Illini Use 18 Hits to Top West Virginia, 17-10
Feb. 22, 2009
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Illinois scored six runs in the fourth inning and eight more in the sixth to recover from an early deficit and defeat West Virginia, 17-10, in the teams' final game in the inaugural Big East/Big Ten Challenge. Designated hitter Pete Cappetta had a career day, going 3-for-6 with a double, three RBIs and two runs, and catcher Aaron Johnson went 3-for-5 with a double, three RBIs and three runs to lead an Illini offense in which every player who went to the plate had at least one hit.
"Our hitters were patient and were ahead in the count a lot," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "And when they got pitches to hit, they did a good job of centering some balls after I didn't think we played well as a team yesterday. Today we came back and did a good job, so it was a nice way to end the tournament."
Illinois fell behind early after West Virginia posted three unearned runs in the opening frame thanks to an RBI single and a two-run double. But the Illini got one back in the bottom of the first after Mountaineer pitcher Chad Pickering struggled with his control and walked the bases loaded. Pickering forced home left fielder Casey McMurray from third after issuing another free pass to first baseman Matt Dittman.
West Virginia went ahead 5-1 after a two-run double in the second. But Illinois kept chipping away, getting a run in the bottom half when second baseman Josh Parr walked, moved to second on a passed ball, advanced to third on center fielder Joe Bonadonna's sacrifice bunt and scored on shortstop Brandon Wikoff's single to make it 5-2. Pickering was lifted in the second after using 69 pitches and walking seven in just 1 2/3 innings.
The Mountaineers got the run back in the third but the Illini exploded in the fourth, an inning that started with consecutive walks to McMurray and Wikoff. One out later, Johnson singled home McMurray and Dittman walked to load the bases. Cappetta drove in Wikoff with an infield hit, chasing reliever Marcus Broadwater after just 1 2/3 innings. Right fielder Craig Lutes walked, driving in Johnson, and Parr's single to right brought home Dittman. Bonadonna brought home two more with a base hit to center, putting Illinois ahead, 8-5.
Freshman Will Strack, who entered in the fourth and tossed a scoreless frame, kept the Mountaineers off the board in the fifth. The Illini responded with a run in the bottom half then, after West Virginia tallied a run in the sixth, tacked on an eight-run sixth inning.
McMurray reached on an infield hit and Wikoff walked. Altobelli loaded the bases with a single and Johnson drove in two with his single to right-center field. Dittman's single brought home Altobelli and Cappetta's double to right-center plated Johnson. Dittman came home on a wild pitch, then Lutes and Parr walked to reload the bags. Bonadonna scored Cappetta with a sacrifice fly and McMurray's base hit brought home Lutes. Wikoff loaded the bases once more with a single and Altobelli's walk forced in Parr, making Illinois' lead 17-7.
The Mountaineers scored two in the seventh added another in the eighth to reach the final score of 17-10.
Strack recorded his first career victory while Bonadonna, McMurray, Wikoff and Dittman all had two-hit games in addition to the three-hit efforts by Johnson and Cappetta. Bonadonna drove in three and stole a base, Dittman drove in two and scored twice, McMurray scored three times and Wikoff, Lutes and Parr each scored twice. McMurray, Wikoff and Dittman each drew three walks in a game that saw the Illini record 16 free passes while issuing just four.
As a conference, the Big Ten won six of eight games on Sunday to win the inaugural Big East/Big Ten Challenge by a 15-9 margin.
"It was a good weekend for the Big Ten," Hartleb said. "It's good for our conference and it shows that we can compete with some of the better schools in the country. Our conference continues to get better and better."
Up Next: Illinois travels to Edinburg, Texas, for the Al Ogletree Classic, hosted by Texas-Pan American, next weekend. The Illini open the tournament with a 7 p.m. contest against the host Broncs on Friday, February 27.