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Illinois State baseball falls to Illinois in in-state battle

Illinois State baseball falls to Illinois in in-state battle

Illinois State baseball coaches and players line up for the national anthem before Tuesday’s game at Illinois. (Photo Courtesy: Will Farlow/WZND)

NORMAL- In a battle between two in-state rivals, Illinois State baseball fell to Illinois 4-2 Tuesday at Illinois Field in Champaign.

With the game tied 2-2 in the fifth inning, Illinois (20-8, 6-3 Big Ten) scored two runs in the bottom half of the frame off Illinois State freshman pitcher Connor Peplow. Sophomore pitcher Zack Jones threw 3.2 innings in relief for Illinois to pick up the win and improve his record to 2-0 on the season. Peplow took the loss to fall to 1-1 on the year while junior Joey Gerber picked up his ninth save of the season for Illinois.

ISU (11-16, 2-4 MVC) scored both of its runs off sacrifice flies to right field. Sophomore outfielder John Rave drove home the first run for the Redbirds in the second inning when he knocked in sophomore Joe Aeilts to give Illinois State an early 1-0 lead. In the third inning, junior Nick Zouras batted in Noah Sadler to tie the game at two.

There were also some missed opportunities for the Redbirds, who left 11 runners on base. The most notable example came in the fourth when Sadler came up to the plate with one out and the bases loaded, only to hit the first pitch he saw in the at bat into a 3-6-3 double play to end the inning.

“It just wasn’t our day offensively,” ISU head coach Bo Durkac said. “We left too many guys on base in the early going.”

Illinois scored two runs in the second inning due to RBI singles from both junior catcher Jeff Korte and junior infielder Grant Van Scoy. After Peplow hit the first two batters he faced in the fifth, the Illini loaded the bases before they moved ahead 3-2 on an RBI infield single from junior Bren Spillane. Sophomore infielder Michael Massey followed that play up with an RBI sacrifice fly to left field to put Illinois ahead 4-2.

With redshirt senior relief pitcher Kyle Pauly starting on the mound, ISU ended up using seven different pitchers throughout the game. Even though Illinois averaged 6.8 runs per game entering Tuesday’s contest, the ISU pitching staff found a way to limit the Illini’s offense.

“I would rather lose this game 4-2 than win it 10-8 because if its 10-8, that means we gave up eight runs and you can’t expect to win many games in a season giving up eight,” Durkac said. “So when you hold that team [Illinois] to four, and yeah they’re all earned because hit-by-pitches count as earned runs, but they didn’t really earn them. They didn’t bash the ball over the yard. I don’t think they had a single extra-base hit. So I’m very happy with the way we pitched, especially with the quantity of guys we ran out there.”

The loss was ISU’s sixth in a row to Illinois dating back to 2015. The last time the Redbirds beat the Fighting Illini was back on April 15, 2014 with a 6-2 win at Duffy Bass Field in Normal.

For its next game, Illinois State hosts Saint Francis (Ill.) at 3 p.m. on Wednesday at Duffy Bass Field.

Nick Landi contributed to this story.

 

Nick Landi

April 10th, 2018

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