Like both Monar and Arnett this weekend, starter Matt Bashore pitched very well giving IU a solid 7 innings. After walking 2 in the first inning, Bashore really settled in to strikeout 7 while walking 0 over the next 6 innings pitched. Through 7 innings, Bashore only gave up 5 hits. However, none were bigger than the 2-run homer in the bottom of the 6th that followed an infield hit to SS.
It has been well-documented that IU's bullpen has been less than stellar this year. In the first 2 games of the series, we either had a massive lead before heading to the bullpen (Game 1) or kept the starter in all game (Game 2), so the bullpen had not experienced much action yet this weekend. At 118 pitches for Bashore after the 7th concluded, however, Coach Tracy Smith was forced to turn to the bullpen to close out the final 2 innings. With the Illinois 2-4 hitters set to lead off the inning, he chose RHP Matt Carr to begin the 8th. After a leadoff double, the Illini bunted the leadoff batter to 3rd to put the go ahead run on 3rd with only 1 out. After walking the next hitter, Carr was pulled in favor of Chris Squires. Squires got ahead early and subsequently struck out the first batter he faced. With 2 outs, though, he was not able to stop the Illinois bats as they got back-to-back singles and scored 2 runs before recording the 3rd out.
With a 5-3 deficit, IU went into the 9th in a similar situation as they saw in the first game (down 1-0 in the 9th in that one). After two quick outs, Chris Hervey (who came up big in the first game today), delivered again. He answered this time with a solo shot to left to cut the deficit to 1 with the heart of the IU lineup due up with 2 outs. Sabourin did not disappoint singling to put the tying runner on first with none other than our own Josh Phegley coming to the plate. After having 2 homeruns in the Friday game as well as national recognition, everyone in the stands understood the importance of this at bat, and the Illini fans desperately hoped their Freshman pitcher coming off Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors could silence the dangerous Phegley. Unfortunately, they got their wish as Phegley was called out on strikes to end the game and the hopes of another thrilling comeback.
Overall, this was a good weekend as we took 2 of 3 from a #26 ranked Illinois team that took 2 of 3 from #1 ranked LSU earlier this season. It's tough to end on a loss, but let's take the many positives this weekend and use them moving forward.
All photos taken from the Illinois Baseball Report Gallery.
Next game: 4/7 at 4pm ET vs. Louisville (20-9) at Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville KY.