Johnson Pitches Illini to 6-2 Win Over Michigan

Freshman pitcher Kevin Johnson struck out a career-high seven Michigan hitters to lead the Illini to a 6-2 win over the Wolverines.
Freshman pitcher Kevin Johnson struck out a career-high seven Michigan hitters to lead the Illini to a 6-2 win over the Wolverines.

April 17, 2010

Box Score

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois used a five-run fifth inning, taking advantage of a pair of Michigan errors, and got an excellent effort from starting pitcher Kevin Johnson to down the Wolverines 6-2 in front of 1,067 fans at Illinois Field Saturday. Johnson allowed only two runs with a career-high seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings to improve to 3-1 and Bryan Roberts nailed down his fifth save of the year with 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief as the Illini improved to 16-14 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten.

"Kevin had an outstanding day," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "He located his fastball the entire game, didn't overthrow and had great control. To me, the indication that he was going to have a good day was when he gave up a home run to the leadoff hitter and came back and attacked the next guy."

Johnson gave up a home run on a 1-0 pitch to Michigan leadoff hitter Patrick Biondi in the first inning but induced a ground ball before giving up a hit to Wolverine left fielder Ryan LaMarre. But catcher Aaron Johnson threw out LaMarre stealing for the second out of the inning and Kevin Johnson coaxed another grounder to finish the inning.

The only two Michigan runners to reach base in the second and third innings were on errors by the Illini as Johnson began to find a groove. He pitched out of trouble in the fourth inning, as he gave up a one-out walk and that runner moved to second on a balk. Johnson struck out Michigan's slugging first baseman Mike Dufek looking before walking right fielder Nick Urban. But he coaxed a flyout from Wolverine third baseman John Lorenz to escape the jam.

The Illini looked to get on the board in the bottom of the fourth as DH Casey McMurray singled to left with one out and Aaron Johnson walked. McMurray moved to third on third baseman Brandon Hohl's flyout to deep center, but the runners were stranded at the corners as right fielder Craig Lutes popped up to first base to end the inning.

Kevin Johnson worked a 1-2-3 fifth inning and left fielder Pete Cappetta beat out a bunt single down the third-base line to start the bottom half of the inning. Second baseman Christian Cummins laid down a sacrifice bunt that Michigan pitcher Bobby Brosnahan threw low to first base, allowing Cummins to be safe. Shortstop Josh Parr dropped down another bunt toward the third baseman, who mishandled it, loading the bases for the Illini. Center fielder Willie Argo responded with a bases-clearing triple to the right-center wall and first baseman Mike Giller lifted a sacrifice fly to left-center, driving in Argo to put the Illini up 4-1. McMurray singled up the middle and, after an out, stole second. Hohl then lined a single up the middle to drive in McMurray and give the Illini a 5-1 lead.

Despite the long inning, Kevin Johnson returned to the mound in the sixth and struck out LaMarre before giving up a single to left by Michigan catcher Chris Berset. But Johnson induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to end the frame. Illinois looked to be putting more runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth as Cummins singled up the middle to lead off and Parr walked. Argo moved them over with a sacrifice bunt and Giller was walked intentionally. McMurray then smacked a line drive above Lorenz' head, but he leaped and gloved it, then doubled off Parr at second after he had strayed too far from the bag, ending the inning.

Johnson walked Dufek to start the seventh but struck out the next two hitters and induced a ground ball to cruise through his seventh inning of work. The Illini knocked three singles in the bottom of the seventh but couldn't score after a double play and a groundout to end the inning.

Johnson got the first two outs in the eighth, fielding a bunt to the right of the mound and fanning second baseman Anthony Toth before giving up consecutive singles to LaMarre and Berset. Closer Bryan Roberts entered the game and gave up a first-pitch single to Michigan DH Coley Crank, who drove home LaMarre, and worked a 3-2 count to Dufek before putting him away on a fastball to escape the inning with the Illini leading 5-2.

Illinois added an insurance run in the eighth when Parr led off with a single and stole second. Parr moved to third on Argo's groundout and Giller punched a single up the middle against the drawn-in infield to push the Illini lead to 6-2.

Roberts cruised through the ninth inning, striking out Urban looking for the first out before inducing groundouts from a pair of pinch hitters to end the game.

Argo went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, a triple and a run, and Cappetta was 2-for-4 with a run. Lutes also went 2-for-4 and McMurray was 2-for-5 with a run. Parr also went 1-for-2 with a walk, a steal and two runs. Kevin Johnson allowed only two runs on five hits with three walks and a career-high seven innings in a career-high 7 2/3 innings pitched to improve to 3-1 on the season. Roberts struck out two and gave up only one hit in a scoreless 1 1/3 innings to record his fifth save of the year, his third in Big Ten play.

The Orange and Blue finish their series with Michigan Sunday at 1:05 p.m. Junior Lee Zerrusen will start for the Illini, while the Wolverines will send sophomore Brandon Sinnery to the mound.