4-Run 8th Powers Illini Comeback over Penn State, 6-3
April 18, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Trailing 3-2 after giving up the lead in the seventh, Illinois sent all nine batters to the plate and scored four runs in the eighth as part of a 6-3 comeback victory over Penn State. Sophomore Tyler Jay improved to 2-0 and redshirt-junior Reid Roper earned his second save, as the Illini snapped a three-game skid. Illinois remained in third place in the Big Ten at 7-3 and moved to 19-14 overall.
"That was a good win," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "I was pleased with our approach and I thought we played to win. We took advantage of some errors and had the big four-run inning, which was a big positive and something that will propel our offense in the future. We played hard but didn't always play clean, yet still found a way to win."
Sophomore Adam Walton, who extended his career-high hitting streak to 15 games by going 2-for-5, began the four-run eighth with a single through the right side. Walton stole second and junior David Kerian walked followed by a double steal that put both runners in scoring position. Sophomore Jason Goldstein brought home Walton with an RBI groundout to third that tied it up at three.
With one out in the eighth, Reid Roper connected on a go-ahead RBI single on a grounder that hit first base and ricocheted into the outfield, allowing Kerian to score from second. After sophomore Ryan Nagle was hit by a pitch and junior Casey Fletcher walked, freshman Ryne Roper poked a two-run single to right field to give Illinois a 6-3 lead.
The Illini fell behind twice in the series opener on Friday, as Penn State scored on an RBI single in the first, ending starter Drasen Johnson's streak of 14 consecutive scoreless innings. Johnson received a no decision after striking out six and surrendering three runs (one earned) in 6.1 innings.
Illinois took a 2-1 lead in the sixth, capitalizing on two PSU errors with two unearned runs. Ryne Roper reached on a fielding error at third base and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Junior Will Krug singled to right, putting runners on the corners. After Krug stole second, Walton plated Ryne Roper and reached on an error at shortstop. Krug tagged up to third on Kerian's fly out to right and Goldstein found the hole on the left side with an RBI single.
The Nittany Lions weren't down for long, as they tied it up in the bottom of the sixth and retook the lead with a fielder's choice RBI in the seventh. PSU loaded the bases without having a ball leave the infield in the seventh but only managed one run after Jay relieved Johnson with one out and ended the threat.
"Drasen and Tyler came through with shutdown innings when we needed it," Hartleb said. "They only came away with one run in the sixth and seventh when they could have scored multiple in both."
Jay, who finished with 1.2 scoreless innings and lowered his team-leading ERA to 1.11, had a walk and three fly outs in the eighth to keep the Illini ahead by three. Reid Roper loaded the bases in the ninth with a single and hitting two batters before leaving them jammed with a strikeout looking.
Up Next: Illinois will meet Penn State for game two of the series on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The Illini will send junior John Kravetz (3-1, 3.05 ERA) to the hill against PSU's T.J. Jann (1-5, 3.78 ERA).