Vanderbilt Dominates Illini, 13-0
The Illini baseball team isn’t used to losing much this season, let alone at home. But they find themselves on the brink of elimination after a tough 13-0 loss to Vanderbilt in Saturday’s NCAA Super Regional.
It was just their third home loss of the year, breaking an Illini 19-game home winning streak.
Coach Dan Hartleb said it came down to fundamentals.
“We walked guys, we hit guys, and we made errors," he said. And when you do that to a good team, you come out on the short end. So I think we go our mistakes out of the way for the weekend, and we have to move forward.”
Illinois fell behind 3-0 in the first inning, with 3 hits and an RBI groundout scattered around a hit batter, and walk by starter Kevin Duchene, who lasted just 4 innings.
A run scored on a balk by the starter in the 3rd. And error and an obstruction call on a rundown between third base and home centered around 4 more Vanderbilt runs in the 5th inning. Five other relievers finished up the lopsided game.
Duchene admits he simply ‘didn’t have it’ Saturday. But he also said Vanderbilt’s experience as defending national champs and multiple tournament appearances has been overplayed.
“I believe in the ability of our team – no matter who we’re up against, somebody’s who’s been there 10 times, or somebody who’s been there – never," he said. "As coach said, we didn’t do key things right today.”
Offensively, Illini fans had little to cheer about – 5 singles, two of which came in the first inning. Both real scoring opportunities in the 1st and 7th innings were wiped out by double play balls. Ryan Nagle led Illinois with two hits. Vanderbilt starter Carson Fulmer, a potential early major league draft pick this week, also walked five, but struck out five in his six and a third innings.
(pictured: Illinois outfielder Casey Fletcher is being held on at first base while Vanderbilt starter Carson Fulmer prepares to deliver.)
The Commodores’ right fielder, Rhett Wiseman, believes the experience has been a factor for them.
“Coach (Vanderbilt Coach Tim Corbin) always talks about having a slow heartbeat in games like this," he said. "And basically what that is – is the ability to slow the game down, and not have the game speed up on you. I think when you have veteran guys out there, who have been in situations like that before, we know how to handle adversity.”
Vanderbilt’s 13 runs came on 15 hits – 3 by Wiseman, and 2 by shortstop Dansby Swanson, another potential early big league draft pick. They Commodores also hit two home runs late.
Illinois hopes to force a game 3 on Monday by winning Sunday. UPDATE - it’s been moved from 8 to 5 p.m. because of the threat of inclement weather, and Tyler Jay - who's also being monitored by big league scouts, and expected to be picked in the MLB draft Monday - has been slated as the starting pitcher. It's just his second start of the year.