Illini Stumble in Big Ten Opener with Purdue, 4-3
March 28, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois took a 2-1 lead into the eighth, but Purdue battled back with three runs, and the Illini's ninth-inning rally came up short in a 4-3 loss on Friday night. The Orange and Blue threatened in the ninth, cutting it to a one-run deficit with the bases loaded and nobody out. A hard line out to shortstop and a 1-2-3 double play thwarted the comeback and snapped Illinois' four-game winning streak.
"We had a chance to win it, but left the tying run at third base," associate head coach Eric Snider said. "I have to tip my hat to Minch who pitched well for them. We had chances to get to him early, but we couldn't produce when we needed to do it."
Trailing 4-2 heading to the bottom of the ninth, junior Casey Fletcher singled to left off Purdue starter Jordan Minch, which forced the Boilermakers to the bullpen for the first time. A walk to freshman Ryne Roper led to another Purdue pitching change, as Mike Lutz replaced Joe Eichmann.
After the second change, sophomore Adam Walton legged out a bunt down to third that loaded the bases with nobody out. Junior Will Krug singled to center field and plated Fletcher to bring the Illini within one. On the next pitch, junior Michael Hurwitz sent a line drive to the left side but right at the shortstop. A pitch later, sophomore Ryan Nagle hit a chopper up the middle but Lutz snagged it and started the game-ending double play.
Redshirt-junior Drasen Johnson, who dropped to 2-4, cruised threw the first seven innings, only allowing an unearned run and striking out five. After starting the eighth with a groundout, he ran into trouble when Purdue connected on three straight singles, including a safety squeeze that tied the game at two.
Sophomore Tyler Jay relieved Johnson and walked the bases loaded before recording a strikeout for the second out. Purdue's leadoff hitter Brandon Krieg notched a two-out, two-run double that gave the Boilermakers a 4-2 lead. Sophomore J.D. Nielsen pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts on 10 pitches.
Illinois scored in the first inning for the sixth time this season, grabbing a 1-0 advantage when Nagle plated Krug on a single to left field. Purdue tied it up with an unearned run in the third on a fielder's choice.
The Illini had a chance to break the game open when they loaded the bases with one out in the fourth but only came away with one run and a 2-1 lead. Fletcher scored Goldstein on an error by the shortstop in the stanza.
Walton finished 3-for-4 and Krug went 2-for-4, as the Illini edged Purdue in hits (9-8), but fell for just the third time when out-hitting their opponent. Illinois dropped to 12-11 overall, 0-1 in the Big Ten and 3-6 in one-run games. Purdue moved to 5-16 overall and 1-0 in conference play.
Up Next: Illinois will take on Purdue in game two of the series on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Illinois Field. A pair of sophomores are set to square off on the mound in Illini Ryan Castellanos and Boilermaker Gavin Downs.