Illini Finish Sweep of Nittany Lions with 9-2 Win
April 26, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Illinois scored in five of nine innings and starter Bryan Roberts (Lisle, Ill.) tossed seven stellar innings with six strikeouts as the Illini swept the weekend series from Penn State with a 9-2 victory at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park Sunday. It is Illinois' first sweep in a Big Ten road series since 2000 and was a complete team effort as the Illini hit .355, posted a 3.00 ERA and made only two errors in the series.
"We had great starting pitching today and we played well defensively," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "And we got an early lead and kept tacking on runs. We had some great individual performances over the weekend and came out with three great team wins."
Third baseman Dominic Altobelli (Oak Forest, Ill.) led the attack, going 2-for-2 with a triple, an RBI, two walks and two runs. Shortstop Brandon Wikoff (Peoria, Ill.) was 2-for-5 with a triple, two RBIs and a run, and center fielder Joe Bonadonna (Buffalo Grove, Ill.) also was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. Not to be outdone, first baseman Matt Dittman (Libertyville, Ill.) went 2-for-4 with a triple, an RBI and a run, DH Willie Argo (Davenport, Iowa) was 2-for-4 with a run and second baseman Josh Parr (Chillicothe, Ill.) was 2-for-4 with a run as Illinois pounded out 14 hits, its sixth game in the last seven with double-digit hits. The Illini also had four triples in the game, the most since at least 2004.
Illinois touched the scoreboard first with a pair of runs in the second inning. Altobelli drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. After an out, Dittman ripped a triple to the opposite field, blasting it to the base of the 410-foot sign in left-center, to drive in Altobelli. Right fielder Pete Cappetta (Lisle, Ill.) followed with a first-pitch triple to nearly the same spot to drive home Dittman for a quick 2-0 lead.
Penn State got a run back in the third after a leadoff walk and an RBI double down the right-field line, but Roberts worked out of a jam with a man on third and only one out by coaxing a shallow fly to Cappetta and a grounder to Altobelli to maintain a 2-1 lead.
But the Illini regained that run in the fourth when Altobelli laced a leadoff triple to right-center and came home on a sacrifice fly by catcher Aaron Johnson (Sussex Corner, New Brunswick) to go ahead 3-1. Roberts continued to cruise in the bottom half, allowing a two-out walk before striking out Penn State catcher Jacobs looking to end the fourth.
Illinois added two more runs in the fifth when Argo and Parr started the frame with back-to-back base hits. Argo moved to third on Parr's hit-and-run single and the rookie second-baseman advanced to second on a wild pitch. Argo was put out at home on Bonadonna's tapper to the mound, but Bonadonna made it all the way to second and Parr moved to third while Argo was in a rundown. Left fielder Casey McMurray (Willow Springs, Ill.) lifted a sacrifice fly to right-center to bring home Parr, who collided with PSU catcher Bobby Jacobs as Jacobs was blocking the plate before the ball arrived. Wikoff beat out an infield single to the shortstop and Altobelli walked to load the bases. Bonadonna scampered home when a pitch got away from Jacobs, making the Illini lead 5-1.
Roberts allowed a leadoff single in the fifth but sandwiched a pair of punch-outs around a flyout to McMurray to retire the Lions once more. After a scoreless sixth by the offense, Roberts set down Penn State in order in the bottom half as he cruised through six shutout innings with only three hits and two walks with four strikeouts on only 75 pitches.
Illinois tacked on three runs in the top of the seventh when Bonadonna looped a single to left-center and moved to third on McMurray's chopper up the middle. Wikoff tripled to the right-field corner to plate both runners and Wikoff came in on Altobelli's sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 8-1.
Roberts gave up a run on a single and a triple in the bottom of the seventh, but he added two more strikeouts in the frame and finished the inning without any further damage as Penn State cut the Illini lead to 8-2. He finished one of the finest outings of his young career with two runs on five hits and two walks in seven innings, striking out six with five of those coming on called third strikes.
But the Orange and Blue got the run back in the eighth when Argo knocked a one-out base hit up the middle and Parr executed another hit-and-run to move Argo to third. Bonadonna registered his second hit of the day with a knock to center that drove home Argo for a 9-2 margin. Lee Zerrusen tossed a scoreless eighth inning in relief of Roberts, striking out one, and Nick Chmielewski came on in the ninth and pitched a perfect frame with one strikeout.
For the weekend, Argo hit .667 (8-for-12) with three homers, a triple, a double, eight RBIs and six runs for a 1.667 slugging percentage. Altobelli went 6-for-10 with a double, a triple, three RBIs and five runs, and McMurray hit .417 (5-for-12) with three RBIs and three runs. Illinois got solid outings from all three starters and the bullpen provided 6 1/3 shutout innings, giving up only three hits and one walk while striking out six. The Illini out-hit Penn State 39-25 and outscored the Nittany Lions 27-10 over three games.
Up Next: Illinois travels home to face Southern Illinois on Tuesday at Illinois Field at 6:05 p.m. before traveling to Indiana State Wednesday at 6 p.m. (CT). The Illini then visit Northwestern next weekend in a three-game Big Ten series.