Pitching Lifts Illini to 6-3 Win at Bradley

Fifth-year senior Nick Chmielewski allowed only one unearned run on one hit in a six-inning start Wednesday.
Fifth-year senior Nick Chmielewski allowed only one unearned run on one hit in a six-inning start Wednesday.

March 28, 2012

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PEORIA, Ill. - Nick Chmielewski allowed only one unearned run and one hit in a six-inning start and Illinois scored four runs in the fourth and fifth innings to down Bradley, 6-3, at O'Brien Field on Wednesday. The fifth-year senior retired the final 10 hitters he faced as the Illini finished their 22-game season-opening road trip with a 12-10 record. Illinois limited the Braves to only three hits and took advantage of five walks and three hit batters.

"This was a total team win tonight," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We were much better on the mound than we have been the last three games. Nick wasn't very sharp in the first three innings, but he found a way to get through them only allowing one run, and we probably could've kept that run off the board if we had made a play behind him. But then he started getting leadoff hitters out and getting some weak ground balls, and really settled into a groove. He did what we know he can do, and it was good to see. Offensively, we did some good things, but we also didn't take advantage of a few opportunities, and we need to keep getting better there."

The Illini got on the board in the first inning for the fifth-straight game as shortstop Thomas Lindauer ripped a leadoff double down the left-field line and, after a groundout, moved to third on left fielder Justin Parr's groundout to the right side. Third baseman Brandon Hohl then smacked a base hit to right that plated Lindauer and gave Illinois a 1-0 lead.

In the second, the Orange and Blue looked to have something going when right fielder Davis Hendrickson drew a leadoff walk, but he was caught stealing on a bang-bang play at second. DH Will Krug then lined one over the third baseman's glove and down the left-field line, but he was called out at second when he tried to stretch his hit to a double.

In the bottom of the second, Bradley took advantage of a pair of hit batters that were sandwiched around a strikeout by Chmielewski. The lead runner scored when Hohl misplayed a ball a bit to his left and it trickled into the outfield, allowing the Braves to pull even at 1-1.

Bradley appeared to be starting a rally in the third after the Braves sandwiched a leadoff walk and a line-drive single to right around a fly-out. But Hendrickson threw behind the runner at second on the base hit, catching him too far off the bag for the second out. Chmielewski walked another hitter but got out of the jam when Argo caught a fly ball one step onto the warning track in center field.

In the fourth, Illinois took advantage of the erratic command of Bradley reliever David Koll, scoring two unearned runs without the benefit of a hit. With one out, first baseman Jordan Parr reached on an error by the third baseman and Hendrickson was hit by a pitch. After another out, catcher Kelly Norris-Jones drew a walk to load the bases and Lindauer drew another walk to force in a run. The Braves made a pitching change with a 2-0 count to Argo, who eventually drew a walk from reliever Steve Adkins that drove in another run and pushed the Illini lead to 3-1.

Chmielewski found a groove in the bottom of the fourth, requiring only eight pitches to retire the Braves in order, and the Illini hitters picked him up in the fifth. Hohl was hit by a pitch to start the inning and stole second. One out later, Jordan Parr singled up the middle, driving in Hohl, and Hendrickson ripped a triple off the wall in right to plate Parr and increase the margin to 5-1.

Chmielewski set down the Braves in order once again in the fifth, increasing his string of consecutive hitters retired to seven. After the Illini went down in order in the sixth, Chmielewski returned the favor to the Braves, ending his outing by retiring the final 10 hitters he faced.

In the top of the seventh, Hohl knocked a leadoff single to left-center and second baseman Reid Roper lined a base hit to left. The runners advanced a base each on a balk and Jordan Parr was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Hendrickson struck out on a ball in the dirt, but it got away from Bradley's catcher, allowing Hohl to score on the wild pitch and push the Illini lead to 6-1.

Matt Milroy relieved Chmielewski in the seventh and worked around a leadoff error by striking out the next hitter and inducing an inning-ending double play to record a clean frame. Ronnie Muck came on to pitch the eighth and gave up a leadoff home run to Bradley left fielder Andrew Wasmund, only the Braves' second hit of the night, but Muck recovered to retire the next three hitters, two on strikeouts.

Reid Roper came on to pitch the ninth inning and gave up a one-out solo home run, but kept his composure and retired the next two hitters to seal the 6-3 Illini win.

Hohl paced the offense as the only Illinois hitter to record multiple hits in the game, going 2-for-4 with an RBI, a steal and two runs. Hendrickson was 1-for-3 with a triple, an RBI and a run, and Argo kept his streak of reaching base in every game this season alive by going 1-for-4 with a walk and an RBI.

On the mound, Chmielewski was solid in six innings, the longest outing of his career, allowing only one unearned run on one hit and three walks while striking out three. Milroy also worked a perfect inning in the seventh, striking out one.

The Illini open their home season Friday when they host Mississippi Valley State in the opener of a three-game series at 4:05 p.m. Kevin Johnson will get the start for Illinois, looking to win his fifth-straight game.