Illini ace Kevin Johnson earned his third-straight victory with seven solid innings in the Illini's 8-2 win over Southern Illinois.
March 16, 2012
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Junior starting pitcher Kevin Johnson pitched seven solid innings and junior third baseman Brandon Hohl drove in three as Illinois took an 8-2 win over Southern Illinois at Abe Martin Field on Friday. It marks Johnson's third win in as many starts, the first time he has accomplished that feat in his career, and the Illini tied a season high with 13 hits. Illinois improves to 8-6 on the season, having won four of its last five and seven of its last nine games.
"Kevin Johnson didn't let things get away form him in the first inning, then he put up a couple of zeroes and we had the big inning (in the third)," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "The thing that I was most pleased about offensively was that we got the majority of our runs with two outs. We swung the bats better today, didn't chase too many balls down in the zone and I thought we were good defensively."
SIU grabbed the lead with a pair of runs in the first inning on three hits and an Illini error, but Johnson rebounded after a visit from pitching coach Drew Dickinson to strike out the final hitter of the inning and minimize the damage as the Salukis took a 2-0 lead.
Johnson found a groove in the second inning, working around a one-out base hit by inducing an inning-ending double play. In the third, right fielder Davis Hendrickson dropped a hit into right field, where it sank into the wet turf, allowing him to stretch it to a double. DH Will Krug singled to right-center, moving Hendrickson to third, and, after an out, Krug stole second. The catcher's throw sailed into right-center, allowing Hendrickson to score and Krug to move up to third. Argo scalded one to shortstop, who mishandled it, allowing Krug to score and Argo to reach, and Argo stole second. Left fielder Justin Parr singled, driving in Argo, and then stole second. He came home on Hohl's base hit to right field, pushing the Illini ahead 4-2.
After Johnson retired the side in order in the bottom of the third, Illinois tacked on two more runs in the fourth. With two outs, Hendrickson doubled to right-center and moved to third when the right fielder mishandled it. Krug walked and catcher Alex Lincoln singled to center, driving home Hendrickson, and shortstop Thomas Lindauer ripped a base hit to left that brought in Krug and made the margin 6-2.
Johnson made quick work of the Salukis in the bottom of the fourth, requiring only 10 pitches to record two fly-outs and a strikeout. The Illini threatened in the fifth when Hohl drew a one-out walk and second baseman Reid Roper dropped a single into shallow center. But Hohl tried to go first-to-third and was thrown out, for the second out of the inning. First baseman Jordan Parr reached on an error to keep the inning alive, but Hendrickson struck out to end the scoring chance.
After Johnson retired the Salukis in order once again in the fifth to run his string of consecutive outs to seven, the Illini started the sixth inning with a leadoff double by Krug. After an out, Krug was caught stealing at third, though, and Lindauer flied out to end the frame.
SIU tried to rally in the bottom of the sixth with back-to-back singles to start the frame. But Johnson struck out the next two hitters and Lindauer made a slick play behind the bag at second, cutting off a softly hit grounder and throwing to first for the final out of the inning as the Salukis were held scoreless once again.
Illinois added two more runs in the seventh when center fielder Willie Argo led off with a single to right-center and was safe at second when first baseman Chris Serritella tried to cut him down at second on Justin Parr's grounder. Serritella's throw went into the outfield and Argo moved to third. Hohl drove him in with a base hit to left and Parr scored on Roper's sacrifice fly to right field, pushing the Illini lead to 8-2.
Johnson gave up a two-out bunt single in the bottom of the seventh but posted another scoreless inning, as he allowed only three hits after the first inning. Bryan Roberts came on to work the eighth and gave up consecutive singles to start the frame but regained his composure to strand the runners with a fly-out to Hendrickson, a groundout and a foul-out to Hohl to end the inning.
In the ninth, Anthony Milazzo relieved Roberts and allowed a leadoff infield hit but Hohl made a nice diving catch to his left to snag a liner, then throw out the runner at first for a double play. After a walk, Lindauer hauled in a liner to his left for the final out and an 8-2 Illini win.
Johnson was solid on the mound, allowing two runs - one earned - on six hits and one walk while striking out a season-high eight. He retired 10 consecutive hitters from the second inning through the fifth and allowed only one runner past first base after the first inning.
Offensively, Hohl led the attack, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs and his first career stolen base. Krug was 2-for-2 with a double, a steal and two runs, and Hendrickson went 2-for-4 with two doubles. Argo was 2-for-5 with a steal and two runs, and Roper went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
The Illini return to action Saturday at 11 a.m. when they take on Northern Illinois. Freshman John Kravetz will get the start for Illinois, while Northern Illinois will send senior right-hander Tony Manville to the hill. Following the game, the Illini will bus to Harrisburg, Ill., where they will deliver the food and funds that were collected during Wednesday's fundraiser. The team is expected to arrive in Harrisburg between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. at the former Mad Pricer grocery story at 701 N. Commercial Street in the Arrowhead Shopping Center.