Junior Casey McMurray drove in a career-high five runs as Illinois upset No. 12 Coastal Carolina, 11-10.
March 12, 2010
CONWAY, S.C. - Illinois had six players with multiple hits, junior designated hitter Casey McMurray tied the game in the seventh with a three-run homer and the Illini scored three in the top of the ninth to defeat No. 12 Coastal Carolina, 11-10, at the Caravelle Resort Classic. The Nos. 4-7 hitters in the Illini order combined to hit 11-for-18 with 10 RBIs and five runs and reliever Mike Sterk tossed two scoreless innings to close out the game and earn the victory. The victory marked Illinois' seventh over a ranked opponent in the last two seasons.
"We were getting hammered pretty good by Coastal, but our guys didn't quit and (reliever Kevin) Manson did a good job of keeping us in it," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "If you look at the first game, we were poor out of the bullpen. Then, you look at game two and we were very, very good out of the bullpen. We're learning and getting better. We're still making too many mistakes, but this team has good character and always plays hard. I like what we have; it's just going to take a little bit of time to find the right combinations.
"We took some good swings and put the ball in play better in the second game. We got some big hits out of some guys. McMurray has been very steady and that home run was a momentum-changer. He had a good day."
The Illini jumped on Coastal starter Cody Wheeler off the start, as left fielder Mike Giller reached on an error by the shortstop and catcher Aaron Johnson beat out an infield single. First baseman Matt Dittman brought them home with a two-run double to left-center, giving the Illini a 2-0 lead.
But the Chanticleers came out with guns blazing in the bottom half, tagging Illini starter Brian de la Torriente for four doubles and a home run, with de la Torriente recording only one outs before being relieved by Manson, who gave up a double before retiring the final two outs of the inning with the Illini trailing 6-2.
The Chants added a run in the third on a pair of singles and a run-scoring sacrifice bunt to go ahead 7-2, but the Illini got it back in the fourth. Dittman led off with a single and, one out later, he stole second. Center fielder Willie Argo singled to center, moving Dittman to third, and stole second. Third baseman Brandon Hohl's groundout to second drove in Dittman but Argo was stranded as the Illini cut the margin to 7-3.
Coastal got another run in the fourth on a hit batter, a walk and an RBI single to go ahead 8-3, but the Illini kept knocking on the door. Illinois put two runs on the board in the sixth when Dittman started with a leadoff double and McMurray traded places with him on an RBI double. One out later, Hohl drove in McMurray with a base hit to center, cutting the Chants' lead to 8-5.
The Orange and Blue pulled even in the seventh when second baseman Christian Cummins was hit by a pitch and left fielder Mike Giller singled through the right side, advancing Cummins to third. Johnson popped out and Dittman struck out, but McMurray greeted a new Coastal pitcher by depositing his 0-1 offering over the left-field fence for a three-run home run, tying the score 8-8.
Manson turned the game over to Nick Chmielewski in the bottom of the seventh after putting forth a yeoman-like effort, giving up two runs on six hits and a walk over 5 2/3 innings of relief and striking out three. Chmielewski responded by working a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh including a pair of strikeouts.
The Illini got a leadoff infield hit from Hohl and Lutes bunted him to second, but he was stranded there, as Illinois didn't score in the eighth. Chmielewski gave up a leadoff double and Dittman committed an error to put men on the corners in the bottom of the eighth. A wild pitch brought in one run and an RBI double gave Coastal a 10-8 lead, but Mike Sterk relieved Chmielewski and got out of the inning when a runner was caught stealing, he gave up a single and induced a double play.
The Illini kept fighting in the top of the ninth as Giller reached to start the frame when he was plunked and Johnson singled through the right side. Freshman Davis Hendrickson pinch-ran for Johnson and both runners moved up a base when Dittman reached on an infield hit to load the bases. McMurray drove home Giller with a sacrifice fly and Argo singled up the middle to drive in Hendrickson. Lutes then drove in the eventual winning run with a single to left-center that knocked in Dittman.
Sterk kept the Chants off-balance in the bottom half, inducing a popup from the first hitter before hitting the next batter. Parr made an error to put men on first and second, but Sterk got a grounder to Hohl at third, who tagged the base to retire the lead runner. And Sterk finished the effort by coaxing a grounder back to the mound.
McMurray was one of six Illini who recorded multiple-hit games, as he was 2-for-3 with a career-high five RBIs, two runs, a home run and a double. Dittman was a career-best 4-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs, three runs and a stolen base. Hohl went 3-for-5, his first career three-hit game, and drove in two runs, and Argo was 2-for-5 with an RBI and a steal. Giller was 2-for-4 with three runs and Johnson was 2-for-5 with a run.
Sterk got the win with two near-perfect innings in the eighth and ninth, allowing only one hit and facing only seven batters.
For the day, Dittman led the Illini by hitting 5-for-7 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs. Johnson hit 5-for-10 with a double, three RBIs and two runs, and Giller was 4-for-8 with four runs. Argo went 3-for-6 with a double, an RBI and a run, while Hohl was 4-for-9 (.444) with two RBIs. McMurray was 2-for-5 with a homer, a double, a team-best six RBIs and two runs.
The Illini face the Chants again on Saturday with the contest starting at 5 p.m. CT.