Baseball lets lead slip away, falls to Illinois

BY DI STAFF | APRIL 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa baseball team (12-17, 2-4 Big Ten) crumbled in the late innings on Sunday and lost to Illinois (11-15, 3-3), 11-7, in Champaign, Ill.

The Hawkeyes held a 7-6 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth, but the Illini struck for five runs in the frame.

Iowa junior Patrick Lala picked up the loss after he gave up three earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of relief. He fell apart after he picked up two quick outs to start the eighth, hitting two batsmen and conceding a single. Hawkeye head coach Jack Dahm replaced Lala with Phil Keppler, who gave up a three-run home run, a single, and a five-pitch walk before finally retiring the side.

“We just ran of out gas a little bit there toward the end,” Dahm said. “We got as much out of those guys as we [could].”

Lala also struggled in the series opener on April 8, when he couldn’t stop the Illini from scoring twice in the eighth inning to steal a 4-3 win and waste a strong seven-inning performance from ace Jarred Hippen.

Iowa’s pitching was less than fabulous over the weekend — an injury to starter Nick Brown that forced Dahm to shuffle his lineup at the last second — but the offense continued to be impressive.

The Hawkeyes collected 30 hits and scored 17 runs in the three-game series, and have scored at least seven runs in four of their past five games.

“We had our opportunities to win,” Dahm said. “It was a tough weekend because two times, we were leading in the eighth inning and weren’t able to hold it … Our guys really battled, and we played some really good baseball this weekend.”

— by Seth Roberts

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