Illini Drop Finale to FGCU, 5-1
Feb. 27, 2011
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Illinois tied Florida Gulf Coast with a run in the second inning but the Eagles scored twice in both the sixth and seventh innings to avoid the sweep with a 5-1 win at Swanson Stadium on Sunday. Center fielder Willie Argo went 2-for-4 and shortstop Josh Parr was 2-for-5 with a steal, but the Eagles took advantage of three Illini errors as the Orange and Blue slipped to 3-3 on the season. However, the series win over FGCU was Illinois' first against a Florida school since sweeping three games from South Florida on the second weekend of the 2006 campaign.
"We beat ourselves today," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We got in a jam in the sixth by not getting an out on a bunt play and flat-out missing a ball on a grounder to third with the bases loaded. Offensively, we weren't very productive with runners on base and I was disappointed that we didn't move base runners. That's something that we really need to improve on this week.
"But we made progress this weekend. We're better now than we were last Sunday. We really competed well in all aspects, but we just have to stop making mistakes and be a little smarter in some situations."
FGCU scored first, pushing a run across in the bottom of the first after a single, a sacrifice bunt and a throwing error on a stolen base, allowing the runner to scamper home for a 1-0 lead.
Illinois tied the game in the top of the second when first baseman Matt Dittman led off with a base hit and moved to third when the Eagles' third baseman made an error on a grounder by catcher Adam Davis. Second baseman Justin Parr brought him in with a sacrifice fly, evening the score at 1-1.
Both pitchers settled in over the middle innings, with Illini starter Corey Kimes working around a one-out ground-rule double in the third and a one-out single in the fourth. In the fifth, Kimes surrendered a leadoff double and Hartleb brought Matt Milroy out of the bullpen to relieve the left-hander. Milroy induced a line-out to center field and a pop-up to Parr at second before giving up a single that put runners at the corners. He fanned the next hitter to escape the inning, though, keeping the score tied.
But FGCU capitalized on a pair of errors in the bottom of the sixth to score two runs. Milroy gave up a leadoff walk and Parr mishandled a throw from Dittman on a bunt attempt, putting men at first and second. The runners moved up a station on a sacrifice bunt and a walk loaded the bases. Milroy struck out the next hitter but an error by third baseman Brandon Hohl allowed two runners to score, pushing the Eagles ahead, 3-1.
Florida Gulf Coast added two more in the bottom of the seventh after starting the inning with a ground-rule double. A grounder to first moved the runner to third, but Hohl threw out the runner trying to advance on a ground ball. A walk put runners on first and second, and a wild pitch moved them both up a station. A single to left-center brought in both runners, increasing FGCU's lead to 5-1.
DH Casey McMurray led off the eighth against a new pitcher with a walk, but Argo and Dittman struck out, and Davis flew out to right.
Freshman Luke Joyce pitched a strong eighth inning, needing only nine pitches to retire the Eagles in order. Hohl beat out an infield hit with one out in the ninth and Hendrickson walked on a 3-2 count. But pinch-hitter Thomas Shelton fouled out to the catcher and Josh Parr grounded out to the second baseman to end the game.
The Fighting Illini return to action next weekend at the Bright House Invitational, hosted by Stetson University. Illinois opens the tournament against Central Michigan, the preseason favorite in the Mid-American Conference West Division, Friday, March 4 at noon CT.