De La Torriente, Bats Lead Illini Past Panthers, 10-3

Senior Brian de la Torriente struck out a career-high six over a career-best 7 1/3 innings to lift the Illini over Eastern Illinois, 10-3.
Senior Brian de la Torriente struck out a career-high six over a career-best 7 1/3 innings to lift the Illini over Eastern Illinois, 10-3.

April 10, 2012

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Postgame Interviews: Coach Hartleb | Brian de la Torriente

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Brian de la Torriente struck out a career-high six Eastern Illinois hitters over a career-long 7 1/3 innings of work, and the Illini used a six-run third inning to get past the Panthers 10-3 at Illinois Field on Tuesday. De la Torriente started the night with five shutout innings in his first start since March 12, 2010, and Jordan Parr was a home run short of the cycle as he went 3-for-3 and reached base five times.

"I thought we played well in all three aspects," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We got great pitching from Brian de la Torriente and defensively, we played very well behind him and turned some big double plays. And we got some pitches up in the zone and drove some balls with runners in scoring position. The thing offensively that I was so pleased about was that we didn't swing at bad pitches. And going back to Brian, he was ahead in the count all day and he was able to throw his changeup and make guys chase pitches."

De la Torriente gave up a one-out single and hit a batter in the first, but induced a 4-6-3 double play to get out of the inning unscathed. In the second, EIU (12-17) notched a leadoff base hit but that was erased when de la Torriente gloved a soft liner behind his back as he was spinning around, then threw to first to double-off the runner. The next hitter lifted a fly ball to left-center that hung up in the stiff breeze and center fielder Willie Argo was able to make a diving play in the gap for the third out.

In the bottom of the second, the Illini (18-12) took advantage of consecutive one-out walks when catcher Kelly Norris-Jones doubled to left-center, driving home first baseman Jordan Parr. Second baseman Reid Roper then tapped one to the left side that the EIU pitcher gloved and threw to first, but his throw pulled the first baseman off the bag, allowing Norris-Jones to score and extend the lead to 2-0.

After de la Torriente worked a scoreless third inning, the Illini went to work in the bottom half. Shortstop Thomas Lindauer drew a leadoff walk and was safe at second when EIU second baseman Nathan Sopena bobbled a potential double-play ball off Argo's bat. Left fielder Justin Parr ripped a ball to right that went in and out of Panther right fielder Caleb Howell's glove for a two-base error that allowed Lindauer and Argo to score. Third baseman Brandon Hohl singled through the left side, driving home Parr, and EIU brought in reliever Andrew Grahn. Jordan Parr tripled to center, plating Hohl, and right fielder Davis Hendrickson walked. DH Bill Charvat hammered a double to right-center that drove in Parr, and one out later, Roper grounded out to second to drive in Hendrickson and push the Illinois advantage to 8-0.

De la Torriente got a pair of quick groundouts to start the fourth before allowing a pair of base hits and throwing a wild pitch that put men on second and third. But he struck out Panther DH Ben Thoma to keep EIU scoreless. In the bottom half, Hohl drew a two-out walk and Jordan Parr doubled to left-center. The center fielder mishandled the ball, allowing Hohl to score and make the score 9-0.

De la Torriente didn't have any trouble in the fifth, striking out the side, and the Illini added a run in the bottom half. Hendrickson ripped the first pitch from new EIU hurler Darin Worman to right for a leadoff double and, after an out, moved to third on catcher Kelly Norris-Jones' single to center. Roper drove him in with a sac fly to left, extending the margin to 10-0.

EIU finally broke through in the sixth after de la Torriente gave up a leadoff single. He coaxed a fly-out to Argo and a grounder up the middle that Lindauer made a spectacular diving play on before flipping to Roper at second for an out. But the next two hitters knocked high pop-ups that got lost in the lights and fell in for back-to-back doubles, scoring a pair of runs. De la Torriente got out of the inning by striking out Thomas, but the Panthers pulled within 10-2.

The Illini senior righted the ship in the seventh, though, inducing a quick grounder to Lindauer for the first out before hitting a batter. But he coaxed a first-pitch double-play ball to Lindauer, who started the 6-4-3 twin killing. After Illinois went down in order in the bottom of the seventh, de la Torriente gave up a leadoff walk and a base hit up the middle. A wild pitch brought the run home and de la Torriente got an out with a grounder to Jordan Parr. Drasen Johnson came on in relief and coaxed a foul pop-up and a groundout to Hohl to strand the runner and keep the Illini lead at 10-3.

In the ninth, the leadoff man reached when Johnson was unable to handle a chopper to the right of the mound and a single through the infield put runners at first and second. But Johnson induced a groundout to Parr, struck out the next hitter and coaxed a pop-up to Lindauer in shallow left for the final out to seal the 10-3 victory.

Offensively, Jordan Parr led the way, going 3-for-3 with a double, a triple, two walks, an RBI and two runs. Hohl was 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs, and Norris-Jones went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. Lindauer was 2-for-4 with a walk and a run, and Hendrickson doubled, walked twice and scored three runs.

De la Torriente finished the finest outing of his Illini career allowing only three runs on eight hits and two walks, striking out six in 7 1/3 innings of work. He threw 92 pitches, 60 for strikes (65.2 percent). Johnson allowed only one hit and struck out one in 1 2/3 innings to close out the win.

The Illini head to St. Louis, Mo., on Wednesday to take on Missouri at Busch Stadium at 6:35 p.m. in the second-annual Battle at Busch. The game will be televised live by the Big Ten Network. Senior right-hander Nick Chmielewski will get the start for Illinois, while the Tigers will send freshman right-hander Brett Graves to the hill. Tickets are available at the Busch Stadium ticket office for $15, which includes $5 in Cards Cash for use throughout the stadium.