Johnson, Jay Blank Michigan 1-0 to Extend Streak
April 11, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Starter Drasen Johnson and closer Tyler Jay combined for a 1-0 shutout against Michigan on Friday night at Illinois Field, extending Illinois' season-long winning streak to six and scoreless innings streak to 25. UI only needed one run to win for the second straight game, marking just the second time that has happened in school history. The Illini pitched back-to-back 1-0 shutouts for the first time since May 16, 1969, which was part of a doubleheader against Michigan State and the only other time it has been done.
"That's the first time since 1969 that we have pitched back-to-back 1-0 shutouts, and we are working on 25 straight scoreless innings on the mound," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "That is impressive at any level. Our pitchers have been really good and we have had great defense. We are playing loose and our guys continue to improve. They believe in themselves and we are playing as a unit. There are a lot of things going well."
Illinois won for the 10th time in 11 games and improved to 18-11 overall. After dropping the Big Ten opener 4-3 to Purdue, the Illini have rolled off six consecutive Big Ten wins and sit in second place in the conference at 6-1. The six-game winning streak equals the longest mark from last season, which the NCAA Regional team did twice while winning 12 out of 13 games. The Orange and Blue have given up a measly seven runs over the past six games for a 1.15 ERA.
Johnson shined on the mound by throwing seven scoreless frames with only four hits and one walk for the second start in a row. After matching a career-high 10 strikeouts in his last outing, he finished with three punch outs against the Wolverines, as he improved to 4-4 on the season.
Jay took over on the mound in the eighth and recorded his fourth career save to push Illinois' scoreless streak to 25 innings. After allowing two runs in the third inning to Northwestern last Saturday, the Illini have not given up a run since. Illinois has pitched shutouts in three of its last four games and owns five on the year.
Redshirt-junior Reid Roper singled home junior Michael Hurwitz for the game's only run with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. It would be all the Illini needed behind the impressive pitching performances. The Illini had chances to tack on runs, but had runners thrown out at home to end both the fourth and fifth inning.
Michigan (14-19-1, 4-6 Big Ten) did not get a runner past second base on the night. Johnson gave up a leadoff single but it was erased by a 9-3 double play. The Wolverines got their only extra-base hit in the first but the double was followed by a groundout.
"Drasen continues to work hard," Hartleb said. "After the first inning tonight, I thought he was really, really good."
Johnson retired seven straight before allowing his third hit on a single up the middle in the fourth. The Chillicothe, Ill., native worked a perfect fifth and had his only walk in the sixth. He had a hot shot deflect off him in the seventh for the fourth hit, but got a ground ball to end the stanza.
Jay struck out the first batter he faced followed by Michigan singling through the left side. Freshman Ryne Roper then made a stellar diving double play on a bloop into short left field to end the eighth inning. The Lemont, Ill., native gave up a one-out single but followed it with a fielder's choice and strikeout to wrap up the win.
"You saw as good of a play that you are going to see at any level on that catch over his head by Ryne Roper to double off the runner at first base," Hartleb said.
Up Next: Illinois will meet Michigan for game two on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Illinois Field. Country Day will be held at the park, while sophomore Ryan Castellanos (3-1, 3.18 ERA) will start against junior Trent Szkutnik (0-4, 2.83 ERA).