DH Mike Giller ripped his first home run of the year in the fourth inning against Western Carolina.
March 6, 2010
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Illinois got solid performances from three pitchers but was inconsistent in driving in runners in scoring position as it fell to Western Carolina, 4-2, at the Keith LeClair Classic at Clark-LeClair Stadium. Designated hitter Mike Giller hit his first home run of the season and Kevin Manson provided 2 1/3 innings of shutout relief as the Illini dropped to 1-4 on the season.
"We pitched well enough to win today," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "But we had some opportunities to score runs and we didn't execute well. The times we had chances for big innings, we hit balls right on the nose at some fielders and they got multiple outs on those plays."
The Orange and Blue started that trend in the second inning when first baseman Matt Dittman drew a leadoff walk and left fielder Casey McMurray singled up the middle. But second baseman Pete Cappetta smashed a ball at the third baseman that ended up going as a triple play when he tagged Dittman and doubled up McMurray at first.
The Catamounts responded in the bottom half of the inning with a leadoff double, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI single to take a 1-0 lead. WCU tacked on a run in the third with a leadoff homer but Illinois got it back on Giller's dinger in the top of the fourth. That inning looked eve more promising as catcher Aaron Johnson was then hit by a pitch and stole second. After an out, he moved to third on a bad pickoff throw by the pitcher. One out later, Cappetta walked, but third baseman Brandon Hohl struck out to end the inning after a nine-pitch at bat.
WCU added another run in the fourth on a bunt single and an RBI double, pushing its lead to 3-1. The Catamounts pushed across a run in the fifth with two outs when Hohl's bad throw kept the inning alive and allowed a run to score.
Illinois looked to rally in the seventh when McMurray and Cappetta started the inning with back-to-back singles. McMurray was put out at third after the pitcher fielded Hohl's come-backer, then Hohl was put out at second but the relay throw for the double play was no good, allowing Cappetta to score and cutting WCU's lead to 4-2.
The Illini tried to grab the momentum in the eighth when center fielder Willie Argo knocked a leadoff single and stole second. One out later, Johnson singled up the middle, putting runners at the corners. Dittman was hit with a pitch to load them up, but McMurray lined into a double play to kill the rally.
After Manson allowed consecutive singles to start the eighth, he was replaced by Lee Zerrusen, who fielded a sacrifice bunt for the first out then walked the next man to load the bases. He put out the lead runner on a come-backer to the mound then coaxed a flyout to end the inning without WCU scoring.
McMurray was the lone Illini with multiple hits, as he was 2-for-4. Manson allowed three hits over 2 1/3 shutout innings of relief, not giving up a walk, and Zerrusen walked one but kept the Catamounts off the board in his only inning of work.
The Illini finish action in the Keith LeClair Classic Sunday at 9 a.m. CT against West Virginia.