Smile Politely

Illini salvage win in Hoosier series finale

Ryan Nagle bats against Eastern Illinois last week.

Since last week’s column, the Illini baseball team (19–10, 2–4 Big Ten) has played four games and won only one. That one win, however, may turn out to be the biggest one of the season. After losing the first two games to the nationally ranked Indiana Hoosiers, Illinois defeated them 3–2 on Sunday, snapping their NCAA-high eighteen-game winning streak and more importantly, giving the Hoosiers (25–4, 8–1 Big Ten) their first conference loss of the season.

Illinois now hopes to improve on its 2–4 Big Ten record this weekend when they host the Purdue Boilermakers for three games at Illinois Field.  

Weekend Wrap-up

Kevin Johnson pitched a great game on Friday night against the Hoosiers’ potent offense allowing only two earned runs on four hits. Indeed, the Illini outhit Indiana by a two-to-one margin, but just couldn’t get enough runs across the plate. It was close though. Jordan Parr doubled home Will Krug in the eighth to bring the Illini within one, but he was left stranded and Indiana won the heartbreaker 32.

Illinois never had the lead on Saturday despite homeruns by Thomas Lindauer and Brandon Hohl. Justin Parr went three for four with a stolen base, his twelfth of the year. Once again, the Illini couldn’t put together a rally despite having ten hits for the game. Indiana won 73

Freshman Ryan Castellanos was on the mound for Sunday’s game making his first appearance for the Illini. It was a good choice for Coach Hartleb. Castellanos kept the Hoosier bats quiet giving up just two runs on five hits in six innings. He also didn’t allow any walks, which goes a long way when dealing with an offense as formidable as Indiana’s. Justin Parr went four-for-four and scored the winning run in the sixth inning. Brandon Hohl may have gone zero for two, but his two sacrifice flies accounted for two of the three runs in the game. Tyler Jay pitched 1 1/3 innings of perfect ball in relief before Bryan Roberts came in for his second save of 2013. Final score: Illinois 3 Indiana 2.

Winning one game out of three may not sound so thrilling, but I consider this a moral victory for the Illini. Taking into consideration that the Indiana team was ranked #16 and was on an eighteen-game winning streak, this was the perfect way to end the weekend.

Midweek Mayhem

Illinois also played one midweek game against nearby Eastern Illinois University Panthers. For one reason or another, Illinois has historically had their problems with midweek games. This week’s game was no exception. While Illinois was one-hit by EIU through eight innings, it almost seems like that have might been enough. That one hit was Justin Parr’s second homerun of the year, a solo effort that extended his hitting streak to seventeen games. Meanwhile, Kevin Duchene spread out EIU’s hits and kept them scoreless through five innings. 

The Panthers finally got to him in the sixth inning when they put together an eight-run rally. Twelve Panthers batted that inning and Illinois went through four pitchers before reliever Andrew Mamlic was able to get the third out. Thomas Lindauer made things look a little more respectable with a three-run homer in the ninth inning but EIU won 8-4.

Stats of the Week

Illinois pitchers are showing some pretty amazing control lately. They have given up only nine walks in their last six games. No walks were issued against Indiana on Friday and Sunday. 

Thomas Lindauer has found his power stroke in time for the conference season. He’s hit two homers in the past three games. He now has six for the season and that ranks second in the Big Ten behind Indiana’ Kyle Schwarber. 

One more stat of a different sort… The attendance at the Indiana-Illinois game in Bloomington on Saturday was 2,754. Impressive. 

Next Up

This weekend, the Purdue Boilermakers are coming to town. Purdue is coming off their 2012 Big Ten championship season, their first ever. With the loss of graduating seniors, the team looks a little different and the record reflects that at 11–19 and 4–5 Big Ten. The Boilermakers have lost four straight and might be a little hungry.  One thing I will say about this team: They play tough and every player is in the game. 

Game times for this weekend are Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Don’t forget: Sunday is day of the Bleacher Bum Barbeque, Fighting Illini Baseball’s big promotion of the season. There will be free food, prizes, and of course, plenty of baseball action. The whole affair starts at 1 p.m. 

Go Illini!

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