Kevin Johnson struck out a season-high nine in a complete-game shutout against Northwestern on Friday.
April 27, 2012
EVANSTON, Ill. - Junior pitcher Kevin Johnson struck out a season-high nine Northwestern hitters in a complete-game shutout to lift the Illini to a 2-0 win over the Wildcats at Rocky Miller Park on Friday. He scattered seven hits and walked two, and first baseman Jordan Parr notched two hits as the Illini won on Friday for the seventh time in the last nine weeks and Johnson improved to 7-3 on the season.
"That was as well-pitched of a college game as you'll ever see," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We just came up with a couple hits with runners in scoring position and that was the difference. Kevin Johnson was exceptional all day. He pounded the zone throughout the game and kept his composure. I'm really proud of our guys the way that we hung in there and found a way to get a couple of runs."
The Illini (23-18 overall, 6-7 in the Big Ten) went down in order in the first and Johnson struck out the first two hitters he faced in the bottom half before surrendering a base hit to Northwestern (14-24, 5-11) left fielder Jack Havey. But he induced a foul-out to end the inning and keep the Wildcats scoreless.
Illinois posted a 1-2-3 inning at the plate in the second and Johnson gave up a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning. But the runner was erased on a soft liner back to the mound that turned into a double play. After another single, Johnson struck out right fielder Luke Dauch to end the inning and keep the game scoreless through two innings.
In the third, DH Thomas Shelton started the inning with a leadoff single to center and moved to second on catcher Kelly Norris-Jones' sacrifice bunt. Right fielder Davis Hendrickson pulled a base hit through the right side that moved Shelton to third and right fielder Luke Dauch mishandled the ball after gloving it, allowing Shelton to scamper home to give the Illini a 1-0 lead.
Johnson responded by posting his first 1-2-3 inning of the day in the bottom of the third, but Northwestern starter Francis Brooke returned the favor in the top of the fourth. The Wildcats had a base runner in the bottom of the fourth after a one-out error, but Johnson retired the next two hitters he faced to hold the 1-0 lead.
In the fifth, Illinois added a run when first baseman Jordan Parr lined a base hit back up the middle to start the inning. After a pair of outs, Norris-Jones worked the count before slashing a base hit to right field, slightly toward the line. Once again, Dauch couldn't handle the ball of the second hop, allowing Parr to score all the way from first and extending the Illini lead to 2-0.
Johnson pitched over a leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth to post another scoreless inning then Illinois was retired in order by NU starter Francis Brooke in the sixth.
Jordan Parr slashed a one-out base hit to right in the seventh but was caught stealing on a very close play. Brooke's seventh strikeout of the game ended the inning. Johnson allowed a leadoff bunt single by Northwestern catcher Geoff Rowan but struck out the next two hitters. An infield single put men on first and second but Johnson coaxed a fly-out to right field to retire the side and preserve the Illini's 2-0 lead.
The Illini went down in order in the eighth but Johnson returned the favor, requiring only eight pitches to set down the Wildcats. Illinois posted a 1-2-3 ninth inning and Johnson allowed a leadoff single to right by DH Colby Everett. He was put out at second on a grounder to second base and Johnson induced a fly-out to right. Pinch hitter Chris Kontos drew a walk on a 3-2 count, putting men on first and second, but Johnson coaxed a groundout up the middle that Lindauer gloved and threw to first for the game's final out.
The Illini and Wildcats return to Rocky Miller Park on Saturday at 1 p.m. for game two of the series. Freshman right-hander John Kravetz will start for Illinois, while Northwestern will send freshman right-hander Brandon Magallones to the hill.