Solid Pitching Holds Off Aggies, 3-2
Feb. 23, 2013
GREENVILLE, N.C. - On a cold and rainy Saturday at Clark-LeClair Stadium, Illinois (3-3) received its best pitching performance of the season thus far in a 3-2 victory over New Mexico State (3-3). Sophomore John Kravetz allowed two runs over 6.1 innings and earned the win in his first start of the year. Freshman Tyler Jay held onto the lead out of the bullpen, while redshirt-sophomore Reid Roper sat down the Aggies on eight pitches in the ninth to pick up the save in his first appearance.
"This was far and away the best pitched game we have had all year," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "John Kravetz did a nice job and got us deep into the game. Tyler Jay came in and gave us a quality inning before Reid Roper shut the door in the ninth."
After dropping a pair of one-run games last weekend, the Illini came out on top in the close contest thanks to nine strikeouts and just one walk from its pitching staff. Illinois also took advantage of four NMSU errors and did not commit an error for the fourth time in six games this year.
"It was nice to win a close game," Hartleb said. "We have lost two one-run games this year, so it was important for us to be in a situation with a tight game where everyone did their job."
Kerian kept up his hot hitting and gave the Illini a run in the first inning for the third-straight game. His RBI bloop single to center scored sophomore Michael Hurwitz, who started at second base for the first time this season. NMSU got back even in the bottom half, scoring a run after three consecutive singles before grounding into a double play to end the first.
The game remained tied over the next four innings until the Illini jumped back in front 2-1 on another RBI single in the sixth. Redshirt-junior Jordan Parr singled and advanced to second on a failed pickoff attempt to get into scoring position. Junior Thomas Lindauer knocked in Parr with a solid liner into left field.
"The hitters did a nice job scoring enough runs to win," Hartleb said. "We weren't overpowering from an offensive standpoint, but we came up with some key hits and found a way to scratch a couple across late."
In the seventh inning, the fourth Aggie error allowed Illinois' third run to cross the plate. With two outs and runners on second and third, Hurwitz scampered home when the NMSU catcher's pickoff throw deflected off him and got away from the third baseman.
"Mike didn't hesitate or question his decision," Hartleb said. "He got a great jump and that was the difference in the game."
Freshman Tyler Jay relieved Kravetz with one out and runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh. Jay got out of the inning with a groundout to first and a strikeout, but let in a run on a wild pitch, cutting the Illini lead in half to 3-2. Jay then kept the Illini in front with a scoreless eighth, and Roper closed the door with two strikeouts and a flyout to end the game.
Senior Justin Parr turned in his fifth multi-hit game of the year, going 2-for-4 to keep his team-leading batting average at .519 (14-for-27). Sophomore David Kerian finished 2-for-3 with a walk and has reached base in eight of his last nine plate appearances.
"Our guys did a great job being mentally prepared," Hartleb said. "It rained all day and into the second inning, but our guys fought through the conditions and remained focused. East Carolina and its grounds crew also did a great job getting the field ready to play."
Illinois will play its final game of the Keith LeClair Classic on Sunday morning at 8 a.m. CT against Boston College.