Pitching Propels Illini to 3-2 Win Over UTA
March 1, 2009
EDINBURG, Texas - Senior Ben Reeser scattered six hits, allowing just one earned run over 7 2/3 innings while striking out six to lead the Fighting Illini to a 3-2 win over Texas-Arlington and give Illinois the Al Ogletree Classic championship after going 3-0 on the weekend. Third baseman Dominic Altobelli drove in a pair and freshman shortstop Josh Parr had a run-scoring triple to cap a weekend during which he hit .700.
"Our pitchers responded this week; they were outstanding," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "You have to learn to win close games and our guys stayed composed and were able to pull this one out. Ben had command of three pitches down in the strike zone, showed great composure and had an outstanding outing. He pitched well in a game where we weren't very productive offensively, so it was important to get the production from him that we received."
Illinois struck first, scoring a run in the fourth without the benefit of the hit. Center fielder Joe Bonadonna made it to second to leadoff the inning when the left fielder dropped his fly ball and, one out later, shortstop Brandon Wikoff got on via an error by the UTA shortstop. Third baseman Dominic Altobelli's sacrifice fly to center brought home Bonadonna and gave the Illini a 1-0 lead.
The Orange and Blue added another run in the fifth when right fielder Craig Lutes broke up the no-hit bid with an infield single off the pitcher's glove and second baseman Josh Parr smashed a triple to right-center to drive in Lutes and increase Illinois' lead to 2-0.
The Illini tacked on one more in the sixth after left fielder Casey McMurray singled and moved to third when the first baseman missed the pick-off throw from the catcher. Wikoff walked and Altobelli ripped a single through the middle to bring home McMurray for a 3-0 lead.
But the Mavs got a run back in the bottom of the seventh on consecutive doubles to start the inning. Reeser fought back, though, inducing a grounder to third, getting a strikeout and forcing a groundout to second to end the inning with the Illini staked to a 3-1 lead.
UTA crept ever closer in the eighth when left fielder Preston McCoy reached on an error, advanced on a groundout and scored on a single to center, cutting Illinois' lead to 3-2. But Billy Barrett relieved Ben Reeser and induced a groundout by former high school teammate Matt Otteman on his first pitch to escape the inning.
Reeser was excellent in his 7 2/3 innings of work, allowing two runs - one earned - on six hits with six strikeouts and no walks. He used 97 pitches, 68 strikes, and induced 14 ground-ball outs with only two flyouts. Barrett needed just one pitch to retire the only batter he faced and junior John Anderson recorded his first career save by pitching a scoreless ninth inning, striking out the game's final hitter.
Lutes led the Illini at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a run, while Parr was 1-for-3 with a triple and an RBI. Altobelli also went 1-for-3, driving in a pair of runs.
On the weekend, Parr was 7-for-10 with five RBIs and was perfect in the field. Catcher Aaron Johnson drove in four and Cappetta scored three times and stole three bases. Five of the seven Illini pitchers who saw action on the weekend didn't allow an earned run and the staff combined to strike out 16 hitters while walking only four. Illinois hurlers also limited opponents to a .186 batting average and posted a 0.67 ERA on the weekend.
The Orange and Blue return home before traveling to Baton Rouge, La., to face No. 1 LSU in a three-game series next weekend. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. on Friday.