Illini Fall in Opener Against Xavier, 6-2
March 21, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - In game one of a four-game set with Xavier (12-7), Illinois (8-10) had redshirt-junior Reid Roper homer and freshman Cody Sedlock deliver a strong outing from the bullpen, but fell 6-2 at Illinois Field on Friday. Roper's two-run shot in the sixth brought the Illini back within one at 3-2, but the Musketeers tacked on three runs in the ninth to take the opener.
"We didn't get a great start from a pitching standpoint and didn't swing the bats well overall," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We got back into the game with the big home run by Reid Roper, but couldn't get anything going after that. Cody did a great job out of the bullpen, but then we let it get away from us in the ninth. We need to do a better job at the plate and take advantage of opportunities early in the game."
After two scoreless innings to start the contest, starter Drasen Johnson (2-3) exited in the third when Xavier strung together four hits and scored three runs. A single started the stanza followed by a one-out home run by Tres Eberhardt. The Musketeers singled again, drew a walk and connected on an RBI single, forcing the Illini to go to the bullpen. Sedlock ended the threat with a strikeout looking and pop out to third.
Sophomore Ryan Nagle reached on an infield single to begin the fourth inning, marking the first of only three Illini hits. Sophomore Jason Goldstein followed it with a single to left before a foul out and fly out put two outs on the board. Junior Casey Fletcher walked to load the bases, but a groundout ended Illinois' best scoring chance early.
After retiring five straight, Sedlock walked the leadoff hitter in the fifth before sitting down the next three Musketeers. The Sherrard, Ill., native gave up his first hit in the sixth before again retiring three in a row.
Goldstein walked with one out in the bottom of the sixth, setting up Reid Roper's two-run homer over the right field wall. The Harrisburg, Ill., native belted his third home run of the season, equaling his career-high from last season and cutting it to a one-run deficit.
Sedlock struck out the side in the seventh and gave up his second and final hit in the eighth. He finished with 5.2 scoreless innings of relief while striking out a career-high five batters.
The Illini put two on with free passes in the seventh, but came up empty. The final six UI hitters went down in order to end the game. Sophomore J.D. recorded one out in the ninth but was pinned with the three Xavier runs, while redshirt-sophomore Charlie Naso allowed two hits and tallied the other two outs.
Up Next: Illinois will be back at Illinois Field on Saturday for a doubleheader with Xavier beginning at noon.