Third baseman Dominic Altobelli homered twice and was 3-for-4 with three RBIs to propel No. 25 Illinois past Western Illinois, 7-1.
May 5, 2009
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Senior third baseman Dominic Altobelli (Oak Forest, Ill.) continued his incredible tear of late, hitting two home runs and driving in three runs to propel No. 25 Illinois to a 7-1 lead over Western Illinois on Tuesday at Illinois Field. Altobelli went 3-for-4, three other Illini recorded two hits and six Illini pitchers combined to allow only one run on eight hits as the Illini improved to 31-13. Altobelli increased his team-best hitting streak to 14 games and his string of multiple-hit games to 11.
"Dominic really hit the ball well tonight, as he has for the last couple of weeks," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We responded well after they got that run in the second inning, and from there our pitchers were very good. They threw strikes and did a nice job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone."
After WIU got a run in the second, Illinois bounced back with a pair of tallies in the bottom half. With one out, catcher Aaron Johnson (Sussex Corner, New Brunswick) reached on a throwing error by the third baseman and advanced to second as the ball rolled to the side fence. First baseman Matt Dittman (Libertyville, Ill.) was hit by a pitch and second baseman Pete Cappetta (Lisle, Ill.) singled up the middle to drive home Johnson. Dittman advanced on a fielder's choice and DH Mike Giller (Chicago, Ill.) laced a double to right to score Dittman and put the Illini up 2-1.
Altobelli ripped a solo homer to left-center with two down in the fourth to put the Illini on top, 3-1, and reliever John Anderson (Mt. Vernon, Ill.) pitched a scoreless fifth inning. Center fielder Joe Bonadonna (Buffalo Grove, Ill.) doubled to left-center to lead off the bottom of the fifth and came home on left fielder Casey McMurray's (Willow Springs, Ill.) single through the right side. McMurray was put out trying to stretch the hit to a double but shortstop Brandon Wikoff (Peoria, Ill.) singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. That brought up Altobelli, who blasted a 2-2 pitch to the opposite field for a two-run homer and a 6-1 lead.
Sophomore Lee Zerrusen (Teutopolis, Ill.) needed only nine pitches to retire the side in the sixth and Cappetta started the sixth with a triple to the corner in right. He came in to score on Giller's single through the left side for a 7-1 lead. Zerrusen worked around consecutive singles to start the seventh, inducing a double play to Wikoff and getting out of the inning with a grounder to Cappetta.
Nick Chmielewski (Orland Park, Ill.) came on to pitch the eighth inning and worked a 1-2-3 inning with two groundouts and a strikeout. Aaron Martin (Georgetown, Ill.) struck out a pair in the ninth inning as he pitched a scoreless final frame.
Cappetta was 2-for-3 on the night with a triple, an RBI and a run, and Giller was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Bonadonna went 2-for-4 with a double and a run as all but one Illini starter had a hit on the night.
Will Strack (Sycamore, Ill.), the first man out of the bullpen, earned the win with two innings of relief, to improve to 5-0 on the season and tie teammate Bryan Roberts (Lisle, Ill.) for second place on the Illinois freshman wins record list. Phil Haig (Inver Grove Heights, Minn.) struck out one in a scoreless first inning and Anderson whiffed three while allowing one hit in two scoreless innings of work. Zerrusen surrendered only two hits in two shutout innings, Chmielewski struck out one in his scoreless inning of work and Martin fanned a pair in the ninth.
Up Next: No. 25 Illinois plays its final non-conference game of the regular season on Wednesday when Evansville visits Illinois Field for a 6:05 p.m. start. The Illini then host No. 27 Ohio State in a weekend series between two of the top three teams in the Big Ten standings, beginning Friday at 6:05 p.m.