Illini Break Triples Record, Hammer Delta Devils 15-6
March 30, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - After playing its first 22 games on the road, the Illinois baseball team did not disappoint in its home-opener, hammering out a season-high 20 hits - including an Illinois Field-record five triples - on the way to a 15-6 win over Mississippi Valley State in front of 827 fans on Friday. It marks the Illini's fifth-straight win in a home-opener and starting pitcher Kevin Johnson's fifth-straight victory, as he becomes the first Illinois pitcher to win five consecutive starts since Brian Blomquist in 2005.
The 15 runs scored and eight runs plated in the fifth inning also are season highs for Illinois, which improves to 13-10 on the season. The 20 hits mark the first time since May 2, 2009, at Northwestern, that the Illini collected 20 or more hits. Center fielder Willie Argo and shortstop Thomas Lindauer each had two triples on the day, the first time since John Schlichter on April 25, 2008, that an Illini player had tripled twice in a game.
"We did a much better job of going middle/other way," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "The wind was blowing out today and we didn't have guys who were swinging for the fence. If a pitch is thrown, you take a good swing and if it gets up in the air, that's when you hit home runs; you don't try to hit them and still be productive. So I was pleased with the way we went about things and with our approach at the plate. And any time you come home and have great crowds, it's fun to win in front of them. I was very impressed with not only our team, but with the fact that we had a 4 o'clock start and we still had almost 1,000 people (in the stands)."
The Delta Devils (6-21) came out swinging in the top of the first, using a single, a double and a groundout to put a run on the board, but Illinois responded with a run of its own in the bottom half. Shortstop Thomas Lindauer smacked a leadoff triple down the right-field line and, one out later, scored on left fielder Justin Parr's groundout to the right side, tying the game 1-1.
Johnson found his stride in the second, requiring only nine pitches to retire MVSU in order. After the Illini went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half, Johnson continued to roll, inducing three consecutive groundouts on just 10 pitches for a quick third inning. In the bottom half, center fielder Willie Argo ripped a two-out triple to left-center and scored when Parr tripled down the right-field line for a 2-1 Illini lead.
But the Delta Devils responded with a run in the fourth on an infield hit, a single up the middle and a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2. Illinois regained the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth, though, when second baseman Reid Roper led off with a base hit down the left-field line and first baseman Jordan Parr singled through the left side. One out later, catcher Kelly Norris-Jones singled to left, loaded the bases, and DH Bill Charvat drove in two runs with a base hit through the right side, giving the Illini a 4-2 advantage.
Johnson worked around a leadoff single and a hit batter in the fifth by inducing a pair of groundouts to escape the jam. In the bottom of the inning, the Illini broke it open with eight runs. Argo lined a leadoff triple down the right-field line and Justin Parr walked. MVSU starter David Lostra's pickoff attempt to first was low and got past the first baseman, allowing Argo to score and Parr to advance to second. Third baseman Brandon Hohl singled to left and Roper laced a single down the left-field line, driving home Parr. Jordan Parr walked to load the bases and right fielder Davis Hendrickson beat out an infield hit that drove in Hohl and Norris-Jones was hit by a pitch to force in Roper. Charvat pulled a ball to the right side that the first baseman fielded and threw to second to force out Norris-Jones as Jordan Parr scored. Lindauer then shot a triple down the right-field line, Illinois' fifth three-base hit of the day, to drive in Charvat and Hendrickson. Argo walked and Justin Parr drove home Lindauer with a base hit to left-center, as Illinois extended its lead to 12-2.
Johnson continued to battle in the sixth, erasing a leadoff single by inducing a nifty 3-6-3 double play between Jordan Parr and Lindauer. He allowed a two-out double to right but struck out MVSU right fielder Allen Cheek looking to end the inning.
The Illini tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth as pinch hitter Thomas Shelton beat out an infield hit and moved to second on a balk. He advanced to third on Hendrickson's groundout and scored on new catcher Alex Lincoln's line drive single up the middle, pushing the margin to 13-2.
MVSU got a run in the top of the seventh after a leadoff walk, a double and an RBI groundout. But Johnson kept his cool, coaxing a fly-out to new center fielder Will Krug to end the inning. Illinois returned the favor in the bottom half as Krug beat out an infield hit before being put out on Justin Parr's fielder's choice ground ball. After another out, new second baseman David Kerian chopped one to the right side that the first baseman fielded in the hole, but he didn't have a play to first or second, as both runners were safe. Shelton then lined a single to center, plating Parr as Illinois extended its lead to 14-3.
The Delta Devils scored two against reliever Anthony Milazzo in the eighth - only the first runs surrendered by Milazzo in his seventh outing this season - but Illinois got one back in the bottom half. After an out, new DH Chase Hainline ripped a double down the right-field line and moved to third on Lindauer's single through the left side. Lindauer was put out on Krug's chopper to the shortstop, but Hainline scored to make the score 15-5. MVSU added a run in the ninth for the final tally of 15-6.
Lindauer led the offense, going 3-for-6 with two triples, two RBIs and two runs, while Argo was 2-for-3 with two triples and two runs. Justin Parr went 2-for-5 with a triple, three RBIs and two runs, and Roper was 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs. Hohl was 2-for-4 with a run, Charvat drove in three runs with a 1-for-3 day and Jordan Parr scored twice while going 1-for-2. Every Illinois starter had at least one hit and 13 of the 15 players who saw action recorded at least one hit, including Shelton's 2-for-2 outing with an RBI and a run.
Johnson was solid in a seven-inning outing, allowing three runs - two earned - on eight hits and one walk while striking out four. The victory is his fifth-straight win as Illinois improves to 5-2 on Friday, and marks the first time an Illini pitcher has won five consecutive starts since Brian Blomquist won six straight from March 19-April 22, 2005.
The Orange and Blue and Delta Devils square off in game two of the weekend series Saturday at 1 p.m. at Illinois Field. The Illini will send freshman right-hander Josh Ferry to the hill, while MVSU will counter with junior left-hander Trey Lacy.