Illinois baseball: Gone with the wind
CHAMPAIGN – Danny Rhodes has an idea what it must be like to play in 3Com Park.
The University of Illinois junior got his indoctrination to playing in extremely windy conditions like those that exist at the San Francisco park as the Illini dropped three of four games to Purdue in a weekend series at Illinois Field.
"The field conditions were terrible," Rhodes said after Sunday's 18-11 loss to the Boilermakers in a game played in temperatures below 50 degrees and with wind gusts above 50 mph.
"My (three-run) homer (in the first inning) was definitely a wind-blown shot. It would have been just a fly to right on any other day.
"I was battling the sun as well as the wind to catch fly balls in the late innings. I got lucky and stuck my glove in the right place a couple of times."
Rhodes, however, wasn't making any excuses as the Illini dropped their third straight to the Boilermakers to fall to 6-6 in the Big Ten Conference and 15-16 overall.
"The fielding conditions were the same for both teams," Rhodes said. "We just didn't hit or field very well throughout the series."
Illini pitchers were responsible for some of the Purdue breaks as they walked 11, hit two and uncorked five wild pitches.
Catcher Shawn Targgart also was charged with two passed balls.
Anthony Grieco hit a pair of three-run homers and Robb Ramacher a two-run shot to stake the Boilermakers to a 9-4 lead in the second inning.
Grieco's clouts came off Illinois starter and loser Travis Rehrer. The first came after two walks, the second after a hit batsman and a single. Rehrer also hit Mike Rothstein before Cody Salter came in and was greeted by Ramacher's homer.
The Boilermakers increased their lead to 13-4 before the Illini's seven-run fifth. Purdue's Jason Howard had hit three Illini and walked another before Targgart's grand slam to right.
"It felt good off the bat," Targgart said of his first homer of the season. I just wish it had won the game for us.
"It was really rough behind the plate. Balls were going all over the place. Our pitchers had trouble getting the ball over the plate most of the time. They got a little too much over the plate a couple of other times."
Jeff Reider blanked the Illini in the sixth and seventh.
"We are going to have to win three out of four somewhere to stay in the conference race," Illini coach Itch Jones said. "We are going to have to play better baseball than we did this weekend to do that."