Illini Top Iowa 9-8 After Eighth-Inning Rally
April 9, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Illinois scored three runs in the eighth inning and Bryan Roberts converted his fourth-straight save opportunity with a two innings of work as the Illini nipped Iowa 9-8 at Duane Banks Field on Friday. Left fielder Casey McMurray went 4-for-6 with three RBIs - including an RBI double down the right-field line to ignite the eighth-inning rally - and Mike Giller was 3-for-6 with two RBIs as the Illini won their third-straight Big Ten game.
"We had good energy in the dugout all game and our guys never kept fighting, so I was pleased about that," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We didn't pitch very well for most of the game, but Roberts was lights-out to finish it."
The Illini (13-11 overall, 3-1 in the Big Ten) put together a pair of singles with two outs in the top of the first to put men at the corners, but third baseman Brandon Hohl grounded out to the first baseman to end the threat. Iowa (10-16, 1-3) was able to come up with a run after a leadoff walk and two hits, but Illini starter Will Strack stranded the bases full of Hawkeyes by inducing an inning-ending groundout to shortstop Josh Parr.
But Illinois responded with four runs in the second inning to grab a 4-1 lead. Right fielder Craig Lutes reached on an error to start the inning and second baseman Pete Cappetta walked. One out later, Parr smacked a double to the gap in left-center, driving in two runs, and center fielder Willie Argo singled. First baseman Mike Giller legged out an infield hit and left fielder Casey McMurray drove in two more runs with a base hit to left.
Iowa got two runs back in the bottom of the second after two walks, a steal and a throwing error by catcher Aaron Johnson, and an RBI single to cut Illinois' lead to 4-3.
After a scoreless third inning, the Illini pushed across a run in the fourth when Parr singled to left-center and stole second. He moved to third on a wild pitch and came home on Giller's groundout to first, pushing the Illini ahead 5-3. But the Hawkeyes plated five runs in the bottom of the fourth, chasing Strack after he started the frame by walking the first two hitters. Brian de la Torriente relieved him and wasn't much more effective, giving up a sacrifice fly, a pair of doubles, a walk and hitting a batter as Iowa took an 8-5 lead.
Illinois got a run back in the sixth inning when Parr lifted a pop-up to right field that the Iowa fielder, Ryan Durant, lost in the lights for a double with one out. After another out, Giller smacked a single back up the middle to bring home Parr and cut Iowa's lead to 8-6.
The Illini regained the lead in the top of the eighth with three runs on three hits. Argo led off with a base hit to center and Giller poked a single through the left side. McMurray then yanked a double down the left-field line, driving home Argo and moving Giller to the third. After a pitching change, Johnson smacked the first pitch he saw toward the shortstop, who whiffed on his attempt to glove the ball, allowing two runs to score on the fielding error as the Illini grabbed a 9-8 lead.
Illinois closer Bryan Roberts entered the game in the bottom of the eighth and made short work of the Hawkeyes, as Cappetta reached up and snared a liner for the first out, Roberts fanned Iowa second baseman Zach McCool and Cappetta ranged up the middle and made a long throw to first for the third out of the inning.
The Illini weren't able to extend their lead in the ninth but Roberts didn't need the extra cushion, as he coaxed a flyout to Argo, whiffed the next hitter and induced a pop-up to Cappetta to end the game. Roberts needed only 19 pitches to record six outs for his fourth save of the year.
McMurray led the Illini at the plate, going 4-for-6 with a double, three RBIs and a run. It was his second four-hit game in the last four games, making him 11-for-19 (.579) in that span. Giller also had a good night at the plate, going 3-for-6 with two RBIs and a run, and Parr was 3-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs. Argo went 2-for-5 with two runs and Lutes was 1-for-3 with two walks and a run.
The Illini and Hawkeyes square off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, with Kevin Johnson toeing the rubber for Illinois and Nick Brown getting the start for Iowa.