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No. 19 IU baseball loses its first Big Ten series of the season



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Sophomore infielder Justin Walker talks to Head Coach Jeff Mercer on Sunday, April 28 at Bart Kaufman Field. Walker struck out swinging at the bottom of the first inning. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

Throughout the 2019 season, IU baseball Head Coach Jeff Mercer has lauded his team’s ability to bounce back from Friday night losses. 

Against Illinois, that wasn’t the case. 

No. 19 IU lost the first two games of the weekend series against Illinois. This was the first Big Ten series loss of the season.

IU’s offense has struggled in Friday night games throughout the 2019 season, and the bats were quiet again as the trend continued this weekend. Illinois senior pitcher Andy Fisher threw eight innings and gave up just three hits while striking out nine. Senior Matt Lloyd and sophomore Cole Barr each struck out three times.

IU senior pitcher Pauly Milto had his shortest outing of the season, going just five and one-third innings while giving up three runs.

The offense didn’t show any life until getting two runners in scoring position in the eighth inning. But the Hoosiers weren’t able to drive them in. Illinois junior pitcher Garrett Acton finished off his team’s win, retiring the IU lineup in order in the top of the ninth. 

The scoreless streak continued into Saturday with 15 consecutive innings without an IU player touching home plate. Sophomore Elijah Dunham’s seventh inning solo home run was the only runs IU had in Saturday’s 3-1 loss. 

IU junior pitcher Tanner Gordon allowed three runs over seven innings pitched. Michael Massey and Jack Yalowitz each hit home runs for Illinois in the win. 

A lack of run support made Gordon the losing pitcher of what was a quality start for the junior. Dunham’s home run and hits from junior Matt Gorski and sophomore Justin Walker marked the only hits for IU in the game.

After clinching a series loss, IU bounced back Sunday with a 9-2 win over Illinois. 

Lloyd drove in Gorski in the third inning to give IU a 1-0 lead, its first lead of the series. Lloyd would pick up a second RBI, driving in Gorski yet again in the eighth inning. The RBIs marked Lloyd’s 46th and 47th of the season. 

In the fifth inning, Dunham hit a home run for the second straight game, a three-run shot out to left field. The home run was his sixth of the year. 

In the seventh inning, Barr hit a two-run home run, his 14th of the season, which increased IU’s lead to 6-0. Barr’s home run put him back in a tie with Lloyd for the most in the Big Ten. 

Senior Ryan Fineman added another home run in the ninth inning, IU’s 81st as a team this season. That increased the IU lead to 9-0 before Illinois added two runs in the bottom of the inning. 

IU junior pitcher Andrew Saalfrank had another quality start, pitching seven innings while allowing four hits, no runs and eight strikeouts. 

IU exits the weekend with a 31-16 record overall and 12-6 in the Big Ten. 

The series loss is IU’s first in Big Ten play this year and the first series loss since being swept by the University of Tennessee in February. It is just the second conference loss ever in Mercer’s three-year career as a head coach.

IU will travel Tuesday to Lexington, Kentucky, for a midweek game against the University of Kentucky. Neither team has announced its starting pitcher yet for the game. 

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