Davis Wallops Homer, Illini Win 5-2
March 22, 2007
BRADENTON, Fla. - Lars Davis stayed hot with his second-straight four-hit day, including a first-inning home run the proved to be the game-winning hit in Illinois' 5-2 win over Dartmouth at the IMG Academies. The Illini pitching staff put together back-to-back strong showings as Tanner Roark earned his first win of the year behind a solid six-inning start and freshman Billy Barrett garnered his first career save with three shutout innings of relief to propel Illinois to a four-game winning streak.
"We pitched very well today," Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said. "We commanded down in the zone. A couple times we got into jams, but our pitching and defense did a good job of getting out of them by throwing quality pitches down in the zone and making some good plays in the field."
The Illini started it off in the first inning when leftfielder Ryan Snowden laced a lead-off single to left and, one out later, Davis, who was in the designated hitter slot, belted his second homer in three games to right field. First baseman Mike Rohde was hit by a pitch and shortstop Shawn Roof reached on an error by the shortstop. Second baseman Ryan Hastings followed with a base hit to right that drove in Rohde from second for a quick 3-0 lead. It was the sixth time in the last eight games that Illinois had scored in the first inning.
"Offensively, we were able to jump on their starter right away and that's always a focus for us," Hartleb said. "We also had a situation in the fifth where we had two outs with nobody on base and we ended up scoring a run, so that was good to see."
Roark faced the minimum through two innings, thanks to a double play after a one-out single in the first inning. But he gave up three hits, including a two-out single to right that cut the Illinois lead to 3-1, in the third. However, he bounced back with a 1-2-3 fourth inning that paved the way for the Illini to reclaim that run in the fifth.
With two outs and none on, Davis singled to right and rightfielder Daniel Webb knocked a base hit of his own to put runners at first and second. Davis then motored home on an error by the shortstop on a ball hit by Rohde to put the Illini up 4-1.
Roark continued to cruise in the fifth, allowing a two-out single but getting out of the inning unscathed when catcher Aaron Ifft threw out the runner trying to steal second. Illinois now has three runners caught stealing in five attempts on Spring Trip, an incredible 60 percent caught-stealing rate.
The Big Green inched closer in the sixth with a pair of base hits to start the inning and the third hitter reaching on an error. Roark struck out the next batter before allowing an RBI single, but he induced another double-play ball to get out of the inning with a 4-2 lead.
In the seventh, Barrett came on in relief of Roark, hit the first batter he faced and threw a wild pitch to allow the runner to advance to second. But the freshman coaxed a flyout and a pair of groundouts to end the inning. After the Illini went down in order in the eighth, Barrett found his groove with a strike out and two more groundballs for a quick 1-2-3 frame.
Illinois added an insurance run in the ninth when Snowden reached on an error to begin the inning and moved to second on third baseman Brandon Wikoff's sacrifice. Snowden moved to third on a passed ball and trotted home on Davis' RBI single to left, pushing the lead to 5-2. Barrett worked another 1-2-3 inning that included a pair of strikeouts to end the game. After hitting the first batter he faced, Barrett retired nine straight Big Green hitters.
Davis finished 4-for-5 for the second-straight game and added three RBI, two runs, a steal and a runner caught stealing. He is now mashing the ball at a .619 clip in five Spring Trip games with a .952 slugging percentage, two homers, eight RBI and eight runs. Kyle Hudson maintained his .500 season average - which is among the top five nationally - with a 2-for-4 effort, and Rohde went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run.
Roark finished the day having allowed two runs on eight hits over six innings, walking one and striking out four. Barrett pitched three perfect innings of relief, minus the one hit batsman, with three strikeouts to earn the save. Roark's quality start is the second in as many days for an Illini staff that struggled in the season's first three weekends. Fellow sophomore Aaron Martin threw eight shutout innings against Massachusetts on Wednesday.
Up Next: The Illini finish Spring Trip on Friday with a final game against Dartmouth. First pitch is set for 9:30 a.m. (CT).