One day after the Iowa bats buoyed a Hawkeye win, the Illinois offense loudly returned the favor. The Hawkeyes, though, made it interesting late.
The No. 22 Fighting Illini lit up starter Brady Schanuel and then had to hold off a furious Iowa rally, escaping with a 13-12 win on Saturday afternoon at Illinois Field.
Schanuel dominated Indiana in his last start — an outing that led to a Big Ten Conference co-pitcher of the week award — but he just didn’t have it Saturday. Illinois (17-6, 4-1 Big Ten) put one up in the second and put the first eight men on in its emphatic third.
Schanuel couldn’t make it out of the frame, yielding seven hits, six runs and two walks in two-plus innings. Reliever Kyle Shimp entered for Schanuel in the third and continued to struggle, allowing three hits and three runs without recording an out.
Eight of nine starting Illini picked up hits, and five of those had multihit showings. Junior slugger Bren Spillane and left fielder Doran Turchin each clubbed homers in Illinois’ riveting third, which handed the Illini a 10-1 lead.
That seemed to be more than enough, but Iowa (15-9, 2-2) awoke with authority in the ninth. Trailing 13-5, the Hawkeyes drew a pair of walks, and Tanner Wetrich launched a three-run homer to pull Iowa within five. Five of the next six Hawkeye hitters reached, with Zion Pettigrew and Robert Neustrom each picking up RBI singles.
Iowa was within two, 13-11, after Neustrom’s two-run knock, and Tyler Cropley’s sacrifice fly followed to move the Hawkeyes within one — the tying run on first. But Kyle Crowl struck out to end the rally just short of an epic comeback.
The Hawkeyes had a great opportunity for a series win after taking Friday’s opener, but Iowa will now need a strong performance from Sunday starter Cole McDonald to do so.
Sunday’s finale begins at 2 p.m. on Big Ten Network.
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.