To the surprise of a lot of people -- myself included -- the Illini actually led this game early. In fact, after four innings the Illini had a 4-2 lead. The reason this was surprising was because Vanderbilt is not only one of the best teams in the country, but because the Illini were facing Tyler Beede. A first round MLB draft pick who went 14-0 with a 2.05 ERA this season.
Unfortunately for the Illini, baseball games are nine innings long. Not four.
Vandy would take a 5-4 lead in the fifth and then the Illini would be robbed of the tying run on a terrible interference call by the home plate umpire in the next inning. And while the call infuriated me -- I'm heading out the door to BURN NASHVILLE TO THE GROUND as soon as I hit publish -- it unfortunately didn't matter in the long run.
No, the circus would come to town in the form of the Illini infield in the eighth inning as Vandy would put five more runs on the board.
And the fact of the matter is you can't beat a team as good as Vanderbilt when you play as poorly as the Illini did.
Yeah, they scored four runs off Beede, but they only had two hits off him. It was Beede's five walks that killed him. On he night the Illini had only five hits, which was barely more than their three errors, and two less than their seven walks.
And they had plenty of chances thanks to those walks, it's just the Illini couldn't take advantage of them. They went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position on the night.
So, long story short, when you can't drive in baserunners, you can't get the other team out -- Vandy had 17 hits on the night -- and you can't field, you aren't going to win against most teams, let alone Vanderbilt.
The good news is that this loss doesn't knock the Illini out of the tournament. They will get a rematch with Georgia Tech tomorrow afternoon at 2pm. If the Illini can win that game they'll move on to play Vanderbilt yet again in the Regional Final. Of course, they'll have to beat them twice, and to do that they'll have to play a lot better than they did tonight.