Indiana baseball drops two of three versus Illinois in Big Ten season opener

BART KAUFMAN FIELD (IUSTV Sports) – Indiana opened up Big Ten play with a three-game-set against Illinois at Bart Kaufman Field. 

The pitching woes for the Hoosiers continued over the weekend as Indiana surrendered 25 runs in three games against Illinois. Now, Indiana holds the Big Ten’s worst team ERA at 7.48.

In Friday and Sunday’s losses, Indiana had an inning in each game where it gave up eight runs in one inning. In its twelve losses this season the Hoosiers are allowing an average of 11.6 runs. 

“We’ve got to get our best pitches out of our hand,” said Indiana Head Coach Jeff Mercer. 

Game one starter Ethan Phillips only saw two innings before getting pulled on Friday.​​ The game was close for multiple innings before Tyler Cerny broke the deadlock with a sacrifice fly bringing in Morgan Colopy. 

That lead wouldn’t last for long as in the next inning the Illini offense would explode for eight-runs. For Indiana, the worst part about the dreaded sixth inning was that Illinois scored five of its runs with two outs. 

“We actually played good defense and pitched it well outside of that one inning,” Jeff Mercer stated. 

Offensively, Indiana was fairly quiet finishing with just four hits.

The following day, IU put on a show which was headlined by Connor Foley’s career day. The sophomore right-hander put together his best performance in the cream and crimson. Foley delivered seven scoreless innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts while only allowing two hits.

The final two innings were handled by Brayden Risedorph who allowed just one hit. The three hits conceded by Foley and Risedorph are the fewest allowed by Indiana pitchers this season.

Half of the Hoosiers runs came in the eighth inning as IU went on to win 8-1 in game two. 

Indiana returned to the Bart on Sunday looking to take the series at home. After a fantastic outing the day prior, the Hoosiers were hoping to use that performance as momentum to close out the weekend. 

Instead, it was quite the opposite, as the game felt over just a few innings in. The Illinois bats were hot, as the Illini scored four runs before IU even had a chance to bat. Starting pitcher Ryan Kraft was replaced before the first inning was even over. 

It wasn’t until the third inning when things really opened up for Illinois as it scored eight runs. The Illini lead would stay at a comfortable distance throughout the remaining six innings and would go on to win 15-8. 

“I know that we all want to have confidence, we all want to have belief but we’re gonna have to go out there and execute with better stuff,” Mercer said after the defeat. 

The Hoosiers were hoping that starting conference play could steer them in the right direction, however, that’s not the case. 

Now 12-12 on the year, Jeff Mercer’s squad gets one day of rest before a busy week consisting of five games. 

Indiana returns to the field on Tuesday as Middle Tennessee pays a visit to the Bart. First pitch is at 4 p.m.