Illini Fall to Lions in Windy Big Ten Opener, 16-9

Third baseman Brandon Hohl went 4-for-5 against Penn State, his first career four-hit game.
Third baseman Brandon Hohl went 4-for-5 against Penn State, his first career four-hit game.

April 2, 2010

Box Score |  Illinois vs. Penn State photos 

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois got within one run twice but Penn State's four home runs were too much to overcome in front of 1,157 fans at an extremely windy Illinois Field - a school record for a Big Ten home opener ¬- as the Lions took a 16-9 win Friday. Third baseman Brandon Hohl posted his first career four-hit game, going 4-for-5, and right fielder Craig Lutes went 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs as Illinois dropped its Big Ten opener for the first time under head coach Dan Hartleb.

Penn State jumped on top first with a three-run homer by catcher Ben Heath in the top of the first, but the Illini began chipping away with a run of their own in the bottom half. Center fielder Willie Argo walked and first baseman Mike Giller singled, advancing Argo to third. One out later, catcher Aaron Johnson lifted a sacrifice fly to right-center to plate Argo and cut PSU's lead to 3-1.

Illini starter Will Strack worked a quick second inning and second baseman Pete Cappetta led off the bottom half with a bloop double that landed just out of the reach of the shortstop. He moved to third on a balk and scored on an RBI groundout by DH Bill Charvat to bring the Illini within 3-2.

But PSU tacked on three more in the third on two singles, a double, a walk and an RBI groundout to go up 6-2. Illinois added a run in the bottom half when Giller laced a leadoff double down the left-field line. After an out, Johnson moved Giller to third with a groundout to the right side and he scampered home on third baseman Brandon Hohl's base hit to right, making the score 6-3 in the Lions' favor.

Strack worked around a single and a hit batter in the fourth to put up a scoreless frame, bringing the Illini bats back to the plate. Cappetta led off with a single and, after an out, shortstop Josh Parr singled to left-center. One out later, Giller reached when PSU shortstop Michael Glantz bobbled his grounder, but left fielder Casey McMurray flied out to left-center to end the inning with the bases loaded.

Penn State added two runs in the fifth, chasing Strack, but reliever Brian de la Torriente finished the inning with PSU leading 8-3. The Illini kept pushing in the bottom of the inning, beginning with Johnson being hit by a pitch. Hohl singled to left-center and advanced to second on the throw as Johnson slid in safely to third. Right fielder Craig Lutes doubled to left when his base hit fell in and bounced to the right of the left fielder, bringing in Johnson and Hohl. Cappetta knocked a base hit to center and moved up to second when the center fielder misplayed the ball as Lutes crossed the plate. Charvat poked a single to left-center, driving in Cappetta. One out later, Argo singled through the right side and, after another out, McMurray was hit by a pitch to load the bases. But Johnson flied out to left to leave the bases loaded as Illinois got within 8-7.

But the NIttany Lions kept using the long-ball to stay out of arm's reach of the Illini as DH Mario Eramo hit reliever John Anderson's second pitch in the sixth inning over the center-field fence for a three-run bomb that extended PSU's lead to 11-7. The Lions tacked on two more in the seventh after another home run that was pushed out by to left-center by the strong winds to go ahead 13-7.

Illinois scraped across a run in the bottom of eighth as Johnson legged out a bunt single to the third baseman and Hohl singled down the left-field line. Johnson advanced to third but Hohl was thrown out at second trying to stretch his single into a double. After a pitching change, Lutes poked an RBI single to left to bring home Johnson to cut PSU's lead to 13-8.

But the Lions put together a couple of singles, an RBI groundout and a two-run homer to extend their lead to 16-8. Illinois got another run in the bottom of the ninth when Parr beat out a single to the shortstop. One out later, first baseman Daniel Parker was hit by a pitch and McMurray kept his hitting streak alive with an RBI single up the middle to cut Penn State's lead to 13-9. But Johnson grounded out to shortstop to end the game.

Hohl put together his first career four-hit game by going 4-for-5 with an RBI and a run, while Lutes continued to hit well by going 3-for-5 with a double, three RBIs and a run. Cappetta broke out of a funk by hitting 3-for-5 with a double, an RBI and two runs, and Parr was 3-for-5 with a steal and a run. Giller also went 2-for-4 with a double and a run on the evening. McMurray extended his hitting streak to 12 games, a season-best for the Illini.

Illinois and Penn State return for game two of the series Saturday at 3 p.m. at Illinois Field. Freshman Kevin Johnson will get the ball for the Illini, while sophomore Ryan Ignas will start for the Nittany Lions.