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Penn State Baseball Crushed 18-7 By Illinois

Penn State baseball (25-25 overall, 11-11 Big Ten) lost to Illinois 18-7 (29-20 overall, 15-7 Big Ten) in the first game of a three-game series at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park Thursday night.

Illinois quickly made its presence known by scoring seven runs in the first two innings. The Fighting Illini continued to dominate the game, although Penn State briefly had momentum in the fifth and sixth innings. However, Illinois exploded for more runs toward the end of the game, including four in the ninth, to close out its blowout win.

How It Happened

Rob Cooper opted to start Jaden Henline on the mound for the Nittany Lions to face the Illini, who came into the day ranked No. 3 in the conference with a .292 batting average.

The Illini bats got going quickly. Catcher Jacob Campbell hit a deep double to the center-field wall, sending Justin Janas around third base and across home plate to give Illinois an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. Henline escaped the inning unscathed beyond that point. 

Illinois followed up in the second inning by loading the bases with no outs. First, Illinois grabbed a 2-0 lead after Henline walked shortstop Cal Hejza. Then, outfielder Danny Doligale hit a blooper into right field that scored two more runs, making it 4-0 Illini.

Still, the worst was yet to come. Branden Comia blasted a three-run homer over the right-field wall, which opened the floodgates and made it 7-0 Illinois in just the second inning. Henline’s outing was done, and Cooper replaced him with Chase Renner, who got the third out to finally end the top half of the second inning. 

After holding Penn State scoreless in the second inning, Illinois was back in business in the third inning. Runners were quickly put on base, and two RBI singles quickly made it 9-0. For the second time in as many innings, the Illini loaded the bases. Then, Cam McDonald hit a deep sacrifice fly, which scored Doligale to make it 10-0.

Like Henline, Renner continued to struggle against the loaded Illini lineup, which prompted another pitching change. This time, Ryan Partridge entered the game for the 19th time this season. Partridge walked Jackson, which scored a run to extend the lead to 11-0. 

Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions were held scoreless yet again in the following inning. Cole Kirschsieper was dealing for the Illini with three strikeouts and just three hits given up. 

However, Cooper’s team put together a solid top of the fourth inning by getting three outs quickly, including a double play to keep Illinois off the board. Penn State turned in no offensive results in the bottom half of the inning, though

Penn State finally broke through in the fifth inning. Bartels hit an RBI single into shallow right field to score Kyle Hannon to make it 11-1. Bartels then stole second base for the his fourth steal of the season. Then, Wood walked to put runners on first and second with two outs.

The inning was far from over, though. Johnny Piacentino singled to center field, scoring Wood and Bartels to make it 11-3. Then, Penn State got two more runs after Billy Gerlott’s double scored Piacentino and Josh Spiegel. That did it for the fifth inning, but Penn State wasn’t yet done.

The momentum had seemingly turned in Penn State’s favor in the fifth and sixth innings. After a solid fifth, the Nittany Lions were back at it again in the sixth inning. Bartels hit an RBI single that made it 11-6, then Wood followed that up by doing the same to make it 11-7. Penn State looked nothing like it did in the first few innings, as it consistently picked up runs and hits. Meanwhile, Illinois seemed rattled and a bit out of focus. The inning ended with Penn State trailing 11-7.

In the seventh inning, Illinois got back on track with Chad Rogers on the mound for Penn State. Jared Comia doubled, which scored Doligale to tack on another run. Rogers proceeded to load the bases, which again put Illinois in a desirable situation with no outs. McDonald hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score another run. Then, another run scored on a fielder’s choice. Illinois gained a 14-7 lead, which was a difficult lead to overcome that late in a ballgame. 

Fast-forward to the ninth inning, and Illinois got one more run after a close play at the plate to make it a 15-7 ballgame. Rogers then exited the game under his own power after being hit in the cheek by a line drive. On that play, Illinois scored one run to make it a 16-7 game.

Carson Ertter entered the game in place of Rogers for his first appearance of the season. Ertter loaded the bases and then walked a batter, which gave Illinois a 17-7 lead. Then, a wild pitch allowed another run to score to make it 18-7. Rogers’ injury didn’t help things, but lackluster pitching had been a theme the entire game. 

Illinois had no problems putting Penn State away in the bottom of the ninth, wrapping up a massive 18-7 victory. The never-ending scoring extravaganza finally ended with a combined 25 runs coming across the plate

Takeaways

  • Besides holding Illinois scoreless in four innings, Penn State’s pitching was lackluster throughout much of the game. Eighteen runs and 17 hits were allowed, which is nowhere near good enough for a team aspiring to return to the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in a decade.
  • Despite the loss, Cole Bartels had a very good day for the Nittany Lions. Bartels went 4-for-5 with two RBI, a double, and a stolen base.
  • Moving forward, Penn State only needs to win one more game to clinch a Big Ten Tournament berth. The offense proved to be good enough against Illinois to get it done, but the pitching, on the other hand, was the team’s kryptonite.

What’s Next

Penn State and Illinois will play again at 6 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, May 20, at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a freshman majoring in journalism. From the Maryland side of the D.C. suburbs, Nolan likes using Old Bay and is a diehard Washington sports fan, which can be both difficult and rewarding. If you want to debate anything about sports with him, follow him on Instagram @_nolanwick or on Twitter @nolan_wick.

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