Four runs in 27 innings.
That’s all the offense the Iowa baseball team could muster in a three losses to Illinois. The Illini completed the sweep Sunday with a 4-2 win over the Hawkeyes (27-20, 8-13 Big Ten) at Duane Banks Field in 5 hours, 48 minutes. There was a rain delay of 2 hours, 55 minutes.
The three games were an unusual departure from the Hawkeyes’ typical output, as they lead the Big Ten on-base percentage, and are second in batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored and hits.
Sunday’s contest was tied twice — 1-1 after the first inning and 2-2 after the fourth — but Illinois (30-17, 16-5) pulled in front with a run in the fifth and a run in the sixth to stake out a 4-2 advantage.
“This weekend doesn’t define who we are,” Iowa coach Rick Heller said. “It was a bad weekend, and we picked a bad time to have one, offensively. I thought our pitchers really battled for us and gave us a chance. When we have a bad weekend against the best arms we’ve seen this year, that’s a bad combination.”
Like Friday and Saturday, Iowa couldn’t produce with runners on base.
Heller’s squad left 10 runners on base, and six of those were in scoring position. Perhaps the best chance to tie or take the lead was in the fifth inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, No. 5 hitter Jimmy Frankos lined out to Illini second baseman Reid Roper to end the frame.
Shortstop Jake Yacinich said he isn’t concerned with the team’s lack of offense moving forward.
“We’ve done it all year, except for this weekend,” Yacinich said. “That’s just a really small sample size. Everybody has faith in each other, and everybody has faith in themselves that when the time comes, we’re going to get it done. It’s all about sticking to your routine.”
Iowa’s three losses in a row, along with other movement within the Big Ten, created a significant shift in the conference standings. The top eight teams in the league advance to the Big Ten Tournament later this month in Omaha, Neb.
The Hawkeyes are alone in eighth place, three games ahead of Purdue. Iowa faces the Boilermakers Thursday through Saturday, the latter needing a sweep to upend the former. But that would be quite a collapse by the Hawkeyes, who have suddenly left little room for error in the first season under Heller.
“The more you think about it and talk about it, the worse it gets,” Heller said. “Just go play the game and try to have fun (against Purdue). People always say you’ve got to go out and have fun. Well, it’s not much fun when you’re losing and you’re in a slump. They go hand in hand. You just have to try and keep your confidence.”