Illini Battle Back Again at Penn State, 8-3
April 19, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Illinois used a four-run inning late in the game for the second day in a row to battle back and beat Penn State on Saturday, 8-3. Sophomore Adam Walton extended his career-high hitting streak to 16 games with a go-ahead two-run single with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh. Junior David Kerian connected on another two-run base knock in the seventh and junior Will Krug tacked on the same in the eighth.
"We got a lot of clutch hitting with two outs today," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "It was good to see some guys take good swings in key situations. The one that was huge was Adam Walton taking the ball to right field with the bases loaded and two outs. Road wins aren't easy, but we found a way to win again."
Illinois (20-14) took over sole possession of second place in the Big Ten at 8-3 and equaled its best conference start under Hartleb, tying the mark from 2009. The Illini remained two games behind first-place Indiana (10-1).
Trailing 3-2 after six innings, the Illini collected six hits and six runs in the final three frames. Illinois' offense struggled during the middle of the game when they had the side retired in three consecutive innings. The Orange and Blue snapped out of it when the first three hitters reached in the seventh, with a walk to sophomore Ryan Nagle and singles by junior Casey Fletcher and freshman Ryne Roper.
A strikeout and force out at home put the pressure on Walton to come through in the clutch. The Buffalo Grove, Ill., native did just that on a full count when he singled through the right side. After Walton stole second, Kerian found the hole on the left side to complete the four-run rally.
Krug, who finished 2-for-5 with two runs and two RBI, added insurance runs with a two-out, two run single in the eighth. Illinois' first three hitters each had a two-out, two run single during the comeback.
Illinois strung together three straight hits with one out in the bottom of the second and initially grabbed a 1-0 lead. Redshirt-junior Reid Roper doubled down the right field line and scored on Nagle's RBI single to center. Fletcher also singled in the stanza but the Illini only got one home.
Krug showed off his speed to put the Illini ahead 2-0 in the third. The Illini center fielder smacked a leadoff single, stole second, advanced to third on a fly out to center and came home on sophomore Jason Goldstein's sacrifice fly to right.
Penn State jumped in front 3-2 with three runs on four hits in the fourth, the only inning in which they scored. Taylor Skerpon poked a two-run single to right field following a walk, single and sacrifice bunt that began the inning. Following another single that put runners on the corners, Ryan Richter laid down a safety squeeze bunt that plated Skerpon.
Junior starter John Kravetz improved to 4-1 after striking out six in 6.2 innings. He scattered nine hits and only allowed two earned runs. Sophomore J.D. Nielsen recorded a key out to the only batter he faced that ended the seventh. Senior Ronnie Muck worked a perfect eighth on 13 pitches and redshirt-sophomore Charlie Naso closed out a 1-2-3 ninth on nine pitches.
"John gave us a great start," Hartleb said. "He ran into a couple of jams but got out of them. The inning they got three runs could have been more, but he limited the damage. The bullpen got their job done and finished it off for us."
Up Next: Illinois will go for the sweep of Penn State on Sunday at 11 a.m., which will be aired live on the Big Ten Network. Sophomore Ryan Castellanos (3-2, 4.41 ERA) will square off against righty Ian Parvin (3-1, 3.38 ERA) at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.