3-Run Seventh Sparks 7-6 Comeback Victory over Zips

Senior Mike Sterk tallied his second win of the season with 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief.
Senior Mike Sterk tallied his second win of the season with 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief.

March 19, 2010

Box Score

AUBURNDALE, Fla. - A three-run seventh inning sparked a 7-6 comeback victory for the Illini (4-8) over Akron (10-7) on Friday afternoon at Lake Myrtle Park. Senior Mike Sterk picked up his second win of the season in relief of starter Kevin Johnson, who only gave up two earned runs and struck out four over 6 2/3 innings. Sophomore Corey Kimes notched his first career save, recording a strikeout to seal the win.

"We played a cleaner game today and were better in all aspects," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We found a way to come from behind two different times and got some big hits. Defensively, we were better than we have been, and we had another good pitching performance from Kevin Johnson, who gave us an opportunity to win. Our bullpen was very good when they came in late to secure the win."

Johnson worked perfect 1-2-3 innings in three of the first four frames, but allowed three runs in the second, as the Zips grabbed an early 3-0 lead. Illinois responded in the bottom of the third, tying the contest at three thanks to two hits and two errors in the stanza.

With one out, shortstop Josh Parr bunted and reached on a throwing error by the Zips pitcher. Parr advanced to second on a balk and scored on an RBI single to right by center fielder Willie Argo. After a walk to designated hitter Mike Giller, left fielder Casey McMurray knocked an RBI single to left field that plated Argo and pulled the Illini within one. An out later, catcher Aaron Johnson reached on a fielding error by the shortstop which brought Giller home and evened the affair.

In the fifth, a two-run homer down the right-field line put the Zips ahead 5-3, but Illinois cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the frame when first baseman Matt Dittman singled through the right side to score Giller, who reached on error by the third baseman and advanced to third on a double by McMurray.

Two innings later, Sterk came on in relief of Johnson with two outs and ended the stanza with a groundout to first. In the bottom of the seventh, the Illini jumped ahead 7-5 with three runs on three hits. With one out, Argo bunted his way on and Giller singled to left field before McMurray loaded the bases thanks to an overturned call on a fielder's choice. The Illini left fielder hit a grounder to the hole at short, and the Zips' shortstop attempted to get the out at third. Argo was initially ruled out at third, but after the umpires conferred, Argo was ruled safe since the third baseman did not have his foot on the base.

After the corrected call, Argo scored on a balk, Giller got knocked in by an RBI groundout from Dittman and McMurray came home on a wild pitch to give the Illini the advantage.

Sophomore Bryan Roberts took the mound in the ninth to close the game after a scoreless eighth by both teams. Roberts recorded two outs but allowed a pair of singles, and Hartleb brought in sophomore lefty Corey Kimes to face the left-handed Zips batter. After an RBI single cut the lead to one, Kimes struck out the final batter and tallied the second save of the year by an Illini.

The first five Illini tallied all seven hits and scored six of the seven runs, with Giller accounting for three runs and Argo for two. Parr recorded the other run, and Dittman led the way with two RBIs.

Illinois is now 1-1 on its annual Spring Trip and will play North Dakota State on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. CT at Chain of Lakes Field #1.