marked game No. 200 for graduate outfielder Cam McDonald with Illinois.

Freshman righthander Julius Sanchez made his sixth start of the game and struggled out of the gate. The first pitch hit the leadoff batter and the second pitch was a wild pitch, but a nice play on the mound got him out of the first-inning jam.

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The first five innings of the game were completely defined by the pitchers on the mound, as neither team could gain an edge at the plate. Junior righthander Jack Crowder relieved Sanchez of his duties in the sixth inning after the freshman threw five shutout innings, only allowing three hits.

The game headed to the seventh inning scoreless, as both teams were flashing the leather. The sixth inning featured multiple plays by the Panthers outfield that robbed the Illini of extra bases. Both teams had three hits going into the seventh inning as well.

Illinois was threatening in the seventh inning with two on and just one out. But Eastern Illinois was unphased by the scoring opportunity, escaping with no runs allowed.

The game headed to the ninth inning. The scoreboard was still the same, with no runs for either team and just three hits for each.

Neither side could drive in runs, as no team had recorded a hit since the fifth inning. The game headed to the 10th inning, still scoreless. Senior rightfielder Danny Doligale got into scoring position with a double in the bottom half of the inning. However, nothing came of it as a double play ended the scoring chance again.

Another scoreless inning flew by. The teams headed to the 12th inning, and the deadlock was finally broken. The Panthers took the lead on a single to right field with two outs. Despite a leadoff single, the Illini could not get a runner in, as they lost 1-0 in a hard-fought 12 inning game. Head coach Dan Hartleb spoke about the struggles at the plate.

“We hit some balls hard at people at times,” Hartleb said. “But it was early in the game when I didn’t think we had really quality at-bats. In the opportunities we had with runners in scoring position, we only hit the ball hard twice.”

The Illini dropped to 15-18 on the season. They have one more home series before they head back on the road next week.



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