Matt Milroy struck out a career-high 10 Hoosiers in five scoreless innings of relief to lift the Illini to an 11-6 win on Sunday.
April 8, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Matt Milroy struck out a career-high 10 hitters over five scoreless innings of relief and Justin Parr blasted a two-out grand slam in the sixth inning to lift the Illini to an 11-6 win and a series victory over Indiana in front of 939 fans on Sunday. Milroy struck out the side twice and fanned five consecutive Hoosiers at one point to earn his first victory on the season and help Illinois improve to 17-12 overall, 3-3 in the Big Ten.
Milroy's 10 strikeouts were the most by an Illini pitcher at Illinois Field since Jimmy Conroy fanned 11 against Michigan State on April 11, 2004, and the most by an Illinois pitcher since Kevin Johnson struck out 11 against Northern Illinois on March 17, 2011. Illinois' offense also posted 14 hits, the second-straight game with double-digit hits and the fifth time in the last seven games.
"We didn't play very well on Friday, so for the guys to rebound yesterday and give us a solid outing, then come out today and we went down early - and that's always a concern - but guys kept battling back offensively and the difference in the game was Matt Milroy," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "He came in and gave us five great innings and with one swing of the bat, we took that big lead, so it was a very good performance. It's probably the best I've seen Milroy over a five-inning period. He's had flashes of one or two good innings, but has not been able to sustain that over a long period. The difference was he threw strikes today. When he goes out and throws strikes, he's tough because he's difficult for hitters to pick up, and he has very good velocity and a sharp breaking ball."
The Hoosiers got on the board in the first with a one-out walk, a single, a double down the right-field line and an RBI groundout for a quick 2-0 advantage. But Illinois battled back in the bottom of the first when shortstop Thomas Lindauer led off with a base hit to center and center fielder Willie Argo drew a walk. Left fielder Justin Parr ripped a single through the right side, scoring Lindauer, and Argo and Parr executed a double-steal. Third baseman Brandon Hohl was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Indiana changed pitchers, bringing in Matt Dearden. First baseman Jordan Parr grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, but Argo scored, and right fielder Davis Hendrickson drove in Justin Parr with a base hit through the right side, pushing the Illini ahead, 3-2.
In the second, Indiana scored three run on a one-out walk, a hit batter and a three-run homer by catcher Kyle Schwarber. But the Illini responded with a pair in the bottom half when catcher Kelly Norris-Jones was hit by a pitch and second baseman Reid Roper ripped a base hit through the right side. Roper was put out on a fielder's choice grounder off Lindauer's bat, then Lindauer stole second. Norris-Jones scored on a wild pitch and Lindaucer came home on Argo's sacrifice fly to center, pulling the Illini even with the Hoosiers at 5.
Illini reliever Matt Milroy took over for starter Josh Ferry in the third and struck out the side around a two-out walk and a stolen base, keeping the Hoosiers scoreless for the first time in the game. Illinois also was kept off the board in the third, then Milroy worked around a leadoff single and a walk by inducing a double play and striking out Hoosier slugger Sam Travis to end the top of the fourth.
In the bottom of the fourth, Roper knocked a single up the middle with two outs and scored on Lindauer's double off the wall in left-center, giving the Illini a 6-5 lead.
Milroy started his third inning of relief by walking Hoosier third baseman Dillon Dooney, but shortstop Michael Basil chopped one to Roper, who flipped to Lindauer at the bag to force out Dooney at second. Milroy gave up a base hit through the left side but struck out the next two hitters to strand the pair of runners.
The Illini junior pitcher found a groove there, striking out the side in the sixth, then Hendrickson led off the bottom of the half with a bunt single. After a pitching change and an out, Norris-Jones singled through the right side and Hendrickson advanced to third. Roper chopped one to second baseman Dustin DeMuth, who flipped to the base to put out Norris-Jones, but Hendrickson scored. Roper moved to second when pitcher Drew Leininger's pickoff attempt skipped past first base and Lindauer walked after falling behind in the count 0-2. The Hoosiers brought in Ryan Halstead to face Argo, but Argo punched a single through the right side that loaded the bases. Justin Parr then crushed the first pitch he saw over the fence in right for a grand slam, pushing the Illini advantage to 11-5.
Milroy gave up a leadoff single and hit a batter in the seventh, but he struck out the next batter, induced a groundout to Jordan Parr and a fly-out to Hendrickson to leave a pair of Hoosiers on the bases. After the Illini went down scoreless in the bottom half, Luke Joyce took over for Milroy and retired the first two batters he faced. He gave up a first-pitch solo homer to Hoosier center fielder Justin Cureton, but struck out Schwarber looking to end the inning as Indiana drew within 11-6.
The Illini stranded a runner at second in the eighth and Roper took over on the mound in the ninth. He needed only nine pitches to retire the Hoosiers in order on a groundout to Hohl and a pair of fly-outs to Hendrickson, sealing the 11-6 Illini win.
Illinois' bullpen was magnificent on the day, with Milroy tossing five scoreless innings of relief, striking out a career-high 10 while allowing only three hits and three walks. Joyce struck out one and gave up a solo homer in one inning of work, and Roper pitched a perfect ninth.
At the plate, Justin Parr led the charge with a 2-for-5 day that included a grand slam, five RBIs, two runs and a steal. Lindauer went 3-for-4 with a double, a steal, an RBI and three runs, and Argo was 2-for-4 with an RBI, two runs and a steal. Hendrickson was 2-for-4 with a steal, an RBI and a run, and Roper went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs.
On the weekend, Parr hit a team-best .538 (7-for-13) with a double, a homer, seven RBIs and three runs. Argo and Roper each hit .455 (5-for-11), with Argo driving in two runs and scoring four, while Roper drove in two and scored two. Lindauer also hit .417 (5-for-12) on the series with a double, two RBIs, five runs and two steals.
The Illini have Monday off before hosting Eastern Illinois on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the final game of the squad's season-high eight-game home-stand. Illinois then travels to St. Louis on Wednesday to face Missouri at Busch Stadium at 6:30 p.m.