IU Drops Big Ten Tournament Opener Vs. Illinois 7-1
Miscues on two routine plays proved costly for Indiana as it fell to fifth-seeded Illinois 7-1 late Wednesday night in the Big Ten tournament at T.D. Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
With the loss, the Hoosiers will face Michigan State in an elimination game today at 2 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network.
"You hate to have that game here, opening night of the tournament, but like we talked about on the field, the hardest game for us will be (Thursday), through the whole tournament," IU head coach Chris Lemonis said. “It’s getting back and getting our feet back under us and going out and really playing a good game (Thursday). That will be important for us, because we have pitching that can run through a tournament. We just got to play better."
Indiana's six-game win streak heading into the postseason was held in tact through five innings before a throwing error by shortstop Jeremy Houston allowed the Fighting Illini to plate two runs in the bottom of the sixth. The throw, coming off a routine ground ball, was too wide and forced first baseman Matt Lloyd off the bag as a result. An error by right fielder Logan Sowers - dropping a fly ball - followed and allowed yet another run to score to quickly give Illinois a 3-0 lead.
"We feel like we have one of the best shortstops in the country defensively. Tough play," Lemonis said. "I’ve coached Logan and started (him) every game of his career, pretty much and that’s the first time I’ve seen that. It’s just a tough two plays for us, but we’ll bounce back.”
An RBI single by Ben Troike in the bottom of the seventh, followed by a two-out, 3-run home run to right by Michael Massey pushed Illinois' lead to 7-0, too large of a deficit for the Hoosiers to rally from.
"They're an aggressive lineup," "I figured I would just locate pitches early in the count and get them to swing at quality pitches and hopefully get outs that way. For the post part, I felt like I was able to do that today."
Indiana had a big missed opportunity in the top of the fifth. A one-out single by Luke Miller followed by Miller stealing second and Scotty Bradley drawing a walk put runners on first and second, then Ryan Fineman was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Ground balls by Ashley and Houston led to easy outs on fielder's choice plays for Illinois' infield to stem IU's most productive inning of the night. Indiana was 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position Wednesday night.
The Hoosiers scored their first and only run of the contest after Logan Kaletha reached on a fielder's choice, allowing Fineman to score from third as Drew Ashley was out at second.
Overall, Indiana's once red-hot lineup was held to just two hits, going 2 for 26 at the plate.
The lackluster offensive production and uncharacteristic defensive miscues spoiled what had been a stellar start for Stiever (6-6), who had pitched five shutout innings and allowed just one hit prior to the defensive mistakes in the sixth. Stiever struck out two, allowing three runs off three hits and one walk in 6.0 innings, throwing strikes on 55 of 92 pitches.
Illinois right-hander Quinn Snarskis struck out three with just one walk and two hits allowed in 5 1/3 shutout innings of a start. Righty Ryan Thompson (8-3) earned the win, tossing two strikeouts while allowing one earned run off one hit and one walk.
“Disappointing performance,” Lemonis said. “Just not typical of us. Very non-competitive at the plate, defensively, then late. Just didn’t compete enough. Hopefully we can get a good night’s sleep and wake up and be ready to go.”