Illini Cap Off Sweep of Penn State on Easter, 7-6
April 20, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Illinois made it interesting in the ninth but held on for a 7-6 victory, capping off the sweep at Penn State on Easter Sunday. The Nittany Lions scored two in the final inning and had the winning run on first base before a 6-4-3 double play ended the threat. Illinois (21-14) got off to its best Big Ten start under ninth-year head coach Dan Hartleb and remained in second place at 9-3.
"The last out of the game was the toughest but we hung in there," Hartleb said. "We finally got the big double play at the end of the game. The difference in the games this weekend was that we came up with the two-out hits. We were very patient at the plate and got it done up and down the lineup."
Illinois notched consecutive Big Ten road sweeps for the first time since 2009, which also both came against Northwestern and Penn State. The Illini scored six runs or more in each game, marking the first time they have done so on a weekend this season.
Starter Ryan Castellanos picked up the win with three runs over six innings, improving to 4-2 on the year. The Orange and Blue received a hit from everyone in the lineup but sophomore Jason Goldstein and redshirt-junior Reid Roper, who both had an RBI.
Penn State jumped out to a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the first. Illinois responded with two runs in the second, grabbing a 2-1 advantage. Junior Casey Fletcher poked a leadoff singled to right followed by a double from freshman Ryne Roper. Junior Michael Hurwitz knocked in Fletcher with a single to right for the first run. One out later, sophomore Adam Walton brought home Ryne Roper with an RBI fielder's choice.
With two outs in the third inning, Ryne Roper drove home sophomore Ryan Nagle, who smacked a double that started the two-out hitting in the stanza. Illinois scored three runs in the next inning to take a 6-1 lead. Krug drew a leadoff walk and Walton extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a single off the pitcher, who threw it into the stands, putting both runners in scoring position.
After a pitching change, junior David Kerian, who went 2-for-4 with two doubles, sent an RBI bloop double into left that plated Krug. Goldstein and Reid Roper followed with back-to-back sacrifice flies that allowed Walton and Kerian to score. The Nittany Lions cut it to a 6-3 deficit with two runs in the bottom of the fourth on a sacrifice fly and an RBI single.
Illinois capitalized on a leadoff walk again in the fifth, scoring a run without a hit. Fletcher earned a free pass and Ryne Roper was hit by a pitch. After a groundout, Krug sent a sacrifice fly to left, plating Fletcher for a 7-3 lead.
Both teams went scoreless in the sixth and seventh, as sophomore Nick Blackburn took over on the mound after six solid innings from Castellanos. Senior Ronnie Muck replaced Blackburn and gave up an RBI single in the eighth, as the Nittany Lions made it 7-4.
Sophomore Tyler Jay collected his fifth save after giving up the two runs in the ninth. PSU loaded the bases and scored runs on a fielder's choice and RBI single before the double play ended the contest.
Up Next: Illinois will play a pair of midweek games before hosting Indiana at home next weekend. The Illini will play Eastern Illinois at Illinois Field on Tuesday at 6 p.m. followed by a trip to St. Louis from the rescheduled game against Missouri at Busch Stadium on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.