Indiana Earns Dramatic Split
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - On a cold, windy afternoon at Sembower Field, the Indiana and Illinois baseball teams played two of the most entertaining games of the season. The squads split a doubleheader with the Hoosiers (20-18, 4-11 Big Ten) rallying for a 14-13 victory in nine innings in the nightcap, while the Fighting Illini (22-12-1, 11-4) scored four times with two down in the seventh inning for a 4-3 win in the opener.
Game two was a wild affair in which the Hoosiers twice fought back from six-run deficits and erased a three-run hole in the bottom of the seventh to pull out the victory in extra innings. The Cream and Crimson entered its last at-bat trailing 13-10 before staging a strange, yet dramatic comeback.
It appeared the ballgame was coming to a close as junior first baseman Ryan Parker hit a pop up into the snow flurries to second baseman J.R. Kyes. However, Kyes dropped the ball, allowing Parker to reach safely and junior second baseman Jay Brant, who reached on a base knock to left, to advance to third.
Then things got interesting as junior designated hitter Zach Boswell hit a shot into the right field corner off reliever Jake Toohey (1-3) that went under a bench in the Illinois bullpen. Illini right fielder Trevor Huisinga started to reach for the ball but stepped back and raised his arms in hopes the umpires would rule the ball dead. Boswell kept running the entire time and touched home with the game-tying run after it was ruled Huisinga made a play for the ball before raising his arms. The three-run inside-the-park home run was Boswell's seventh of the season, but more importantly, it tied the game at 13-13.
Neither team scored in the eighth, and IU played some small ball to clinch the contest in the ninth. Brant opened the inning with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior right fielder Joe Kemp. On the first pitch to Parker, Brant took off and stole third without a throw, and Parker followed with a one-hopper off the wall in right center field to plate Brant with the winning run.
Steve Nielsen (2-3) came up huge in relief for Indiana en route to his second win of the season. The senior right-hander pitched the final 4 2/3 innings, holding the Fighting Illini to one earned run on four hits.
Parker finished the contest 3-for-5 with one RBI and two runs, while Brant went 4-for-6 with three RBI, three runs and two stolen bases. He now has a team-high 21 steals on the season. Boswell added a 2-for-4 performance with three RBI and two runs.
Illinois opened the game with three in the first before the Hoosiers bounced back with a pair of tallies in the
The Illini responded with three in the second and two in the fourth to build an 8-2 advantage heading into the fourth, where the Cream and Crimson sent 10 men into the batter's box and scored four times to trim its deficit to two runs. Boswell, senior third baseman Corby Heckman and sophomore second baseman Josh Richardson led off the inning with consecutive singles, and Boswell touched home on a fielding error by right fielder Trevor Huisinga.
Senior catcher Kurt Weigle plated Heckman with a two-bagger, and freshman Tyler Cox capped the scoring with a single out of the reach of first baseman Dusty Bensko, pushing across Richardson and Weigle.
U of I stormed back with four more in the fifth to reclaim its six-run lead, but Indiana was not to be outdone. The Hoosiers scratched three more runs across in the bottom of the inning when Brant roped a bases-clearing triple into right center field to bring in Watson, Cox and Heckman.
Parker trotted home with IU's 10th run on a base hit by Richardson in the sixth, setting up Boswell's heroics the following inning.
Additionally, Heckman (2 RBI, 1 run), Richardson (1 RBI, 1 run) and Cox (2 RBI, 1 run) each collected a pair of hits in the ballgame.
The opening game of the double dip saw a great pitching match up between Indiana's Brian Lortz and Illinois' Jimmy Conroy. Both starters sailed through five scoreless innings until the Cream and Crimson broke through with three runs in the sixth. Junior first baseman Ryan Parker delivered a two-RBI single to score junior center fielder Reggie Watson and junior left fielder Jay Brant for the first runs of the ballgame.
After a fly out, senior third baseman Corby Heckman reached on a fielder's choice and executed a double steal with senior right fielder Joe Kemp, who crossed home with the Hoosiers' third and final run.
Lortz retired the first two batters in the seventh before trouble struck. Catcher Chris Robinson singled, first baseman Dusty Bensko walked and center fielder Drew Davidson hit a grounder that hit the third base bag, giving Heckman no play and loading the bases. Up next, designated hitter Mike Rohde (3-for-4) lifted a high fly ball over the right field wall for the game-winning grand slam.
IU threatened in the home half of the seventh when freshman Brad Udoff doubled to right field to open the inning. Freshman shortstop Tyler Cox laid down a sacrifice bunt to move pinch runner Arden McWilliams to third, but Watson hit a chopper to Chad Frk at third and he threw to the plate to gun down McWilliams. Brant followed with a fly out to center field to close out the game.
Lortz (2-4) ended up going 6 2/3 innings, surrendering seven hits and striking out four. Conroy (6-1) secured his third complete game of the season, allowing five hits along with six strikeouts and two walks.
Indiana looks for a series split in the final game of the four-game set tomorrow afternoon, Sunday, April 24. Game time is set for 1 p.m. at Sembower Field.
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