IU Comes Up Short in Opener vs. U of I
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Returning home after a 10-game road trip, the Indiana baseball team lost the opener of a four-game series against Big Ten Conference leading Illinois, 8-3, on Friday afternoon at Sembower Field. The Hoosiers fall to 19-17 overall (3-10 Big Ten), and the Fighting Illini improve to 21-11-1 on the season (10-3 Big Ten).
The Cream and Crimson strung together 12 hits off Illini starter Brian Blomquist and reliever Aaron Saving, but the hurlers minimized the damage and held IU to three runs to pull out the victory.
Illinois took the early advantage with three in the second and a pair in the third when first baseman Dusty Bensko and center fielder Drew Davidson hit back-to-back home runs off Indiana starter Josh Lewis (5-3).
IU responded in the third as junior left fielder Jay Brant got the Hoosiers on the board, singling home sophomore shortstop Josh Richardson. A base knock by senior right fielder Joe Kemp put runners on first and second with two down for junior first baseman Ryan Parker, but Blomquist escaped the jam by getting Parker to ground into a force out.
After the Illini put up solo tallies in the fourth and fifth, the Cream and Crimson came back with a two-spot in the home half of the fifth. Richardson opened the inning with a single up the middle and came around on a double to left center field by senior catcher Kurt Weigle.
With two outs, Parker hit a sharp single by second baseman J.R. Kyes to plate Kemp with the Hoosiers' third run of the ballgame.
The Fighting Illini appeared to have two more runs in the sixth, but junior center fielder Reggie Watson robbed Kyes of a two-run homer, leaping at the 400-foot mark on the center field wall to bring back Kyes long drive and keep the score 7-3.
Watson went on to rope a lead off double into the left field corner in the seventh. However, Blomquist was able to pitch around the two-bagger by retiring the next three batters in order to preserve U of I's four-run margin.
The Hoosiers threatened for the last time in the eighth as senior second baseman Corby Heckman and sophomore third baseman Michael Nilles recorded consecutive singles with one out. Southpaw Aaron Saving relieved Blomquist and forced Richardson to ground out and retired Weigle on a rocket to Kyes to end the frame.
Robinson accounted for the final run of the ballgame, blasting his second long ball of the contest to straight away center field.
At the plate, Brant (1 RBI), Kemp, Heckman and Richardson (2 runs) each collected a pair of hits for IU.
Blomquist earned his eighth victory in nine decisions, holding Indiana to two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings of work, and Saving pitched the final 1 2/3 for his first save of the year.
The teams return to the diamond with a doubleheader on Saturday, April 23. Game one's first pitch is slated for 1 p.m. The four-game series then concludes on Sunday, April 24, with a 1 p.m. starting time.
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