#28 Illini Drop 11-10 Affair at Indiana State
April 29, 2009
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - No. 28 Illinois scored four runs on four hits in the top of the ninth to take a three-run lead, but Indiana State scored four of its own to edge the Illini, 11-10 at Sycamore Field. Shortstop Brandon Wikoff (Peoria, Ill.) was 3-for-5 with two doubles and three runs, and second baseman Josh Parr (Chillicothe, Ill.) drove in two as the Illini fell to 27-13 on the season.
"I'm proud of how our guys battled back in the ninth inning, but we just have to throw strikes," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We beat ourselves with those five walks in the bottom half and you can't expect to win games when you perform like that."
After starter Ben Reeser (Bloomington, Ill.) worked a perfect first inning, Illinois got on the board in the second inning thanks to a pair of errors on the same play by Sycamore second baseman Brian Ramirez. Third baseman Dominic Altobelli (Oak Forest, Ill.) singled up the middle to start the inning and DH Aaron Johnson (Sussex Corner, New Brunswick) shot a single through the left side of the infield to put runners at first and second. After a pair of flyouts, catcher Adam Davis (Bloomingdale, Ill.) grounded to Ramirez at second, who mishandled the ball as he appeared to look toward the bag at second, then threw wildly to first, allowing Davis to reach and Altobelli to score. Parr then ripped the first pitch he saw through the left side for an RBI single that plated Johnson for a 2-0 lead.
Senior Mike Stankiewicz (Des Plaines, Ill.) relieved Reeser in the second and needed only four pitches to retire the side, thanks to a 4-6-3 double play.
Illinois kept forcing the action at the plate in the third inning as Wikoff ripped a double down the right-field line with one out and, after another out, Johnson drew a walk. First baseman Matt Dittman (Libertyville, Ill.) singled through the right side to drive in Wikoff and set off a crazy play. Johnson hustled around to third as Dittman's single trickled off the ISU first baseman's glove into right field, drawing a throw to third and allowing Dittman to head toward second. The Sycamore third baseman threw back to second but air-mailed the throw into right field, allowing Johnson to score. Right fielder Willie Argo (Davenport, Iowa) stayed hot with a first-pitch single up the middle to bring home Dittman for a 5-0 lead.
Indiana State (28-13) recovered with three runs on five hits in the bottom of the third to bring the Sycamores within 5-3. But Illinois continued to make ISU pay for its fielding miscues as Wikoff singled up the middle and moved to third when Indiana State pitcher Cordell Greene made a poor throw to second attempting to turn a double play on a come-backer by Altobelli. Johnson did end up grounding into a twin killing, but Wikoff came home to make the score 6-3.
The Sycamores rallied with two outs in the fifth against reliever John Anderson (Mt. Vernon, Ill.), though, using a walk, a single, an error, another base hit and a two-run double to push across four runs and take a 7-6 lead, their first lead of the night. Anderson recovered in the sixth with a quick inning, allowing a runner to reach second before striking out Sycamore slugger Brady Shoemaker to end the frame.
Sophomore Nick Chmielewski (Orland Park, Ill.) pitched a scoreless inning in the seventh and senior Aaron Martin (Georgetown, Ill.) worked around a leadoff walk to pitch a shutout frame in the bottom of the eighth.
After managing only two base runners from the fifth through eighth innings, Illinois started the ninth-inning rally with a leadoff walk by Argo. He stole second and moved to third on a bad throw from the catcher. After an out, Parr singled back up the middle to bring home Argo and tie the game against Sycamore closer Matt Shelton. One out later, left fielder Casey McMurray (Willow Springs, Ill.) singled through the left side and Wikoff worked a 3-2 count before lacing a two-run double down the left-field line that brought home both runners. Altobelli followed by lining a single to right to score Wikoff and give the Illini a 10-7 lead.
But Martin loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth on consecutive walks and an infield single. He walked in a run before giving way to Wes Braun (Deerfield, Ill.), who gave up a two-run single through the left side to tie the game at 10. After an intentional walk to reload the bases and put the force play in effect, Braun walked the next hitter to force in the winning run as Indiana State took the 11-10 win.
Wikoff had an excellent night at the plate, going 3-for-5 with two doubles, an RBI and three runs, while Parr was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run. Altobelli increased his streak of two-hit games to seven with a 2-for-5 performance, an RBI and a run.
Up Next: Illinois will practice Thursday afternoon before traveling to Northwestern for a three-game Big Ten series beginning Friday at 3:05 p.m. at Rocky Miller Park. Saturday's game will start at 1:05 p.m. and Sunday's finale also will start at 1:05.