Illinois Earns Doubleheader, Series Sweep at Baylor

Sophomore John Kravetz pitched eight innings and was charged the just one run in game two of the doubleheader at Baylor.
Sophomore John Kravetz pitched eight innings and was charged the just one run in game two of the doubleheader at Baylor.

March 9, 2013

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WACO, Texas - Illinois held Baylor scoreless for a span of 15.2 straight innings during the doubleheader on Saturday, as the Illini captured game one, 5-4 in 11 innings, and cruised to a 6-1 victory in game two. The Orange and Blue swept a three-game road series against a non-conference opponent for the first time since 2006 when they took three straight at South Florida from March 3-5. After starting the season 1-3, the Illini have won nine of their last 10 and boast a 10-4 record, which is currently tops in the Big Ten.

"We competed well and did a lot of good things this weekend," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We got very good pitching and had timely hitting along with making plays defensively when we needed them. I told the guys I am really proud of what they did here, but we can still do a lot of things better to improve as a team."

After giving up a home run in the fourth inning of game one, the Illinois pitching staff did not allow another run to score until the final inning of game two. The Illini hurlers shut down the Baylor hitters for the final seven innings of game one and only let in one run on a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the ninth of game two.

During the series sweep, the Illini pitchers combined for a 1.86 ERA and held BU to a .176 average for the weekend. They only allowed six earned runs and 18 hits in 29 innings of work and totaled 21 strikeouts compared to 12 walks. The bullpen did not give up an earned run and only allowed three hits in 9.2 innings of relief.

Sophomore Will Krug finished the day 6-for-10 with three runs and an RBI after a pair of three-hit games. The Park Ridge, Ill., native led Illinois with a .538 average (7-for-13), five runs scored and the only two doubles for the team in Waco. The Illini are now 9-1 since putting Krug in the leadoff spot.

Game 1 Recap // Illinois 5, Baylor 4 (11 innings) | Hartleb Interview | Nagle Interview
In its first extra inning contest of the season, Illinois came back to earn a one-run victory for the second-straight game, defeating Baylor 5-4 in 11 innings. Freshman Tyler Jay notched his first career win in 3.1 innings of scoreless relief, while freshman Ryan Nagle connected on a two-out, pinch-hit RBI single to give the Illini their second consecutive victory in their final at-bat.

With two outs in the top of the 11th, senior Brandon Hohl singled up the middle and advanced to second when senior Davis Hendrickson beat out an infield single to second which kept the inning alive. Nagle entered the game as a pinch-hitter and sent a liner through the left side that scored Hohl as the winning run.

"I'd been telling Ryan for three innings to be ready, and he came in and got us the big pinch hit to get the winning run across the plate," Hartleb said. "He doesn't go up to the plate like a deer in the headlights like some young guys do. He took strike one and then singled to left field to drive in that big run."

Redshirt-sophomore Reid Roper earned his third save of the season and second in as many days thanks to a pair of stellar defensive plays in the bottom of the 11th. With one out in the inning, junior Thomas Lindauer tracked down a pop-up halfway into the outfield and made an over-the-shoulder grab, while Hendrickson laid out and made a diving catch down the right field line for the final out.

"The last inning was an amazing one," Hartleb said. "After a strikeout to the first hitter, there was a ball popped up to no-man's land and Thomas Lindauer made a running catch over his head, which was outstanding. Then there was a fly ball down the right field line and Davis Hendrickson lays out much like he did in the regional two years ago to come up with a big league play. We did a great job defensively to close it out."

Illinois' bullpen threw six scoreless innings in relief of freshman Nick Blackburn, who allowed three earned runs and struck out four in five innings of work. Freshman Kevin Duchene struck out three batters in the sixth, while redshirt-sophomore Drasen Johnson needed just eight pitches to get through the seventh. Jay took over in the eighth and struck out four along with only allowing one hit in his 3.1 scoreless innings. Roper retired both batters he faced and has three saves in three tries this season.

"The pitching staff was outstanding," Hartleb said. "As a group, they struck out 12 and only walked two. We got very quality innings from our bullpen and were able to do some right and left matchups. I can't say enough about what the pitching staff did."

The Illini fell behind 4-3 when Baylor hit a home run on the first pitch of the fourth inning, but tied it back up with a leadoff home run by Lindauer in the top of the seventh. The Moline, Ill., native hit a home run for the second weekend in a row, as both of his career home runs have sailed over 330-foot left field walls.

"It was a no-doubter as soon as Thomas hit the ball," Hartleb said. "I was amazed at how far the ball traveled. He got a good pitch up in the zone and made them pay."

Early scoring by both teams had the game tied at three after three innings. The Illini scored first on a sacrifice fly by Justin Parr that plated Krug in the first, but Baylor responded in the bottom half with two runs on an RBI double and a sacrifice fly. Illinois retook the lead in the top half of the third on a Hurwitz sacrifice fly that brought home freshman Jason Goldstein and an RBI single by Jordan Parr scoring Krug. The Bears got their third run when Blackburn balked home a run in the third.

Game 2 Recap // Illinois 6, Baylor 1 | Hartleb Interview | Kravetz Interview
Sophomore John Kravetz pitched into the ninth inning before Muck recorded the final three outs of Illinois' 6-1 victory over Baylor. The Illini grabbed an early 4-0 lead and never looked back on their way to the doubleheader and series sweep. Kravetz earned his second win of the season after a strong performance in which he only allowed one run and three hits over eight innings.

"John got us deep into the game and Ronnie closed the door for us," Hartleb said. "I was really pleased that we jumped on them in the first inning and took the wind out of their sails."

The Illini scored three quick runs in the first inning on an RBI groundout by Justin Parr and a two-run single by Lindauer. The Orange and Blue added a run in the second to go ahead 4-0 when redshirt-sophomore Kelly Norris-Jones scored from second on a failed double play attempt. An RBI single by Krug gave the Illini a 5-0 advantage in the sixth, while Jordan Parr crushed a home run to left field for the Illini's sixth run in the top of the ninth.

Kravetz hit the first two Baylor batters in the bottom of the ninth and was replaced by Muck, who let in the only run on a bases-loaded walk before getting a strikeout to wrap up the win.

Four different Illini recorded multiple hits, helping the Orange and Blue finish with 13 for the game. Krug led the way with a 3-for-4 effort, Jordan Parr and Norris-Jones each went 2-for-4 and Lindauer finished 2-for-5.

Up Next: Illinois will play a four-game series at Southern Illinois on its Spring Trip from March 15-18. The Illini and Salukis will play at Abe Martin Field in Carbondale, Ill., on Friday, Saturday and Monday, while Sunday's game will be held at Rent One Park in Marion, Ill.