First baseman Mike Giller drove in a career-high five RBIs and fell a triple short of the cycle as Illinois beat Bradley, 8-5.
April 27, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois scored three runs in the first inning and first baseman Mike Giller drove in a career-high five runs while falling a triple short of hitting for the cycle as Illinois topped Bradley 8-5 at Illinois Field to sweep the season series between the teams. Giller and left fielder Casey McMurray each knocked three hits on the night, while center fielder Willie Argo homered and stole two bases to lift the Illini to 19-18 on the season.
"We jumped out to an early lead and continued to tack on runs throughout the game, which is something we focus on," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We played extremely hard tonight, and if we play hard, we have a chance to win every game."
The Illini scored first when Argo smashed a moon-shot solo homer off the scoreboard in left field to lead off the bottom of the first. After an out, McMurray singled and DH Thomas Shelton doubled to right and Giller brought them both in with a double down the left-field line for a quick 3-0 lead.
Bradley fought back with a two-run homer by DH Brad Kimball in the second and tied the game with an unearned run in the third. But Illinois pushed across a run in the bottom of the third when third baseman Brandon Hohl was hit by a pitch with two outs and right fielder Craig Lutes singled to right. Bradley right fielder David Compitello pulled up on the grounder before it went into his glove, allowing it to trickle past him and allowing Hohl to score and Lutes to end up at third, giving the Illini a 4-3 lead.
Illinois extended the margin in the fourth when second baseman Christian Cummins and McMurray hit consecutive singles and Giller ripped a three-run homer to right, his third of the year, to push the Illini lead to 7-3.
The Orange and Blue tacked on a run in the fifth when Lutes rolled into second with a leadoff double when the ball tipped of the right-fielder's glove and moved to third on catcher Adam Davis' grounder to second. With the infield drawn in, Parr hit a sharp grounder to the shortstop's left side, allowing Lutes to come home and increase Illinois' lead to 8-3.
Bradley scored twice in the eighth on a couple of plays that were out of the ordinary. After a leadoff double and a single put men on the corners, Illini reliever Wes Braun threw a pickoff move to first that squirted out of Giller's glove, allowing the runner from third to scamper home. The man on first stole second then attempted to move to third on a wild pitch, and new catcher Matt Cervantes threw to third, but his throw went into left field, allowing the runner to score and cutting Illinois' lead to 8-5.
But Illini closer Bryan Roberts came on in the ninth and needed only nine pitches to retire the Bradley side in order, including a strikeout looking, to record his seventh save of the season. With that save, he moves into a tie for sixth on the single-season saves record list at Illinois with six other players.
Giller was 3-for-5 on the night with a career-best five RBIs, a home run and a double. McMurray went 3-for-4 with two runs, and Argo was 2-for-5 with a solo homer and two stolen bases. Lutes also joined the multiple-hit attack, going 2-for-3 with a double and a run.
The Illini return to action on Friday when they host Northwestern at 6:05 p.m. for the second-annual Bleacher Bum Barbecue presented by WDWS, WHMS and the News-Gazette. Admission is free and the first 1,000 fans will receive free food. Kids can play on inflatable games, First Federal Savings Bank will provide T-shirts to the first 1,000 children and students, and there will be a postgame fireworks display. Gates will open at 5 p.m.