Anderson Lifts Illini to Doubleheader Split with MSU

Senior John Anderson tossed an 81-pitch complete game to lift the Illini to a doubleheader split against Michigan State Saturday.
Senior John Anderson tossed an 81-pitch complete game to lift the Illini to a doubleheader split against Michigan State Saturday.

April 23, 2011

Game 1 Box Score | Game 2 Box Score

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Fifth-year senior John Anderson tossed an 81-pitch complete game, scattering six hits, and the Illini scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to score a 5-2 comeback victory in the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader with Michigan State, earning a split on the day. The Spartans won the first game, 8-5, behind the strength of six doubles.

"John Anderson was outstanding today," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "He was down in the zone all game and kept his composure, especially in the eighth inning when he got into a little bit of a jam."

Anderson scattered six hits in his second-straight complete game and third this season, giving up two runs while not allowing a walk and striking out four. He held right-handed hitters to a .143 average (3-for-21), and limited MSU to a .200 average both with runners on base and with two outs. Anderson retired seven of the game's nine leadoff batters and threw 61 of his 81 pitches for strikes (75.3 percent). He also threw first-pitch strikes to 24 of the 34 hitters he faced (70.6 percent) and tossed fewer than 10 pitches in five of the nine innings.

"Coach (Ken) Westray told me before the game that this was a situation where a fifth-year senior needed to step up, and I felt like that's what I've worked for the whole time I've been here," Anderson said. "We played great defense today and it gave me a lot of confidence when they had the confidence to send me out there for the ninth after I had some trouble in the eighth."

In the day's second game, both Anderson and MSU starter Tony Bucciferro were outstanding through the first three innings, as only a base hit by Justin Parr in the first and a hit batter by Anderson in the second prevented both hurlers from being perfect through the first one-third of the game.

MSU (24-11 overall, 7-4 in the Big Ten) got on the board in the fourth when first baseman Jeff Holm ripped a solo homer on the first pitch he saw from Anderson, but the Illini veteran kept his cool, striking out Spartan third baseman Torsten Boss and coaxing a foul pop-up that first baseman Matt Dittman corralled in front of the MSU dugout on a dead sprint for the third out of the inning.

In the fifth, the Spartans got a leadoff single and moved the runner to second with a sacrifice bunt. After a fly-out, right fielder Tony Wieber doubled to right-center to drive in the run and post MSU to a 2-0 lead.

But the Illini (13-21, 5-6) bats awoke in the sixth when Argo chopped a single over Boss' head to start the inning before stealing second. He moved to third on a groundout by right fielder Davis Hendrickson and came home on shortstop Josh Parr's groundout to shortstop, bringing the Illini within 2-1.

Anderson worked a four-pitch seventh inning, including fielding back-to-back bunts for the second and third outs of the frame, bringing the Illini back to the plate.

Catcher Adam Davis started the inning by lifting a shallow center field that Spartan center fielder Brandon Eckerle dove for and missed, allowing it to roll to the warning track and Davis to motor around for an inside-the-park home run - the first by an Illini player since catcher Lars Davis accomplished the feat at Illinois State on April 17, 2007 - that tied the game at 2. Left fielder Casey McMurray beat out a single to the hole at shortstop and Dittman ripped a single through the right side, putting men at the corners. After a pitching change, Argo blasted a 2-0 pitch to the gap in right-center, driving in both runs. Hendrickson poked a base hit to left that moved Argo to third and Parr plated Argo with a sacrifice fly to right, putting the Illini on top, 5-2.

Anderson got into a bit of trouble in the eighth when Wieber led off with a base hit to right but was put out at second when Eckerle grounded to Parr on a potential double-play ball, but the Illini shortstop took it to the bag himself and his throw to first was too late to put out the speedy Eckerle. A base hit up the middle put men on first and second for the Spartans, but Anderson coaxed a first-pitch fly-out from Holm and got Boss to tap one back to the mound to end the inning.

After the Illini went down in order in the eighth, Anderson struck out the first hitter in the ninth inning before hitting a pinch hitter. But he rolled up a game-ending 6-4-3 double play to finish his second complete game in as many starts with a 5-2 victory.

In game one, MSU struck first in the top of the first inning, scoring three runs on four hits, including a two-run double by Boss, to go up 3-0. Illinois was in position to battle back in the bottom half after a leadoff single by second baseman Pete Cappetta and a two-out walk by third baseman Brandon Hohl, but the runners were stranded there.

The Spartans pushed across another run in the second after a one-out infield hit, a double and an RBI base hit by Holm to go up 4-0.

But Illinois bounced back with a big inning in the fourth. Hohl drew a leadoff walk and Davis lined a double to the gap in right-center that brought him in. after a fly-out, Argo ripped a two-run homer to left field. Hendrickson then worked the count 3-2 before smashing a solo homer to right to tie the game, 4-4.

MSU scored again in the fifth, though, after a leadoff double, a grounder to the right side of the infield that moved the runner up a base and a sacrifice fly, to grab a 5-4 lead. The Spartans added three in the seventh after consecutive doubles, a groundout that advanced the runner and a wild pitch to increase their lead to 8-4.

Illinois got a run back in the bottom of the seventh when DH Justin Parr smacked a one-out double to left-center and moved up to third on McMurray's fly-out to deep center field. Hohl then dropped a base hit into center to drive Parr in and get the Illini within 8-5. But that was as close as the Illini could get, as they couldn't mount a rally in the eighth or ninth innings.

Justin Parr led the Illini offense on the day, hitting .556 (5-for-9) with a double, a steal and a run. Argo provided a bit more punch, though, going 3-for-6 with a double, a homer, a steal, four RBIs and three runs. Hendrickson went 3-for-7 (.429) with a solo homer and Hohl was 2-for-6 with an RBI and a run. Luke Joyce also shined out of the bullpen in game one, tossing 2 1/3 perfect innings with one strikeout.

The teams square off in the rubber game of the series on Sunday at 1:05 p.m., with left-hander Corey Kimes getting the start for Illinois and right-hander David Garner taking the ball for MSU. The game will be streamed live on with Illinois students Tim Ditman and Bryce Jakobs on the call.