Illini Split Pair to Win 3 of 4 on Weekend
March 18, 2012
MARION, Ill. - The Fighting Illini hammered Southern Illinois 13-5 to rebound from a 3-0 loss to Northern Illinois earlier in the day on Sunday at Rent One Park, finishing their spring break trip 3-1 and improving to 10-7 on the season. Freshman Josh Ferry earned the win in his first career start and junior third baseman Brandon Hohl blasted two three-run home runs against the Salukis to power the Illinois offense.
"I thought we came out flat in the first game," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We were sluggish and almost seemed like we thought we would just walk out and beat Northern Illinois because we beat them yesterday. So that was a learning experience for our guys. But I was really pleased that we turned around and played well against a good pitcher for in Dorris. And I liked how Josh Ferry threw. He was a little wild in the first inning, but after that, he just got in a groove and was able to go deep into the game. Offensively, we had the big five-run inning, then continued to tack on runs and played a complete game."
Hohl led the Illini on the day, going 4-for-9 (.444) with two home runs, six RBIs and three runs. Jordan Parr went 4-for-8 (.500) with a double, an RBI and a run, and Alex Lincoln was 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI against SIU. Ferry struck out five in 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits and four walks. In the opener, Matt Milroy allowed two runs - one earned - on five hits and five walks over five innings, striking out five.
Against Northern Illinois, Milroy worked a clean top of the first, then shortstop Thomas Lindauer reached with a single to right-center to start the bottom half. He stole second and moved to third on center fielder Willie Argo's groundout, but was stranded there as the Illini were kept off the board.
In the second, Milroy allowed a leadoff walk before inducing a line-out to left field and fielding a sacrifice bunt himself. But he walked another hitter and gave up an infield hit on a high chopper to load the bases. Milroy got out of it, though, with a pop-up to second baseman Reid Roper to keep the Huskies scoreless.
The Illini threatened in the bottom of the third as catcher Ryan Arrick singled to right with one out and moved to second on a wild pitch. Lindauer drew a four-pitch walk, but they were stranded after Argo popped out and left fielder Justin Parr struck out to end the inning.
NIU got another run in the fourth when Milroy walked Jamison Wells with two outs. Wells stole second and moved to third when Arrick's throw sailed into center field, then scored on a wild pitch to increase the Huskies' lead to 2-0.
Milroy worked around a two-out single and walk in the fifth to keep the Huskies off the board, then reliever Luke Joyce took over in the sixth and gave up a pair of two-out singles before striking out NIU shortstop Alex Jones to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Argo beat out a bunt single and stole second, but he was stranded there as the Illini continued to search for the big hit. NIU added a run in the top of the ninth as Joyce ran out of gas after 3 1/3 solid innings of relief and was relieved by Ronnie Muck, who got a strikeout and a pop-up to third baseman Brandon Hohl to end the inning with the Huskies taking a 3-0 advantage.
In the second game of the day, Ferry got his first career start and loaded the bases after a one-out infield hit and a pair of two-out walks. But he kept his composure and induced a grounder to the right side, which first baseman Jordan Parr made a nice play to corral before he tagged the base for the final out to keep the Salukis scoreless.
SIU got a run in the second after a one-out walk, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI single with two outs, to take a 1-0 lead. But the Illini responded with a five-run third inning to grab a 5-1 advantage. Lindauer reached on an error but was erased when he attempted to steal second. Argo singled to left-center and moved to second on a passed ball, then Justin Parr reached on an error by the shortstop. Hohl followed by hammering a 2-2 pitch over the fence in left for a three-run home run. Roper singled to left and Jordan Parr doubled down the left-field line to put men on second and third. Right fielder Davis Hendrickson sent a single through the left side that drove home both runners and give the Illini a 5-1 lead.
Ferry found a groove in the third, retiring the Salukis in order, then doing it again in the fourth, punctuating it with consecutive strikeouts to end the frame. In the fifth, Hohl smacked a one-out single to left-center and Roper singled to right. Jordan Parr blasted a base hit back to center field, driving home Hohl, and Hendrickson was hit by a pitch to load the bases. DH Will Krug then drew a four-pitch walk to force in a run. Catcher Alex Lincoln grounded into a double play to end the inning after a pitching change, as the Illini extended their lead to 7-1.
Ferry continued to roll in the fifth, sitting down the SIU hitters 1-2-3, to extend his string of consecutive batters retired to 10. Lindauer started the top of the sixth by singling up the middle and, after an out, Justin Parr hammered a double off the wall in left to drive hom Lindauer and extend the margin to 8-1.
A leadoff walk came back to haunt Ferry in the bottom of the sixth, though, as Austin Montgomery blasted a two-run home run to left-center field to bring the Salukis within 8-3. After the Illini went down in order in the seventh, Ferry sandwiched a pair of sharp singles around a strikeout, and Ronnie Muck relieved him. Muck walked the first man he faced on four pitches, the battled back to strike out SIU slugger Chris Serritella and coaxed a pop-up from right fielder Austin Montgomery to strand the bases loaded and keep the Illini lead at 8-3.
Illinois tacked onto that margin in the eighth when Lincoln knocked a leadoff single and moved to second on Lindauer's sacrifice bunt. Argo was hit by a pitch and Justin Parr reached as Argo was put out on Parr's grounder to the right side. Hohl then hammered a 2-2 pitch from SIU reliever Tyler Dray over the left-center field fence for his second three-run home run of the day, pushing the Illini lead to 11-3.
The Salukis got a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the 8th, but Illinois put two more on the board in the ninth. Pinch hitter Thomas Shelton singled to start the frame and came home on Hendrickson's triple to right-center. After an out, Lincoln drove in Hendrickson with a base hit to right-center, pushing the margin to 13-5.
Harrisburg, Ill., native Reid Roper came on to pitch the ninth inning and gave up a leadoff double before retiring the next three hitters on three consecutive fly-outs to seal the victory.
On the weekend, Hendrickson led the Illini with a .500 average (7-for-14) with two doubles, a triple, three RBIs, five runs and 3-of-4 stolen bases. Lincoln hit .462 (6-for-13) with two RBIs and a run, while Roper was 6-of-14 (.429) with an RBI and four runs. Hohl hit .333 (6-for-18) but blasted two homers and drove in nine runs while scoring three. Krug also went 3-for-5 (.600) with a double, an RBI, two runs and a steal in two starts at DH. As a team, Illinois stole 10-of-20 bases while allowing opponents to swipe only 3-of-4.
The Illini pitching staff was excellent, posting a 2.00 ERA over the four games and allowing SIU and NIU to hit only .248. The Illinois pitchers struck out 27 hitters while walking only 14 and gave up only 34 hits in 36 innings. Five relievers - Ronnie Muck, Reid Roper, Anthony Milazzo, Drasen Johnson and Bryan Roberts - posted perfect ERAs on the weekend and starters Kevin Johnson and Milroy both had marks under 2.00 (1.29 and 1.80, respectively).
Illinois' next game is Friday, March 23, when the Illini open Big Ten play at Nebraska at 6:30 p.m., the Huskers' first-ever Big Ten game. The contest will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network with Tom Hart and Danan Hughes on the call, while Dave Loane and Mike Koon will have the radio call on the Illini Sports Network and WDWS AM-1400.