Missed Opportunities Cost Illini against Gophers, 3-2

Sophomore David Kerian finished 3-for-5 in the 3-2 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday.
Sophomore David Kerian finished 3-for-5 in the 3-2 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday.

May 22, 2013

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Illinois (33-17) matched a season high with 13 runners left on base and fell 3-2 to Minnesota (31-20) on a bases-loaded, walk-off RBI single in the Big Ten Tournament opener. The fifth-seeded Illini took an early 2-0 lead over the fourth-seeded Gophers but were held scoreless over the final seven innings at Target Field.

"We did a great job getting runners on base, but we did not have very good at-bats with runners in scoring position," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We missed too many opportunities and did not have quality swings when we needed them."

The Illini were just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday and stranded runners in six of nine innings, including three times leaving the bases loaded. UI also went down in order in three of the final four frames. Illinois heads to the bottom of the bracket in the double elimination tournament following the loss.

"We have had our backs against the wall the whole second half of the season, but we have responded very well," Hartleb said. "This is the best the conference has ever been, and we are as good as any team in it, so we will respond."

Illinois scored both its runs in the second inning. Senior Brandon Hohl led off the stanza with a single and advanced to second on a passed ball before scoring on an RBI single by redshirt-sophomore Reid Roper. Minnesota starter Tom Windle, who finished with six walks in five innings, walked three of the next four Illini, which brought home Roper when sophomore Michael Hurwitz drew the bases-loaded free pass.

The Gophers cut the lead in half and got on the board in the bottom of the second on an RBI single. Three innings later in the fifth, Minnesota evened it up at two apiece on another RBI single that created a close play at the plate. UM's Andy Henkemeyer sent a single to center and senior Justin Parr came up throwing with a bullet to catcher Jason Goldstein, who held onto the ball in a collision where Troy Larson was called safe.

Freshman Kevin Duchene, who struck out five and received a no decision, pitched into the seventh, recording one out in the inning before being replaced by junior Ronnie Muck. The Illini reliever retired five of the next six Gophers, sending the contest to the ninth tied at two.

"We did a very good job on the mound," Hartleb said. "I was very pleased with Kevin Duchene's outing."

Minnesota led off the ninth with a double to the right field corner. After a single put runners on the corners with nobody out, Muck intentionally walked the Gophers leadoff hitter to load the bases. The Illini brought the infield in and recorded an out at home on a grounder to second. On the next pitch, Henkemeyer capped off his 3-for-4 day with the game-winning RBI single to right field, giving Muck his first loss of the season.

Sophomore David Kerian finished 3-for-5 and Hohl went 2-for-4 in the Illini's eighth one-run loss of the year. Junior Thomas Lindauer extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games with a 1-for-4 effort.

Up Next: No. 5 Illinois will play No. 6 Michigan, which fell 11-2 to No. 3 Nebraska, on Thursday at 12:05 p.m. in the third game of the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini and Wolverines will meet for the first time this season after the two squads finished tied for fifth in the Big Ten at 14-10.