April 12, 2013
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-- On a night in which the wind was blowing out in an already hitter-friendly ballpark, Purdue baseball's two big innings were not enough for a win in a 17-12 loss to Illinois in the series opener Friday evening.
The Boilermakers (11-20, 4-6 Big Ten) scored four times in the first inning and seven times in the top of the eighth. But the Fighting Illini (20-10, 3-4 Big Ten) put up an eight spot in the bottom of the first and went on to score in six of the eight innings in which they batted.
Cody Strong and Kyle Johnson each connected for a three-run homer to left field in the eighth inning. Neither long ball appeared to be wind aided on a night in which the wind was consistently blowing out to center field. Both freshmen went deep for the first time in their college careers. It marked the first time this year the Boilers hit two homers in a game, much less the same inning.
A pair of misplays by Purdue outfielders proved to be big plays in the game. Strong misjudged a fly ball to left field off the bat of Michael Hurwitz with two outs and the bases loaded in the first inning. It got over his head for a three-run double.
With two men on in the seventh, David Kerian hit a blooper to right field that Conner Hudnall got caught in between on. The ball dropped for a hit and skipped by Hudnall, going to the wall for what was ruled a three-run inside the park homer.
Hurwitz and Kerian both had four hits and finished the night a combined 8-for-9 with 10 RBI, three walks and five runs scored. Coincidentally, Big Ten batting average leader Justin Parr made two outs in the Illini's eight-run first inning. He extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a single in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Purdue catcher Jack Picchiotti made a pair of good plays on foul pops up to account for the first two outs of the first inning. If he had not stayed with and made the play on those pop ups on a windy night, Illinois may have had an even bigger first-inning rally.
An opponent posted a double-figure run total against the Boilers for the fourth straight game. Purdue pitchers gave up a season-high 20 hits for the third time this year. It was Purdue's first game in which both teams scored 10-plus runs since a 15-11 win at UCLA in May of last season. The 12 runs were the Boilers' most in a loss since suffering a 22-14 defeat at Missouri in March 2010.
Purdue's seven-run eighth inning marked the team's second-biggest rally of the season. But the eight-run inning rally for Illinois was also the second biggest the Boilers had surrendered this year.
Strong finished the night with three hits and three RBI, both season highs. Four other Boilers had two hits. Purdue recorded a season-high 10 hits against Illini ace Kevin Johnson (5-2), who managed to put up three consecutive scoreless innings after giving up five runs in the first two frames. Kyle Wood, Sean McHugh and Brandon Krieg delivered RBI singles in the four-run first.
Strong was thrown out at home by Illinois right fielder Davis Hendrickson while trying to score on a two-out single from Wood in the top of the second. It was a close play at the plate in which the catcher initially missed the tag, but the home plate umpire ruled that Strong didn't touch the plate as he dove across the batter's box head first.
Purdue starter Jordan Minch (4-4) was only able to retire one of the eight batters he faced before getting lifted with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning. It marked the second time this season Minch wasn't able to get out of the first inning. Along with a leadoff home run by Thomas Lindauer, the big hit against Minch was a two-run single to the wall in right field with the bases loaded by Kerian. The Boilermakers went on to use seven pitchers in the game.
Illinois had at least one hit in every inning. Mike Lutz was able to pitch over a two-out double in the bottom of the second and Lutz and Tim McElroy teamed up for a scoreless fourth inning, marking the only frames in which the Fighting Illini did not score.
Game two of the series is slated for Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.