Johnson Fans 8 as Illini Blast Michigan, 9-2

Illini pitcher Kevin Johnson pitched a complete game, striking out eight, to lift the Orange and Blue over Michigan, 9-2.
Illini pitcher Kevin Johnson pitched a complete game, striking out eight, to lift the Orange and Blue over Michigan, 9-2.

April 15, 2011

Box Score

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Johnson struck out eight in a complete-game effort and Illinois scored nine runs in the third and fourth innings to down Michigan, 9-2, at the Wilpon Complex on Friday. Third baseman Brandon Hohl doubled twice and drove in three runs, and left fielder Casey McMurray's two-run triple in the third inning gave Illinois its first lead of the game.

"Kevin Johnson did a great job for us today," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "I was impressed by how he handled a rough first inning and bounced back to have the outing that he did. Offensively, we hit well up and down the lineup. A lot of guys had good at bats today."

Michigan (9-23 overall, 2-5 in the Big Ten) scored a run in the bottom of the first after a leadoff walk, a stolen base and a two-out double by Coley Crank to take a 1-0 lead after an inning.

But Illinois (12-17, 4-3) grabbed the lead with three unearned runs in the third inning. Right fielder Davis Hendrickson led off with a base hit and shortstop Thomas Lindauer moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. Second baseman Pete Cappetta walked and Parr bunted the runners to second and third. On a 1-0 count, McMurray popped a ball up between the plate and first base that was dropped by Wolverine first baseman Garrett Stephens, giving him new life. He fouled off another pitch before driving a triple to the wall in right-center, plating both runners. McMurray then scored on a passed ball to put the Illini up 3-1.

After a quick 1-2-3 inning by Johnson in the bottom of the third, the Orange and Blue kept pushing in the fourth. First baseman Matt Dittman led off the inning with a solo homer to right-center and, after a pair of outs, Lindauer laced a double to left-center. Cappetta walked and Parr ripped a single through the right side to drive home Lindauer. McMurray walked and Hohl smoked a 3-2 offering from Brosnahan to deep left-center for a bases-clearing double. Catcher Adam Davis then knocked a slow grounder up the middle that Michigan shortstop Anthony Toth gloved on the back of the infield and threw to first, but Davis beat it out. As Stephens recovered from his long stretch to receive the ball at first, Hohl kept running and scored all the way from second on the infield single, pushing the Illini lead to 9-1.

Johnson put it on cruise control from there, retiring 10 straight hitters from the second inning through the first out of the fifth before he gave up a one-out walk. He induced a pair of groundouts to finish the frame, though, keeping the Illini on top by eight runs.

Michigan threatened in the sixth after a leadoff walk and a base hit to center. But center fielder Willie Argo made a sensational play with an over-the-shoulder catch as he sprinted toward the center-field fence. As he caught the ball, Stephens - who was on second - took off for third without tagging up, and Argo threw it to Cappetta, who relayed it to Lindauer for a double play. Johnson coaxed a fly-out from third baseman John Lorenz to end the inning with the Illini leading 9-1.

In the bottom of the seventh, Michigan got a run on three consecutive two-out hits and had men on first and second when Argo kept the Wolverines from having a big inning with an amazing diving catch in left-center that served as the third out.

Johnson continued to baffle the Wolverine hitters in the eighth, striking out the side on 13 pitches. In the bottom of the ninth, Johnson induced a groundout to Hohl, struck out the next hitter and coaxed a high pop-up to shallow left that Lindauer corralled for the game's final out.

Johnson was spectacular, striking out eight in his first complete game of 2011 and second of his career. He allowed two runs on six hits and three walks, requiring only 109 pitches. He recorded strikes on 66 percent of his offerings and threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 35 batters he faced (60 percent).

Hohl led the Illini offense from his new No. 4 spot in the batting order, going 2-for-4 with two doubles, three RBIs and a run, while McMurray was 1-for-3 with a triple, two RBIs and two runs. Parr went 2-for-4 with a steal, an RBI and a run, and Davis went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Lindauer broke out of his slump by going 2-for-3 with a double and a run and Cappetta went 1-for-2 with three walks and two runs in his new leadoff spot in the lineup.

The Illini and Wolverines square off in game two of the series Saturday at 2:05 p.m. CT. Illinois will send right-hander John Anderson to the hill while Michigan will give the ball to righty Tyler Clark.