Second-Straight Sweep for Illini after 2-1 Win over SIU in 10 Innings
March 18, 2013
MARION, Ill. - Illinois won its third extra-inning game of the year thanks to a pair of clutch pinch-hit RBI singles, as the Illini came back to defeat Southern Illinois, 2-1, in 10 innings at Rent One Park. Fifth-year senior Bryan Roberts earned the win and redshirt-sophomore Reid Roper picked up the save in the second-straight 10-inning game against SIU.
"Our pitchers did such a great job tonight," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "Our starter John Kravetz was very good and our bullpen came up with some very quality pitches. Bryan was able to get his second win in his second time on the mound and Reid got his fifth save."
The Illini swept their second series in a row after taking all three games from the Salukis and secured their second six-game winning streak of the season. The Orange and Blue have won 12 of their last 13 games, marking the best stretch by an Illini team since 1998 when they won 13 of 14 from March 25-April 11. Illinois is now 13-4 overall and has received votes in the NCBWA poll each of the past two weeks. The last time they swept two consecutive road series was in 2009 at Penn State (April 24-26) and at Northwestern (May 1-3).
In the top of the 10th, senior Brandon Hohl, who went 3-for-4 at the plate, led off the inning with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman Jason Goldstein and moved to third on a wild pitch. Sophomore Michael Hurwitz entered the game as a pinch hitter and knocked in Hohl as the winning run with a liner through the left side on a 2-2 count.
The Illini were held scoreless for the first seven innings until freshman Ryan Nagle came through as a pinch hitter to bring the Illini back in the top of the eighth. Freshman Adam Walton led off the frame with a single up the middle and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Will Krug. The left-handed Nagle singled through the right side and plated Walton to tie the game at one. Nagle brought home the winning run as a pinch hitter in Illinois' last two extra-inning games against Baylor and SIU before knocking in the tying run on Monday.
"We had two huge pinch-hits from Ryan Nagle and Michael Hurwitz who knocked in guys because we got sacrifice bunts down," Hartleb said. "I've been really pleased with what the guys have been doing off the bench. Everyone has been very accepting of their roles, and it has made us a very good team at this point."
After retiring the first nine batters of the game, sophomore John Kravetz allowed his only run in the bottom of the fourth. SIU put runners on the corners with no outs after executing a hit-and-run, but Kravetz limited the damage. He induced a 6-4-3 double play that let a run home and ended the inning with a fly out to right field. Kravetz allowed just three hits and one walk in six-plus innings before being replaced on the mound by freshman Kevin Duchene with runners on first and second and nobody out in the bottom of the seventh.
Coming out of the bullpen, Duchene made a heads-up play by getting an out at third on a bunt before walking the bases loaded. He struck out the next batter and was relieved Roberts. The Lisle, Ill., native escaped his second bases-loaded jam against the Salukis by tallying a strikeout to get out of the seventh. Roberts needed just seven pitches to get through the eighth and pitched a perfect ninth with two more strikeouts to send the game into extra innings.
"We have been very fortunate to have a lot of good arms in the bullpen and are able to do some right-left match ups," Hartleb said. "Kevin Duchene got a big strikeout against a left-handed hitter and Bryan Roberts came through with another bases-loaded strikeout against a right-handed hitter. They were the reason we forced extra innings."
After going ahead in the top of the 10th, Roper closed the door for the second game in a row, picking up his fifth save of the season, which is tied for second in the Big Ten. The Harrisburg, Ill., native got a pair of pop outs and a strikeout to seal the sweep of the Salukis.
In just his second appearance this season, Roberts (2-0) notched his second win, equaling his total from 2010, which was his last full season on the mound. Kravetz received his second no decision, as the Illini failed to put runs on the board for him for the second time this season. The Lansing, Ill., native is getting the lowest run support of Illinois' starters with nine runs in four starts.
Illinois is now 4-3 in one-run games on the year. The Illini last played back-to-back extra-inning games in 2010 when they defeated Eastern Illinois on April 21 (6-5) and Michigan State on April 23 (4-3), with both lasting 10 innings.
Up Next: Illinois will host its Big Ten and home-opening series against Nebraska this weekend from March 22-24. The Illini and Cornhuskers will play at 4:05 p.m. on Friday, 3:05 p.m. on Saturday and 12:05 p.m. on Sunday.