Ninth-Inning Comeback Gives Illini 4-3 Win at Baylor

Sophomore Michael Hurwitz hit a two-run homer in the first inning and scored the game-winning run in a ninth-inning comeback.
Sophomore Michael Hurwitz hit a two-run homer in the first inning and scored the game-winning run in a ninth-inning comeback.

March 8, 2013

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WACO, Texas - Sophomore Michael Hurwitz hit a two-run homer in the first inning and scored the game-winning run in the final frame, as Illinois used a ninth-inning comeback to defeat Baylor, 4-3, on Friday night. Redshirt-sophomore Reid Roper struck out two in the ninth for his second save of the season, while junior Ronnie Muck earned his first win of the year, helping the Illini improve to 8-4 overall.

"I was really proud of our guys tonight," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We stayed composed all night, and I was very pleased with our pitching. Michael Hurwitz did a great job. He has been very solid all year and extremely consistent, so I am always comfortable when he comes to the plate."

Trailing 3-2 in the top of the ninth, sophomore Will Krug and Hurwitz both walked to start the inning and advanced to second and third, respectively, on a wild pitch. Senior Justin Parr grounded out to second on a 1-2 count, which brought home the tying run in Krug. After an intentional walk to redshirt-junior Jordan Parr, sophomore David Kerian beat out an infield single to third that plated Hurwitz.

"We had two great at-bats to start the ninth," Hartleb said. "The person I was most proud of in that inning was Justin Parr, who just put the ball in play to second base to move the runners and score a run. David Kerian also found a way to put the ball in play and get us the big win."

Krug and Hurwitz also scored the first two runs of the game, as the Illini wasted no time jumping on the board at Baylor Ballpark in their first night game of the season. Krug led off the game with a double to left field, while Hurwitz launched a 1-2 pitch over the right field wall for his first career home run to give the Orange and Blue an early 2-0 advantage.

Illinois led for the first half of the contest, as senior Kevin Johnson retired 12 of the first 14 Baylor batters before giving up a pair of runs in the fifth inning. After the first two Bears reached, the Illini nearly turned a double play on a slap hit to second, but the batter was called safe at first, putting runners on the corners. A single to left brought home the first run before a walk and a bases-loaded sacrifice fly evened it up at two apiece.

After starting the bottom of the seventh with a flyout, Johnson gave up back-to-back singles and was replaced on the mound by freshman J.D. Nielsen, who escaped the inning unscathed. Freshman Jason Goldstein threw out a runner at second on a double steal before a groundout to second ended the stanza.

A single by Hohl in the top of the eighth snapped a streak of 19 straight Illini retired, but Illinois couldn't advance its first base runner since the first inning. Baylor took the lead in the bottom of the eighth on a misplayed ball in left field. After a hit by pitch, Mitch Price singled off Muck on a chopper to the left side that hit off Hohl's glove and got by left fielder Jordan Parr when he slipped fielding the ball, which allowed Adam Toth to score from first.

Johnson received a no decision after 6.1 innings of work in which he gave up two runs and struck out four. The Midlothian, Ill., native moved into fifth on the school's all-time list with 291.2 career innings pitched and took over eighth place on the career strikeouts list with 186.

The Illini have won seven of their last eight games and snapped Baylor's (7-7) three-game winning streak. The two teams will play a doubleheader at Baylor Ballpark on Saturday to close out the weekend series. Freshman Nick Blackburn will start against BU's Max Garner in game one at 2:05 p.m., while sophomore John Kravetz will take the hill against BU's Austin Stone in game two at 6:35 p.m.