Duchene Cruises Illini Past Southern Illinois, 5-1
March 14, 2014
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Sophomore starter Kevin Duchene took a perfect game into the seventh inning before cruising to a complete-game 5-1 victory over Southern Illinois (8-8) in the inaugural game at Itchy Jones Stadium on Friday. Duchene faced two over the minimum while allowing four hits and striking out six on 93 pitches. Illinois racked up 13 hits and scored in four of the first five innings while getting back to .500 at 7-7.
"Kevin was very good today, and he's been good the entire year," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "He pitched with a purpose and threw an outstanding game. He was very much in command of the game. Our great pitching and defense along with production from top to bottom brought us out on top today."
Duchene retired the first 18 SIU batters before a leadoff infield single up the middle by Jake Welch broke it up in the seventh. Welch ended up out on the play when he turned toward second and junior first baseman David Kerian applied the tag. The Salukis got their second hit in the seventh on a single to left field before a groundout to the mound ended it.
SIU scored its only run in the eighth. A one-out double was followed by an RBI single before a 4-6-3 double play finished the inning. Duchene allowed his only walk to start the ninth but erased it with a 4-3 double play. The Joliet, Ill., native induced a groundout to third to his 29th and final batter of the two-hour and one-minute game.
The Big Ten's leader in innings pitched upped his season total to 37 innings while notching his second complete game. Duchene was extremely efficient with 10 groundouts, including two double plays, eight fly outs and six strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to 1.70 and improved to 2-1 in five starts.
"Like I did against Florida, I threw to contact and the defense played very well," Duchene said. "We got a lead early and it was really easy to throw after that. It's really fun to just be able to throw quality pitches in the strike zone because you know those guys are going to make plays for you."
Junior Will Krug started the contest off with a double, stole third and scored the day's first run on a two-out RBI triple by redshirt-junior Reid Roper. An Illini crossed home again in the second when redshirt-freshman Zack Kolakowski plated sophomore Ryan Nagle on an RBI groundout.
After a scoreless third, the Illini posted a run again in the fourth and fifth. Illinois loaded the bases in the fourth on back-to-back singles by sophomore Jason Goldstein and Nagle and a walk to junior Casey Fletcher. Freshman Ryne Roper grounded into a 6-4-3 double play that allowed Goldstein to score. Krug doubled again to lead off the fifth and junior Michael Hurwitz drove him in with a single up the middle, giving UI a 4-0 advantage.
Junior David Kerian, who went 3-for-4, knocked in Hurwitz with an RBI double in the ninth for an insurance run. Krug, Reid Roper, Nagle and Fletcher each finished with two hits, as Illinois' first seven hitters accounted for all 13 hits.
"We nearly hit up and down the lineup and even those guys at the bottom who didn't have a hit still were able to drive in runs," Hartleb said.
The game began with a ceremonial first pitch by longtime SIU and Illinois head coach Itch Jones, who had the ballpark named after him in a dedication ceremony on Thursday. Itch threw a strike to SIU alum Hartleb behind the plate to begin a memorable day.
"It has been a fun two days," Hartleb said. "Itch has been a special person in the history of Illinois and Southern Illinois baseball. I was happy I had the opportunity to celebrate the opening of this stadium with him. He was not only my coach, but a mentor as a I coached under him for a number of years. Obviously, we came in here to win the game our guys played great, but It was a bittersweet day because you never want to spoil something for someone that has done so much for you."
Up Next: Due to forecasted inclement weather on Sunday, March 16, the Illini and Salukis will move Sunday's game up a day and play a doubleheader on Saturday, March 15, beginning at noon.