Illini Falter in Opener with #24 Indiana, 9-3

Second baseman Reid Roper tallied his career-high fifth home run in the loss to Indiana on Friday.
Second baseman Reid Roper tallied his career-high fifth home run in the loss to Indiana on Friday.

April 25, 2014

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois (22-16) dropped the series opener with Indiana (27-11) on Friday night at Illinois Field, 9-3. The Hoosiers scored the first six runs of the game, while the Illini put up all three of their runs in the fourth. The Orange and Blue are now tied with Nebraska for second place in the Big Ten at 9-4, while IU remained in first at 12-1.

"We didn't get a great start tonight," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "My disappointment was how they scored six of their runs with two outs. We got hits and were aggressive, but when we had runners in scoring position, we were tentative. We've got to get it done in those situations."

Indiana struck first with an RBI groundout in the second. The Hoosiers started the stanza with back-to-back singles, moved the runners with a sacrifice bunt and plated the game's first run on a grounder to second base. IU scored three runs with two in the third to go up 4-0. After a two-out walk and single, IU notched an RBI single and a two-run double.

The Hoosiers added two runs with two outs in the fourth on consecutive RBI triples, making it 6-0.

Redshirt-junior Reid Roper drilled a two-run homer to right with one out in the fourth, marking his career-high fifth dinger this season. Junior David Kerian followed with a double and scored all the way from second on a sacrifice fly to center by junior Casey Fletcher. The Illini got within three at 6-3 after four innings.

IU responded with a sacrifice fly in the fifth, pushing it to a 7-3 advantage. Sophomore J.D. Nielsen took over on the mound in the sixth and retired the side in order. Sophomore Jason Goldstein and Kerian singled in the bottom of the sixth while Fletcher just missed a three-run homer that was caught just in front of the right field wall.

Indiana's Sam Travis smacked a solo shot to left in the seventh and added an RBI single in the eighth off Nielsen to grab a 9-3 edge. Sophomore Nick Blackburn notched the final out of the eighth, while senior Luke Joyce worked a scoreless ninth. Illinois starter Drasen Johnson fell to 4-5 on the year, while IU starter Joey DeNato went eight innings and improved to 9-1.

Five Illini recorded multiple hits in sophomore Ryan Nagle, junior Michael Hurwitz, Goldstein, Kerian and Fletcher. The Hoosiers out-hit Illinois 13-12.

Up Next: Illinois will meet Indiana for game two on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Illinois Field. Junior John Kravetz (4-1, 3.00 ERA) will toe the rubber against Christian Morris (2-2, 1.77 ERA).