Argo Homers Twice as Illinois Bashes PSU, 11-5
April 25, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman DH Willie Argo (Davenport, Iowa) homered twice and drove in five - his second career game with multiple homers and five RBIs - and fellow rookie Will Strack (Sycamore, Ill.) was solid in a 6 2/3-inning start as Illinois battered Penn State, 11-5, in front of 2,749 fans at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Left fielder Casey McMurray (Willow Springs, Ill.) was 4-for-5 and junior John Anderson (Mt. Vernon, Ill.) allowed only one hit in 2 1/3 innings of shutout relief to earn his second save.
"I was pleased with the effort Will gave us on the mound and John did a nice job out of the bullpen," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "And offensively, we jumped out to an early lead and kept tacking on runs, which is something we talk about a lot. We hit up and down the order, so this was a great team win."
The Illini improve to 25-12 overall, 10-4 in the Big Ten, and 4-1 on the road in the Big Ten. The victory keeps Illinois in second place in the Big Ten while securing the Orange and Blue's third-straight Big Ten series win and fourth of the season. The 11 runs the Illini put on the board marked the fourth time in the last six games that Illinois has scored double-digit runs, and the 17 hits marked the fifth time in the last six games that the Illini have had double-digit hits.
Illinois grabbed an early lead with a pair of runs in the first inning on two hits. McMurray lined a single up the middle and scored when PSU right fielder Rick Marlin mishandled shortstop Brandon Wikoff's (Peoria, Ill.) base hit, also allowing Wikoff to advance to third. Wikoff scored on a groundout by third baseman Dominic Altobelli (Oak Forest, Ill.) for a quick 2-0 lead.
Strack worked out of a potential jam in the first inning by inducing a double-play ball and another groundout. After a scoreless second inning, Illinois added a run in the third when McMurray laced a one-out single to center and moved to third on Wikoff's sacrifice bunt. Altobelli drove him in with a single to left for a 3-0 advantage.
The Orange and Blue kept on the attack in the fourth, adding three more runs to the board. With one down, right fielder Pete Cappetta (Lisle, Ill.) laced a line drive that fell just under the glove of diving center fielder Blake Lynd for a double and he came home when Argo blasted his second homer of the weekend, a two-run bomb to left field. Second baseman Josh Parr (Chillicothe, Ill.) restarted the rally with a double over the third-base bag and, one out later, McMurray brought him home with a single to right field to extend Illinois' lead to 6-0.
Penn State (21-18, 5-9) got a couple of runs in the bottom of the fourth after an error, a single and a two-run double down the left-field line, but Illinois went back to work in the fifth. Altobelli doubled to the right-field corner to start the frame and catcher Aaron Johnson (Sussex Corner, New Brunswick) brought him home with a single to left to push the Illini lead back to 7-2.
The Nittany Lions touched the scoreboard for three more runs in the bottom of the seventh, finally getting to Strack. PSU strung together a single, a walk, an RBI base hit and a two-run triple off Anderson, who relieved Strack, to cut the Illinois margin to 7-5.
But the Illini put together a four-run inning in the top of the ninth to put the game out of reach. Altobelli drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on Johnson's sacrifice bunt. First baseman Matt Dittman (Libertyville, Ill.) pulled a single through the right side to bring home Altobelli, and Cappetta reached when shortstop Lou Picconi booted his grounder, putting runners on first and second. Argo stepped to the plate and blasted the 1-0 pitch out to left field for his second homer of the day, a three-run dinger, to put Illinois ahead, 11-5. Anderson finished off his second save of the season with a scoreless ninth.
Argo finished the day 3-for-4 with two homers and five RBIs, and McMurray was 4-for-5 with an RBI and two runs - his fifth multiple-hit game in the last six. Dittman was 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run, and Altobelli went 2-for-4 with a double, 2 RBIs and two runs. Johnson was 2-for-5 with an RBI and Cappetta scored two runs.
Strack improved to 4-0 on the season, allowing five runs - four earned - on six hits and three walks with two strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. Anderson allowed only one hit and didn't give up a walk in 2 1/3 innings of shutout relief, striking out two.
Up Next: The Illini and Penn State finish the series on Sunday at 10 a.m. CT. Bryan Roberts will get the ball for Illinois, while former backup quarterback Paul Cianciolo will take the mound for the Nittany Lions.