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Illinois swept by Iowa to open Big Ten play

The Illini failed to earn a conference win.

IllinoisAthletics

Illinois lost its Big Ten opener to Iowa.

Then it lost again.

And then, ope, it lost once more.

Illinois traveled to Iowa City this weekend to play its first Big Ten series of the season. On Friday, the most action happened toward the end of the game, where the Hawkeyes scored four in the eighth inning to secure the win.

The Illini struggled with keeping the lead with offense and then a struggle at the mound all amounted to their loss on Friday. Illinois trailed 3-0 and then scored one in the fifth and three in the sixth inning to take the lead. Iowa came back when Illinois walked five in the eighth. A bases loaded 3-2 walk on a pitch to Chris Whelan gave Iowa the lead, and Grant Judkins followed up with a two RBI single and Justin Jenkins had another bases loaded walk.

“You have to tip your cap to Iowa, they did a really good job,” said head coach Dan Hartleb to FightingIllini.com, “and we did some things to shoot ourselves in the foot.”

Iowa went 6-for-14 with runners in scoring position and Illinois went 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

The Hawkeyes clinched the series on Saturday with a controversial obstruction call at home plate. Iowa senior Tanner Wetrich singled in the second inning to score a run in the second inning, then junior Ben Norman tried to score from second base. Illinois catcher Jeff Korte received the throw from Michael Michalak and tagged Norman out, but the call was ruled that Korte blocked the plate.

Kellen Sarver helped lessen Iowa’s lead to one with a two-out RBI single in the fifth — extending his hitting streak to six games and reached-base streak to 12 games.

“I thought throughout the game we hit a number of balls hard right at people,” said Hartleb to FightingIllini.com. “That’s part of baseball.”

In the series finale, the Illini were relatively successful on offense as they outhit Iowa for the second consecutive game, but they stranded seven runners in scoring position in the process.

The Hawkeyes got all three of their runs in the third inning with two outs when Austin Martin had a two-RBI triple and then scored on a wild pitch.

Despite the great pitching performance from the bullpen, the Illini weren’t able to get much going offensively as they only generated one run throughout the game.

Illinois can get as many non-conference wins as they want, but if they can’t win in conference play, and struggle against other Big10 teams like they did with Iowa this weekend, then their record now won’t do them much justice going forward.

Tweet of the Weekend

What’s next?

The Illini welcome No. 12 Coastal Carolina on Tuesday and Wednesday as they look to get back to their winning ways from the beginning of the season, where they swept five of their first six weekend series.