Illinois baseball drops rematch with Indiana State


Jack Larson

Third baseman Branden Comia flies out to right field in the bottom of the seventh inning against Eastern Illinois on April 18.

By Adam Rosen, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois traveled to Terre Haute, Indiana for a rematch with Indiana State in the final midweek matchup of the season. The Illini lost the first matchup, their home opener back in March.

Since that game, the teams have gone on vastly different paths. The Illini left that first game with a 7-6 record, while the Sycamores exited with an 8-8 record. Illinois in its next 27 games went 12-15, and Indiana State embarked on an impressive 20-5 run in the ensuing 25.

For Illinois, the season is hanging in the balance with just nine games remaining after its trip to Indiana. The Illini absolutely needed to win this game just to have some momentum going into the final weeks of a grueling and underwhelming season.

With the season hanging by a thread, freshman righthander Julius Sanchez took the mound for the Illini with a chance to instill hope and confidence in his team. Sanchez started off with a strong inning, setting down the Sycamores in order in the first.

The Sycamores took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a double play that advanced a runner from third. Senior outfielder Cam McDonald tied it in the fourth inning with a long home run.

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    Indiana State did everything in its power to prevent Illinois from taking the lead, with multiple diving catches in the deep corners of the outfield. The defensive prowess transitioned to the Sycamores’ lineup, as they took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.

    Sanchez was dominant despite the two runs he allowed early on, allowing just seven hits over seven innings of work. The Illini headed to the ninth inning trailing 2-1, but not for long. Sophomore left fielder Ryan Moerman smoked a ball to right-center field which tied the game at 2-2.

    Graduate righthander TJ Constertina entered the game in the bottom of the ninth and shut things down, sending the game to extra innings. The second batter of the inning, senior third baseman Branden Comia, took advantage of the opportunity. Comia homered to left field, giving the Illini their first lead of the game, a 3-2 advantage. Junior first baseman Drake Westcott added to the lead with a single.

    Illinois took a 4-2 lead with an opportunity to get retribution for its loss in March, but it did not go their way. Indiana State loaded the bases with one out and hit a grounder to the shallow infield, but a controversial play at second prevented a double play and the game was tied 4-4.

    The Illini held strong, but so did the Sycamores and in inning 13, the hosts took advantage. The Sycamores hit a rocket to deep right-center for a walk-off home run, winning 5-4.

    The Illini now sit at 19-22 with just nine games remaining, all of which are three-game home series. They will host the Michigan State Spartans starting on Friday.



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