Illini Take Series with 5-3 Win over Northwestern

Fifth-year senior Bryan Roberts picked up his fourth save after closing out the 5-3 victory in the ninth.
Fifth-year senior Bryan Roberts picked up his fourth save after closing out the 5-3 victory in the ninth.

April 28, 2013

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois rallied from a two-run deficit with a four-run seventh to complete its 10th comeback win this season, downing Northwestern, 5-3, on Sunday during the second-annual Honor and Serve Day. The Illini, who wore special stars and stripes jerseys and hats, captured their second Big Ten series victory and improved to 8-7 in the conference. Junior Ronnie Muck earned his second win and did not allow an earned run in 3.2 innings, while fifth-year senior Bryan Roberts closed out the ninth for his fourth save.

"It was a huge game for us," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "One of the biggest plays today was Ronnie Muck coming in with runners in scoring position and putting a zero up there. From that point on, our bullpen was really good."

Muck entered the game for starter Ryan Castellanos in a tight spot with the Illini trailing 2-0 and runners on second and third with one out in the top of the fifth. The Park Ridge, Ill., native escaped the jam with a strikeout and a pop out to shortstop to keep the Illini within two runs, which the Wildcats scored in the first inning.

Senior Justin Parr, who extended his school-record hitting streak to 27 games with a 2-for-3 day, cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single that plated junior Thomas Lindauer. The Chillicothe, Ill., native owns the longest active hitting streak in the nation and second longest in the NCAA this season, trailing only Oklahoma's Matt Oberste's mark of 30 straight games with a hit.

Northwestern scored an unearned in the sixth to take a 3-1 lead, but the Illini mounted their comeback an inning later. Senior Davis Hendrickson walked to start the seventh followed by a single from freshman Jason Goldstein and a sacrifice bunt by Lindauer that moved both runners into scoring position. Sophomore Michael Hurwitz sent an RBI single to left field and took an extra base on the throw, which led to a Northwestern error on the throw to second that also allowed Goldstein to score and tied the game at three.

After an intentional walk to Justin Parr, redshirt-junior Jordan Parr extended his hitting streak to 10 games and put the Illini in front with an RBI single to center that brought home Hurwitz. Senior Brandon Hohl provided an insurance run with a sacrifice fly to knock in Justin Parr and give the Illini a 5-3 advantage.

Muck, who threw 35 pitches and 26 for strikes, worked a perfect top of the seventh on seven pitches and needed just six pitches to get through the eighth thanks to a stellar double play. Redshirt-sophomore Reid Roper made a diving stop and flipped it to Lindauer, who spun and fired it to sophomore David Kerian at first to end the eighth.

Roberts took over on the mound in the ninth and allowed the first two Wildcats to reach on a walk and an error. The Lisle, Ill., native came through with a strikeout and pop out for the first two outs, but hit the next batter to load the bases. He held on for his 13th career save by inducing a grounder to third to secure the win.

Castellanos received a no decision in his fourth start after giving up two earned runs over 4.1 innings. The Illini pitching staff combined for a 2.03 ERA during the series and notched 26 strikeouts compared to only five walks. The Parr twins each had five hits and four RBI in the series, combining to go 10-for-23 with seven runs and eight RBI. Jordan hit .500 (5-for-10) with five walks, while Justin checked in at .385 (5-for-13) and launched his fifth home run.

Illinois has won seven of its last eight games against Northwestern and notched the series victory in six of the past seven years. The Illini improved to 26-13 overall and moved back above .500 in the Big Ten (8-7), while the Wildcats fell to 18-17 and 7-11 in the conference.

Up Next: Illinois will remain at home for a midweek contest against Southern Illinois on Tuesday, April 30, at 6:05 p.m. at Illinois Field.