Daniel Webb blasted a walk-off grand slam to cap a six-run ninth inning and lift Illinois to a 15-11 win over Akron.
March 16, 2008
BRADENTON, Fla. - Daniel Webb capped a furious six-run ninth inning rally with a walk-off grand slam to lift Illinois to a thrilling 15-11 win over Akron at IMG's Academy Park Sunday. Illinois came back from three different deficits despite scoring first in the game, and scored seven runs in the final two innings for the victory. Dominic Altobelli had a career day, going 4-for-6 with a home run, a double, four RBI and two runs, and Brandon Wikoff was 3-for-4 with a triple, four runs, three RBI and a steal to lead the Illini offense in a breakout effort.
"We swung the bats from the start of the game today and I feel like we've improved at the plate," Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said. "Our kids are very resilient. They did a great job of continuing to battle back, then had the big ninth inning to win it."
Illinois set a season high in hits (17) for the second-straight day, its three home runs were the first three of the season and the Illini's nine extra-base hits also were a season-high for a game. Ryan Hastings hit his ninth career home run, while Altobelli's and Webb's blasts each were the second of their careers.
Illinois got on the board in the bottom of the first when center fielder Kyle Hudson drew a lead-off walk on four pitches and moved to third on left fielder Casey McMurray's double to left-center. Hudson then scored on shortstop Brandon Wikoff's sacrifice fly pop-up to the shortstop in shallow center, giving the Illini a 1-0 lead.
Akron got the run back in the second, though, with three base hits, but Illinois pulled back ahead with a third-inning tally. With one out, catcher Aaron Johnson singled through the left side and scored on right fielder Craig Lutes' double to left-center, giving Lutes doubles in consecutive at bats and pushing the Illini ahead, 2-1.
But Akron scored four in the third on five hits, including a home run, for a 5-2 lead. Illinois kept fighting in the bottom half, though, as Wikoff led off with an infield hit then stole second. One out later, Wikoff moved to third on a groundout and scored on a passed ball, making the score 5-3 in favor of the Zips.
Akron touched Illini starter Scott Shaw for one more run in the fourth on a single and triple, pushing ahead, 6-3. But Illinois struck for a pair of runs in the bottom half, starting with a lead-off double by Lutes. One out later, Hudson walked and McMurray singled to load the bases. Wikoff then reached on a fielder's choice that scored Lutes and Hudson scored on an infield hit by third baseman Dominic Altobelli, bringing the Illini within 6-5.
But the Zips got three more in the sixth off Illini reliever Nick Chmielewski. Akron got a lead-off hit before a sacrifice bunt and another groundout back to Chmielewski. But the Illini rookie hit the next two batters, walked one and gave up a two-run single, making the score 9-5.
Illinois struck in the bottom of the frame, though, when Wikoff ripped a two-out triple to right-center and Altobelli slammed his second career home run over the wall in left, cutting the margin to 9-7. First baseman Ryan Hastings followed it up with a home run of his own, pulling a 1-0 pitch over the right-field wall, to bring the Illini within 9-8. It was the first back-to-back homers by Illini since Lars Davis and Mike Rohde smacked consecutive dingers against Michigan State on May 19, 2007.
The Illini were able to tie the game in the eighth when Wikoff drew a lead-off walk and Altobelli singled. Hastings laid down a sacrifice bunt, but the pitcher threw wildly to first, allowing Wikoff to score and even the score, 9-9. Akron used a two-run, two-out home run in the top of the ninth to take an 11-9 lead, but Illinois fought back in the bottom half once again.
With one out, Hudson singled to right-center then stole second. McMurray followed by ripping his second double of the game, but because it hung in the air so long, Hudson was only able to advance to third. Pete Cappetta pinch-ran for McMurray and Wikoff legged out an infield hit that scored Hudson. Altobelli continued his hot streak, hooking a double over the third-base bag on a 3-2 count to drive in Cappetta and tie the game. Hastings was intentionally walked to load the bases with only one out, then Webb crushed a 2-2 pitch for a line-drive walk-off homer to right field, giving Illinois a 15-11 come-from-behind win.
In addition to the excellent days by Altobelli and Wikoff, Hudson was 2-for-3 with three runs, two walks and a steal, and McMurray went 3-for-6 with two doubles. Lutes also was 2-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI and a run.
Ben Reeser earned the win after allowing just two runs on two hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings of relief while striking out two. He has gotten the decision in both of Illinois' wins so far on Spring Trip.
Up Next: Illinois has Monday off before returning to action against Maryland-Baltimore County on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. (CT) at IMG's Academy Park fields.