Illini break out the brooms

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | MAY 12, 2014 5:00 AM

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There was no storybook ending for the Iowa baseball team on Senior Day, as the Hawks fell to Illinois, 4-2.

In a game in which the Hawkeyes battled both the elements and the Illini, the Black and Gold dropped their third-straight contest to Illinois, a loss that went nine rain-soaked innings and was delayed nearly three hours.

“The only time I’ve ever played through that long of a delay was in summer ball,” junior Eric Toole said. “It’s just different. Obviously, it kind of hinders your focus a little bit, but you’ve got to go out there and try to win it regardless.”

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The loss puts the Hawkeyes at 8-13 in Big Ten play, setting the Black and Gold up with a showdown at Purdue next weekend that could determine their fate in (or out of ) the Big Ten Tournament.

“Illinois was primed to get beat today if we had been our normal selves offensively, but that just wasn’t the case,” head coach Rick Heller said. “I thought we came out with a good hop in our step and had good energy, but we just didn’t get it done again.”

Things started off roughly for the Hawks in the first inning, with Tyler Peyton giving up a solo home run to Illinois center fielder Will Krug on the first pitch of the game.

And while the Hawkeyes mounted several spirited comeback attempts, they failed to overcome an elite Illinois pitching staff for the third-straight game, succumbing to their first Big Ten sweep since dropping three straight to Indiana in early April.

Despite the loss, injuries became the story of the day for Iowa yet again, with Peyton leaving the game after injuring his shoulder during warm-ups.

He went just three innings for the Hawks, giving up 5 hits and 2 earned runs.

Peyton’s early exit began a seemingly endless rotation of arms for the Black and Gold.

Junior Andrew Hedrick, sophomore Tyler Radtke, and junior Nick Hibbing all saw time in relief, with Radtke making the longest appearance of the trio, two and a half innings.

“The craziest thing is that even with our pitching and Peyton going down, our bullpen still pitched well enough for us to win,” Heller said. “I feel like we just started to lose our confidence because things weren’t going our way.”

Sunday’s story was the same for Heller’s squad as it has been the last two games. Despite playing through injury and getting some big hits, the Hawks just didn’t get the bounces they needed.

Call it bad luck. Call it fate. Call it whatever you want, but no matter what way you spin it, it’s clear that the Hawks have hit their roughest patch of the season.

What’s more, the skid comes at the tail end of conference play, when every win and loss becomes magnified in the Big Ten standings.

A win at Purdue next weekend would guarantee Iowa’s spot in the Big Ten Tournament, so while Heller and the Hawks still have some work to do, no one is ready to push the panic button just yet.

“We need to take this short week we have and get back to basics,” junior Jake Yacinich said. “The things we do well make us a good team, so if we get back to that, we’ll be all right.

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