Mishaps lead to weekend shellacking for Illini baseball

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Illinois’ head coach Dan Hartleb will rely on senior starter Andrew Mamlic in the team’s game against Indiana State on Tuesday. 

By Daniel Collins

Illini baseball played a mental game of dominoes on the diamond this weekend in Conway, South Carolina.EJ

For head coach Dan Hartleb and his team, the pieces kept falling in the wrong direction — Illinois (6-7) lost all of its four games at the Coastal Carolina Invitational by a combined score of 47-21.EJ

The Illini suffered in every aspect of the game. They committed three errors in the sixth inning, which resulted in six unearned runs scored by UNC Greensboro in Friday’s 20-9 defeat.EJ Ace Cody Sedlock (2-1) picked up his first loss of the season in the contest.EJ He was tagged for 12 runs, six of them earned.EJ

“Once we made mistakes, we let it get to us mentally,” Hartleb said. “Our approach was very disappointing. I thought we were getting better each and every series until this weekend.”

Saturday’s game against the Spartans had more of a promising feel for Illinois. The team took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning.EJ Hartleb decided to go the route of sending J.D. Nielsen to the mound in the eighth and pitching Nick Blackburn in the ninth — a one-two punch he often turns to.EJ

This combo didn’t provide the knockout Illinois was looking for, though.

Nielsen surrendered two runs, one of which was earned, and Blackburn gave up the tying run in the ninth and the game-winning run in the 10th.EJ The game-winner is the second given up this season by Blackburn — he gave up a game-winning three-run home run in the season opener against Tulane.EJ Illinois committed three errors in the 5-4 loss.

Had Illinois held on to win, it would have been freshman Cole Bellair’s first collegiate win. Bellair has made six appearances this season, including his one start on Saturday.EJ

The letdowns kept coming in Saturday’s second game — this time against Coastal Carolina — and so did the unearned runs. This time the box score had a four in the error column, a couple of them resulting in three unearned runs in the 10-4 defeat.EJ Doug Hayes suffered the loss.EJ

The final domino fell Sunday against Coastal Carolina. Andrew Mamlic had a rough start to the game, which was fitting considering how the weekend panned out for Illinois. He gave up four runs in the first inning and seven overall in the 12-4 loss.EJ

The Illini topped the Chanticleers 7-1 last season in the same tournament but couldn’t find any momentum against the hosts this year.

Unlike the first three games of the invite, Illinois didn’t commit multiple errors or surrender any unearned runs — the team registered one error.EJ

Junior Pat McInerney, who had one of the more productive weekends for the Illini with six hits and one home run, said his team can go one of two directions after this weekend.EJ

“Obviously this was our worst four games this season, that’s no question,” McInerney said. “Either we continue to downward spiral or we learn from this and come out next week with more confidence and make much-needed adjustments.”

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