Craig Lutes went 2-for-4 with three RBIs to help the Illini defeat Penn State, 10-8.
April 3, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois scored six in the first inning and Bryan Roberts pitched two scoreless innings to close out the Illini's 10-8 win over Penn State at Illinois Field. Center fielder Willie Argo and catcher Adam Davis each collected three hits, and right fielder Craig Lutes drove in three runs as the Illini evened their record at 10-10 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten.
"It was nice to get six runs early, especially after struggling on the mound last night," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "That definitely gave (starting pitcher) Kevin Johnson some confidence."
The Illini got things rolling early with six runs in the bottom of the first inning. Center fielder Willie Argo singled up the middle and first baseman Mike Giller moved him to third with a base hit through the right side. Giller was put out on left fielder Casey McMurray's liner up the middle that the pitcher knocked down and threw to second, but Argo scored. DH Aaron Johnson singled through the right side and third baseman Brandon Hohl walked to load the bases. Right fielder Craig Lutes knocked a base hit up the middle, scoring McMurray and Johnson, and Lutes stole second. Second baseman Pete Cappetta laced a double down the left-field line, plating both runs, and catcher Adam Davis lined a single up the middle to give the Illini a 1-0 lead.
The Lions got a run back in the third on a solo homer by DH Bobby Jacobs and added two more in the third on two singles, two walks and a sacrifice fly to cut Illinois' lead to 6-3. Illinois pushed across a run in the bottom of the third when Johnson walked and moved to third on Hohl's single through the left side. Johnson came home when Lutes hit into a double play, making the score 7-3.
But Penn State plated two in the fourth to cut into Illinois' lead once again, using a single, a double and a two-out, two-run single to make the score 7-5. Illinois scored again in the bottom half when Davis led off with a double down the left-field line, but was put out on shortstop Josh Parr's grounder to shortstop. He was able to get into a rundown, allowing Parr to advance to second in his place. Parr moved to third on a passed ball and scored one out later when Giller knocked a double to left-center, putting the Illini ahead 8-5.
PSU got a run in the sixth with two outs after two singles and a wild pitch, but Illinois got it back in the bottom half when Davis knocked a one-out single. He moved to second on Parr's groundout and scored when Argo lined a single to left field to make the score 9-6 in Illinois' favor.
The Lions kept at it, pushing across two runs in the top of the seventh. Reliever Mike Sterk allowed a leadoff hit and, after an out, gave up a two-run homer to PSU catcher Ben Heath to center field, bringing PSU within 9-8.
Illinois got a run in the bottom of the seventh when Johnson drew a one-out walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. One out later, Lutes doubled over the right fielder's head for an RBI double that extended Illinois' lead to 10-8.
Penn State looked to push a run across in the eighth after a leadoff single by right fielder Elliot Searer. Reliever Bryan Roberts punched out the next hitter but Searer moved to second on a passed ball. Searer stole third as center fielder Steve Snyder fanned and first baseman Joey DeBernardis hit a blooper into shallow center, but Argo made a diving catch to preserve Illinois' lead and retire the side.
Argo narrowly beat out a one-out infield single in the eighth and, after an out, stole second. McMurray walked to put men on first and second, but Johnson flew out to left to end the inning.
Roberts looked to nail down his second save of the year in the ninth and coaxed a quick pop-up from PSU third baseman Jordan Steranka before winning an eight-pitch battle with Heath, inducing another pop-up. He then punched out left fielder Mario Eramo on the inside corner to lock up Illinois' 10-8 win.
Argo was 3-for-5 with an RBI, a run and two steals, and Davis went 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run. Lutes went 2-for-4 with a double, three RBIs and a run, and Johnson went 1-for-3 with two walks and three runs. Giller went 2-for-5 with an RBI and Cappetta was 1-for-3 with a walk, two RBIs and a run. Roberts struck out three in his two-inning save, allowing only one hit.
The Fighting Illini and Penn State square off in the rubber match of the series Sunday at 12:05 p.m. Right-hander Lee Zerrusen will take the ball for Illinois and the Nittany Lions will send righty Neal Herring to the mound.