Senior Justin Parr matched a career high with four hits on Saturday, as the Illini fell to 1-1 on the year.
Feb. 16, 2013
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - On a cold Saturday afternoon, Illinois (1-1) suffered its first loss of the season, dropping a 6-5 decision to Tennessee Tech (1-1) in a game that featured two short snow delays at Bush Stadium. Senior Justin Parr matched a career high by going 4-for-5 and had three RBI, but was left stranded at third base when the final out was recorded.
"It was a game where Tennessee Tech played well, but also one that we let get away from us," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "It was a cold day with two snow delays, but both teams played in it. We've got to find a way to win no matter what the conditions are."
After putting up five runs in the first four innings, the Illini were held scoreless over the final five frames. They threatened to tie it up in the ninth inning, but couldn't get the tying run across the plate. Justin Parr led off the inning with a first-pitch double to right center and advanced to third on a groundout to second by Jordan Parr. After a strikeout and a second hit by pitch for senior Brandon Hohl, Illinois had runners at first and third with two outs but saw the game come to an end on a flyout to center.
"I was very pleased with what Justin and Jordan did in the ninth inning," Hartleb said. "Justin got the big double and Jordan moved him over by hitting to the right side. But then we didn't execute from there."
A five-minute snow delay halted the game briefly in the top of the first with Justin Parr at the plate. Once the teams returned to the field, Parr sent the first pitch into left field to score sophomore Michael Hurwitz, who had walked and stolen second. Parr, who advanced to second on the throw, stole third and scored on his twin brother's RBI single up the middle. Jordan Parr then stole second and third, giving the Illini a total of four stolen bases in the inning. A hit by pitch and a walk loaded the bases, but a flyout to center ended the Illini attack.
The Illini fell behind for the first time this season following a four-run third inning by the Golden Eagles. TTU started the inning with three-straight hits and got on the board with an RBI single. After a walk, Tech took a 4-2 lead with a two-run double and a sacrifice fly.
"We started off the game pretty well with two runs in the first, but then had some pitching trouble in the middle innings," Hartleb said. "We had way too many pitches elevated. We had some key situations where we needed to have some balls down in the zone to get some ground balls. We didn't execute very well from a pitching standpoint."
Illinois came right back in the top of the fourth and retook the lead, scoring three runs on four hits. With one out, freshman Jason Goldstein singled to center and advanced to second on an infield single by junior Thomas Lindauer. The Illini catcher then motored home on a single to left field by senior Davis Hendrickson. Hurwitz's second walk loaded the bases before Justin Parr found a hole on the left side and knocked in two, giving the Illini a 5-4 advantage.
A Golden Eagle RBI double in the fifth evened the contest at five apiece and forced an Illini pitching change. Redshirt-sophomore Drasen Johnson relieved freshman starter Kevin Duchene and threw one pitch to get the final out of the frame.
The Illini had a scoring opportunity in the sixth with runners at first and third, but Jordan Parr was robbed on a hard-hit liner to right field to end the inning. The Orange and Blue fell behind in the bottom half of the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly, which proved to be the winning run for Tennessee Tech.
"Offensively, we continued to swing the bat well, but we didn't come up with the two-out hits like we did yesterday, which could have made a difference," Hartleb said.
After going 5-for-14 with eight RBI in the opener with two outs, Illinois was just 3-for-11 with no RBI when hitting with two outs and left 11 runners on base on Saturday.
Duchene gave up five runs over 4 2/3 innings in his Illini debut and received a no decision. Johnson was pinned with the loss after giving up the go-ahead sacrifice fly, but only allowed two hits over 2 1/3 innings. Junior Ronnie Muck needed just 10 pitches to get through his first appearance of the year during a perfect eighth inning.
Six Illini are hitting .300 or better through two games, led by Justin Parr (.636), who has seven hits in 11 at-bats. Hohl (.429) has reached base six out of 10 times thanks to three hits, two hit by pitches and a walk.
The Illini and Golden Eagles will take the field one final time on Sunday at 1 p.m. to close out the series. Freshman Nick Blackburn will be the second-straight freshman to start for the Illini, as he will go up against TTU's Jacob Honea in the rubber game.