Illini Unable to Complete Sweep, Fall to OSU 10-4

Junior Thomas Shelton went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored on Sunday.
Junior Thomas Shelton went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored on Sunday.

April 22, 2012

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - After winning the first two games of the Ohio State series behind strong pitching, timely hitting and solid defense, the Illini issued seven free bases, managed only one two-out hit and made their first error in five games as the Buckeyes avoided the sweep with a 10-4 win in front of 1,062 fans at Illinois Field on Sunday. The loss snaps Illinois' four-game winning streak and drops the Orange and Blue to 22-17 overall, 5-7 in the Big Ten.

"We had played four games in a row where we had done a lot of things well and from the start today, we just weren't sharp with simple baseball fundamentals," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We had a chance to score a run early with a runner on third and less than one out, and we strike out. Then we started walking guys and we were just poor fundamentally. We need a level of consistency and today we didn't have that."

De la Torriente worked a 1-2-3 top of the first, then center fielder Willie Argo reached on a throwing error by the OSU third baseman Brad Hallberg and advanced to second as the ball skipped to the side fence. Left fielder Justin Parr walked on four pitches, but ball four hit the plate and ricocheted off Parr, keeping it within reach of OSU catcher Greg Solomon. Argo was caught too far off second base and was erased on a 2-6-5 run-down for the second out. Third baseman Brandon Hohl grounded out to end the inning as Illinois was kept off the scoreboard.

The Buckeyes got a seeing-eye single from DH Mike Carroll to start the second, but catcher Kelly Norris-Jones caught him stealing second. Hallberg beat out an infield hit but de la Torriente rolled up a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and keep OSU scoreless.

In the bottom of the second, second baseman Reid Roper beat out a chopper back to the pitcher when OSU first baseman Josh Dezse didn't cover the bag. DH Thomas Shelton lined a single through the right side and Norris-Jones singled to right to load the bases. But a strikeout and a groundout held the Illini off the board.

Ohio State got to de la Torriente in the third, taking advantage of two walks, a hit batter and two singles to score four runs and grab a 4-0 lead. The Illini looked to respond in the bottom half when Argo was hit by a pitch to start the frame. After an out, he stole second and Hohl walked. With the runners moving, first baseman Jordan Parr grounded into an inning-ending double play as Illinois was held scoreless once again.

The Buckeyes blew the game open in the fourth after the leadoff man reached on catcher's interference and a wild pitch moved him to second. After a walk, Hartleb brought in Josh Ferry to relieve de la Torriente. A wild pitch moved the runners up a base each, then an RBI groundout brought in a run. After a walk, a single to left-center loaded the bases and another walk forced in a run. Drasen Johnson relieved Ferry and gave up a two-run double to right-center before inducing an RBI groundout and coaxing a groundout to Hohl to end the inning as OSU extended its lead to 9-0.

In the bottom of the fourth, Shelton doubled down the left-field line with one out and moved to third on Norris-Jones' groundout. He came home when Hendrickson tapped one to the right side that Dezse fielded but couldn't make it to the bag in time to make the out, cutting OSU's lead to 9-1. Hendrickson stole second but Lindauer grounded out to second base to end the inning.

After Johnson retired the Buckeyes in order in the fifth, the Illini got a run in the fifth when Argo led off with a triple to right-center and, one out later, Hohl walked. Jordan Parr bounced back to the pitcher, but the shortstop couldn't handle the throw and both runners were safe as Argo scored, bringing the Illini within 9-2. But the next two hitters struck out swinging to end the rally.

Johnson pitched over a leadoff double in the sixth, stranding the runner at third with a strikeout, a tapper to the mound and a fly-out to Justin Parr. In the bottom half, Hendrickson, Lindauer and Argo drew consecutive one-out walks to load the bases, and OSU brought in left-handed reliever Andrew Armstrong to face Justin Parr. Parr drove in Hendrickson with a groundout and Hohl walked to force in Lindauer, but Roper popped out to the second baseman as Illinois was held to two runs in the frame, cutting OSU's lead to 9-4.

The Buckeyes started the seventh with a leadoff single and the runner came around to score after a groundout to Jordan Parr, a single through the left side and a squeeze bunt play on which the runner was ruled safe at the plate, pushing OSU's margin to 10-4.

The Illini went down in order in the bottom of the seventh and Ronnie Muck came on to pitch the eighth. He sandwiched a pair of groundouts around a slick play up the middle by Lindauer for a 1-2-3 inning. Argo walked with one out in the bottom of the eighth but was doubled off first base on a fly-out to right for an inning-ending double play.

Roper took over for Muck in the ninth and gave up a one-out single before inducing a liner to Lindauer, who threw to first to double off the runner for an inning-ending double play. OSU closer Josh Dezse came on to pitch the bottom of the ninth and walked Hohl to start the inning but inducing a pop-up, a groundout and finished the game with a strikeout as the Buckeyes took the 10-4 win to avoid the sweep.

Shelton led the Illini at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double and a run. Argo was 1-for-2 with a triple, reached base four times, stole a base and scored once. Hendrickson went 1-for-3 with two steals, an RBI and a run, and Hohl walked four times. Jordan Parr also drove in a pair of runs.

Drasen Johnson allowed only one run over 3 2/3 innings of relief, striking out three and not allowing a walk. Muck struck out two in a perfect inning and Roper allowed only one hit in his inning of work.

The Illini return to action on Tuesday when they travel to Terre Haute, Ind., to take on Indiana State (30-10, 8-4 Missouri Valley) at 5 p.m. CT.