Early Scoring Propels Illini Past Purdue, 8-3
March 30, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois scored seven runs in the first three innings on its way to an 8-3 win and a series victory over Purdue (5-18, 1-2 Big Ten) on Sunday at Illinois Field. Every starter recorded a hit for Illinois, which collected 13 hits compared to five for the Boilermakers. The Illini, who finished 7-2 during their nine-game homestand, improved to 14-11 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten following their first conference series.
"It's nice to win a Big Ten series and that is what you have to do to compete for a conference championship," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We did a good job from an offensive standpoint. Rob didn't have his best stuff, but found a way to work out of jams. Our bullpen came in and did a really good job to finish it off. After things didn't go well the first game, we found a way to fight back and win the next two."
Illinois jumped out of the gate with a run in the first, four in the second and two more in the third. Sophomore Jason Goldstein plated junior Will Krug for the first run on an RBI groundout. The Illini scored in the opening frame for the seventh time this season.
The bats came alive in the second with five hits in the stanza. Freshman Pat McInerney and junior Casey Fletcher each singled to left to begin the rally. Freshman Ryne Roper legged out a bunt, which the catcher threw away, allowing McInerney to score. Sophomore Adam Walton brought home Fletcher on a sacrifice fly followed by an RBI double by junior Michael Hurwitz and an RBI single by Goldstein.
Starter Rob McDonnell cruised through the first two innings, but gave up a pair of runs in the third. The Illini responded right back in the bottom half with two runs on back-to-back RBI singles through the left side by Ryne Roper and Walton, which made it 7-2.
McDonnell (2-0) kept the Boilermakers scoreless in the fourth and fifth, setting himself up for his second win with two runs, four hits, three walks and three strikeouts in five innings. The bullpen only allowed a home run in the sixth before shutting the door.
Sophomore Nick Blackburn allowed the solo shot in the sixth, which the Illini answered with an RBI single by Kerian in the bottom half. Senior Ronnie Muck had a walk in the seventh followed by sophomore Tyler Jay working a perfect eighth on 13 pitches and redshirt-junior Reid Roper wrapping up the game with six pitches in a perfect ninth.
Walton continued his hot hitting, going 1-for-3 with two RBI to give him a .545 average (6-for-11) for the series. Krug added two more hits and started Big Ten play batting .500 (6-for-12). Kerian and Ryne Roper each had two hits on Sunday and hit .364 (4-for-11) for the weekend. Hurwitz scored twice and walked three times, giving him five free passes for the series.
The Illini pitching staff dropped its team ERA to 3.07 after only allowing nine runs to Purdue and finishing with a 2.67 ERA on the weekend.
Up Next: Illinois will battle for Braggin' Rights with Missouri in a midweek showdown on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo. Tickets, which are just $15 and include $5 in Cards Cash, are currently on sale online at cardinals.com/illini, via phone by calling 314-345-9000 and at the Busch Stadium Box Office.