April 4, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois had a pair of five-run innings and got five shutout innings from its bullpen to hammer Penn State, 15-3, and win the first Big Ten series of the season. Designated hitter Adam Davis homered twice and the Illini blasted four dingers, their most home runs in a game since hitting seven against Northwestern on May 8, 2005. Corey Kimes picked up his first win of the year by pitching three shutout innings as Illinois improved to 11-10 on the season, 2-1 in the Big Ten.
"This was the most complete game we've played this year," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We showed that we're capable of playing at a high level, but we have to do it more consistently than we have to this point."
The Illini scored first for the second-straight game, posting two runs in the bottom of the first after a single by left fielder Casey McMurray and a two-run home run by catcher Aaron Johnson for a quick 2-0 lead.
Illinois starting pitcher Lee Zerrusen loaded the bases with one out in the second inning on two hits and a walk, but struck out the next hitter and coaxed a flyout to right field to dance out of the jam. He worked a quick third inning, only allowing a two-out walk, then the Illini offense went back to work in the bottom half. McMurray led off with a double and moved to third on Johnson's groundout. Third baseman Brandon Hohl was hit by a pitch and right fielder Craig Lutes drove in McMurray with a sacrifice fly to center to put the Illini up 3-0.
PSU tied the game in the fourth after a pair of doubles and a two-run home run, but Zerrusen got out of the inning after a controversial batter interference call that changed the situation from no outs, runners on first and second to one out, runner on first. Zerrusen induced consecutive flyouts to Willie Argo in center field to keep the game tied, 3-3.
The Illini went back on top in the bottom of the fourth when shortstop Josh Parr lined a single up the middle with two outs and stole second. Argo drove him in with a base hit through the left side to put Illinois up 4-3.
Kimes relieved Zerrusen in the fifth and gave up a pair of two-out singles before striking out Nittany Lion center fielder Sean Deegan to end the inning. After the Illini didn't score in the bottom half, Kimes got two quick outs before allowing a single up the middle and a four-pitch walk. But he avoided trouble by inducing a groundout from PSU third baseman Jordan Steranka.
Illinois was finally able to get to PSU starter Neal Herring in the sixth when Lutes reached after Nittany Lion first baseman Joey DeBernardis let a ball go through his legs. Lutes moved to second on a wild pitch and second baseman Pete Cappetta lined a double down the right-field line to plate Lutes. Davis then blasted a 1-0 pitch over the scoreboard in left field for his first career home run, a two-run shot. After a pitching change and an out, Argo singled to center and stole second before he was caught stealing third. But first baseman Mike Giller restarted the rally with a base hit up the middle. McMurray followed that up with a two-run homer to left-center to put the Illini up 9-3.
Kimes started to run into trouble in the seventh when he allowed a leadoff single before getting PSU left fielder Mario Eramo to line out to Argo. Kimes gave up a ground-rule double that put runners at second and third with one out, but Deegan lined out to Giller at first, who fired the ball to Parr to double-off Penn State DH Bobby Jacobs at second base and get out of the jam.
Lutes drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the seventh and moved to second on a wild pitch. After a pitching change, Cappetta smacked a single to right-center that drove in Lutes to push the Illini lead to 10-3.
Kevin Manson relieved Kimes in the eighth and needed only nine pitches to retire the side. Illinois' offense kept the ball rolling in the bottom half, with pinch hitter Davis Hendrickson starting the frame by reaching when DeBernardis muffed Steranka's throw from third. One out later, Johnson walked and Hohl singled to left, driving home Hendrickson. Lutes moved up the runners with his come-backer to the mound and Cappetta smacked a ground-rule double to left-center that brought home Johnson and Hohl. Davis then stepped to the plate and smacked another 1-0 offering over the fence in left-center for his second home run of the day, another two-run blast.
Manson finished the game, inducing a pop-up by DeBernardis to Hohl at third, coaxing a flyout to left by Steranka and fanning PSU catcher Ben Heath. He posted two perfect innings of relief with a pair of strikeouts, needing only 21 pitches to record six outs.
Davis finished the day 2-for-5 with two homers, four RBIs and two runs. Cappetta also drove in four runs, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs. A day after seeing his 12-game hitting streak go by the boards, McMurray went 4-for-5 with a home run, a double, two RBIs and three runs. Argo was 3-for-5 with an RBI and two steals, and Johnson went 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs. Hohl also collected multiple hits on the day, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run.
Cappetta finished the weekend 7-for-13 (.538) with four doubles, seven RBIs and five runs. Hohl also hit .538 with two RBIs and three runs. Argo hit 7-for-15 (.467) with two RBIs, two runs and 4-for-5 steals, while Lutes hit .455 (5-for-11) with two doubles, seven RBIs and four runs.
Sunday's game, which was streamed live on BigTenNetwork.com, will be reaired Monday at 5 p.m. CT on the Big Ten Network.
Illinois returns to action Tuesday at Bradley at 6 p.m. before taking on Missouri on Wednesday at Busch Stadium in a 7 p.m. tilt.