Brandon Wikoff went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a stolen base in the series finale at Michigan State.
March 30, 2008
LANSING, Mich. - Illinois took a 2-1 lead in the third inning, but Michigan State scratched across runs in the fifth and eighth innings to prevent the Illini from sweeping the series with a 3-2 win at Oldsmobile Park. The Illini instead open the conference season 3-1, their best start since bringing out the brooms against Ohio State in 2005.
"We just weren't able to string together a number of hits like we had all weekend," Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said. "We would get a guy into scoring position but couldn't drive him in with good situational hitting. Overall, though, this was a good weekend for us and it's definitely something we can build on."
Michigan State pulled ahead with a run in the first inning after third baseman Steve Gerstenberger singled, stole second and third and came home on a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead. But Illinois grabbed the lead with a pair of runs in the third when right fielder Nick Stockwell and center fielder Kyle Hudson drew consecutive one-out walks. Second baseman Joe Bonadonna singled and Stockwell scored on a passed ball. Shortstop Brandon Wikoff then drove in Hudson with a sacrifice fly, putting the Illini ahead, 2-1.
But the Spartans tied the game in the fifth when Jonathan Roof reached on Wikoff's throwing error and the next two hitters reached on bunt singles to load the bases. Illini starter Aaron Martin induced a ground-ball double play that scored a run and got the next hitter to ground out to end the inning with minimal damage but the score tied at 2.
Illinois had a golden opportunity in the seventh when Hudson led off with a single and Bonadonna moved him up a base with a sacrifice bunt. Wikoff beat out an infield hit to put runners on the corners with one out, but third baseman Dominic Altobelli hit a soft liner to second base that turned into an inning-ending double play when Wikoff was doubled off first.
MSU scratched across a run in the eighth after Martin hit the lead-off man, Kyle Day, on a 1-2 count and Day stole second. One out later, catcher Eric Roof lined a single into right field that brought home Day to post the Spartans to a 3-2 lead. Ben Reeser came on in relief and, after hitting the first hitter he faced, got a strikeout and a groundout to escape without any further damage.
For the game, Wikoff was the lone Illini with two hits, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a stolen base. Stockwell went 1-for-2 with a run, two walks and a steal, and Bonadonna was 1-for-3 with a steal.
Up Next: Illinois has Monday off before traveling to Rent One Park in Marion, Ill., to face Southern Illinois for the first of two meetings this season. The teams will play Tuesday at 6 p.m. Then the Illini welcome Saint Louis to Illinois Field on Wednesday for a 6:05 p.m. first pitch.