LINCOLN, Neb. (UI Release) - The Illini came up on the wrong end of a pitcher's duel on Thursday night, dropping the opener to No. 28 Nebraska, 2-1, at Haymarket Park. Redshirt-junior Drasen Johnson (5-6) threw his second career eight-inning complete game, but suffered the loss for the second time this year while doing so. Illinois struck out 12 times and only managed three hits, equaling its season low.
"Drasen's record is not indicative of the way he has thrown," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "Offensively, we haven't done a very good job with him on the mound. He threw very well and deserved a better outcome. I was disappointed with our hitters striking out. We swung at pitches out of the zone and didn't have good plate discipline. It was a very good college baseball game, but we have to put the ball in play more."
Illinois (30-18) dropped to third place in the Big Ten at 16-6 and one game behind second-place Nebraska (36-17) at 17-5. The Illini saw their season-long seven-game winning streak come to an end and fell for the first time on the road in a Big Ten game (9-1). UI also had won eight consecutive one-run games before tonight.
Johnson allowed five hits and recorded five strikeouts while throwing 86 pitches and matching his career-high of eight innings. He allowed a two-out solo home run to Austin Darby in the second and leadoff hitter Ryan Boldt started the sixth with a line drive home run to right. The Chillicothe, Illinois, native retired the final nine Huskers following the second solo shot.
Johnson also was the tough-luck loser in a complete-game 1-0 loss to Western Kentucky on March 8. He has received the least support among Illini starters at 2.5 runs per game this season.
Junior Casey Fletcher extended his hitting streak to six games with the first Illini base knock in the second, as the 4-5-6 hitters were the only ones with hits in the lineup. Junior David Kerian drew a one-out walk in the fourth and moved to third on a single by sophomore Jason Goldstein. Redshirt-junior Reid Roper blooped an RBI single to right, bringing home Kerian as the lone Illini run that tied it at one.
Up Next: Illinois will look to rebound on Friday at 6:35 p.m. in game two of the series against Nebraska. Kevin Duchene (2-1, 1.88 ERA) will get the start against Aaron Bummer (6-3, 3.95 ERA).