Illini Fall 7-6 to Tennessee Tech on Walk-Off Homer
Feb. 17, 2013
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - For the second day in a row, Illinois (1-2) fell to Tennessee Tech (2-1) by one run, suffering a 7-6 defeat on a walk-off home run by the Golden Eagles. Designated hitter Brandon Thomasson hit a solo shot over the right field wall at Bush Stadium with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to steal the series from the Illini.
"I was disappointed overall with the series," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We didn't handle pressure situations very well. We elevated too many pitches up in the zone when they needed to be down at the knees."
The Illini battled back twice to tie it in the seventh and eighth innings, but could never regain the lead and finished with 13 strikeouts.
"We had many opportunities to jump ahead or break games open, but we struck out way too much," Hartleb said.
After falling behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first, Illinois responded right away with two runs in the top of the second. With two outs and runners on first and second, freshman Jason Goldstein knocked in redshirt-sophomore Reid Roper by finding a hole up the middle and moved up to second on the throw. After a walk loaded the bases, senior Davis Hendrickson hit a hard grounder to the right side that was mishandled by the TTU second baseman, allowing sophomore David Kerian to cross the plate. The Illini capitalized on the walks to Roper and Kerian to take an early 2-1 lead.
The Golden Eagles grabbed a 3-2 advantage in the third on an RBI single and a sacrifice fly.
Tennessee Tech tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning on back-to-back bases loaded walks. Redshirt-sophomore Rob McDonnell came on for freshman Nick Blackburn with two runners on in the fifth inning and got an out at home before allowing the two free passes. Junior Ronnie Muck then entered the game and prevented any further damage by inducing a foul out to first.
Muck made a stellar defensive play to save a run in the sixth and keep the Illini within three. With runners on second and third and one out, the Park Ridge, Ill., native fielded a chopper at the mound, froze the runner at third and chased him down and applied the tag before he could slide back to the base.
Following four scoreless innings, the Illini used an RBI double, an RBI infield single and four walks to score three runs and tie it up at five in the top of the seventh. Sophomore Michael Hurwitz notched his second hit of the day and knocked in Lindauer on a double to left center for the first run. A wild pitch and a walk put runners on the corners for Jordan Parr, who knocked in Hurwitz on a hard-hit ground ball to third base. After a strikeout, two-straight walks allowed the tying run home. The Illini couldn't regain the lead after a strikeout with the bases loaded ended the threat.
Illinois fell behind for a third time in the bottom of the seventh on a Golden Eagle RBI double off freshman Tyler Jay that made it 6-5. But the Illini battled back immediately with a run in the top of the eighth to tie it at six. Hendrickson walked, stole second and advanced to third on a groundout before Justin Parr sent him home on a chopper up the middle with two outs.
Jay needed just eight pitches to work a perfect eighth inning and threw five pitches to get the first two outs of the ninth before giving up the game-winning home run on an 0-1 count.
Seven of Illinois' eight hits came from the Illini's two through five hitters, as Hurwitz and both Parrs collected two hits and Roper added another. The rest of the Illini lineup struggled on Sunday, combining to go 1-for-18.
Illinois will be back in action next week when they travel to the Keith LeClair Classic in Greenville, N.C., from Feb. 21-24. The Illini will play four games in four days, starting on Thursday against host East Carolina.