Illini Salvage Series Finale with 8-6 Win Over MSU
May 6, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois scored a pair of runs in the seventh inning then got a double play to end the top of the eighth before Reid Roper pitched a scoreless ninth to salvage the series finale against Michigan State with an 8-6 victory in front of 1,294 fans on Sunday. The Illini also wore special orange-and-blue camouflage-print jerseys, which were auctioned off after the game and the proceeds will be donated to the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club.
Jordan Parr had three hits and Kelly Norris Jones went 2-for-2 with two RBIs as the Illini improved to 26-21 overall and 9-9 in the Big Ten, tied for seventh in the league standings with Nebraska and just one game out of third place. Illinois drew 4,955 fans in the three-game series, marking the third-highest series attendance in Illinois Field history.
"It was a must-win situation for us to keep ourselves at .500 and not fall way back in the pack," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "I thought our guys handled it well. It just went back and forth, then we came up with the big double play in the eighth and then Reid Roper went out in the ninth and was outstanding. I was really pleased to see the offense come alive. We've scuffled a little bit offensively over the past two-and-a-half weeks, so to see them come out and beat a very quality team with some quality arms (was great). We banged the ball around the park and we were very selective at the plate. That was good to see."
Illini starter Drasen Johnson allowed a two-out single in the first but retired the Spartan side on a sinking liner to center that Willie Argo gloved. Shortstop Thomas Lindauer was hit by a pitch to start the bottom half of the inning and moved to second on Argo's groundout to first base. Lindauer advanced to third on left fielder Justin Parr's fly-out to center but was stranded there when third baseman Brandon Hohl struck out to end the frame.
In the second, MSU threatened with a leadoff single and put runners on second and third when second baseman Reid Roper didn't cover first on a sacrifice bunt and Norris-Jones' throw sailed to the side fence. But Johnson bore down, striking out a hitter, inducing a pop-up to Lindauer and inducing an inning-ending groundout to Jordan Parr at first base to dance out of trouble.
Jordan Parr lined a leadoff single through the right side in the bottom of the second and stole second as Roper struck out. He moved to third on a passed ball and scored on Norris-Jones' single to left-center, putting the Illini on top, 1-0.
But the Spartans tied it up with one swing of the bat as MSU second baseman Ryan Jones homered to left on the first pitch of the third inning. Illinois went back ahead in the bottom half as Lindauer roped a leadoff double to left-center and, after an out, moved to third on a wild pitch ball four to Hohl. Lindauer scored on a passed ball and Hohl advanced to second, but Jordan Parr struck out to end the inning as Illinois grabbed a 2-1 margin.
MSU tied it up again in the top of the fourth on a one-out solo homer by right fielder Jimmy Pickens that sailed over the top of the foul pole in right. But Johnson maintained his composure, striking out catcher Joel Fisher looking and retiring center fielder Anthony Cheky on a swinging bunt back to the mound.
Illinois surged ahead in the bottom of the fourth as DH Thomas Shelton led off with a double to right-center and moved to third on Roper's groundout to the right side. Norris-Jones was hit by a pitch and right fielder Will Krug chopped one to the third baseman, who threw home as Shelton moved on contact. But Shelton was able to retreat to third safely and the bases were loaded with one out. Shelton scampered home when a breaking ball got away from Fisher and Norris-Jones scored on Lindauer's chopper to the shortstop, but Krug was put out at third. Argo turned on the first pitch he saw from Garner, depositing it down the left-field line for an RBI double that plated Lindauer and put the Illini ahead 5-2.
Johnson kept the momentum in the fifth, retiring the Spartans in order. Illinois tacked on a run in the fifth after a leadoff single by Hohl, a double off the wall in left by Jordan Parr, a groundout by Shelton, a hit by pitch to Roper and a sacrifice fly by Norris-Jones, extending the margin to 6-2.
Johnson allowed a single to start the sixth but Norris-Jones erased the runner on a stolen base attempt. But Johnson issued a walk and allowed a bloop single to right that put men on first and second. Luke Joyce came on in relief and recorded an out on a diving play by Argo on a sinking liner to center before giving up a three-run homer to MSU catcher John Martinez, who entered defensively in the fifth. But he got out of the inning with a 6-5 Illinois lead on another fly-out to Argo to end the frame.
Lindauer drew a leadoff walk in the sixth and moved up a base on Argo's sacrifice bunt. He advanced to third on Justin Parr's groundout to the first baseman but Hohl flew out to center for the final out of the inning.
In the seventh, Michigan State tied the game without a hit, scoring a run on a pair of walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch. With two out and men on second and third, Ronnie Muck induced a fly ball to right-center that Krug snared with a diving attempt in right-center for the third out to keep the game tied 6-6.
Illinois pushed across a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh when Jordan Parr led off with a single to center and MSU brought in reliever Trey Popp. Shelton sacrificed Parr to second and Roper walked. Norris-Jones dropped a base hit into center and the Spartans brought in closer Tony Wieber to face Krug. But Bill Charvat grabbed a bat and pinch-hit for the freshman, and was hit by a pitch on a 3-2 count to force in a run. Lindauer lifted a sacrifice fly to left-center that drove home Roper, and Argo beat out a single to third base, reloading the bases. But Justin Parr grounded out to second base to end the inning as Illinois took an 8-6 lead to the eighth.
Muck sandwiched a pair of singles through the right side around a strikeout, then walked MSU second baseman Ryan Jones to load the bases. But he induced a hard two-hopper to Roper, who spun and threw to Lindauer at second for the huge inning-ending double play to keep the Illini lead at 8-6.
The Illini went down in order in the bottom of the eighth, then Roper came on to close it out in the ninth. He needed only nine pitches to retire the Spartans, inducing a groundout to Michael Hurwitz, who took over for Roper at second base, a fly-out that Argo snared with another diving effort toward the infield and a foul-out to Hohl to seal the 8-6 Illini win.
Jordan Parr paced the offense, going 3-for-5 with a double, a steal and two runs. Norris-Jones was 2-for-2 with a hit by pitch, two RBIs and a run, and Argo went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Lindauer was 1-for-2 with a walk, a hit by pitch, two RBIs and two runs, and Shelton was 1-for-4 with a double and a run. On the mound, Roper clinched his first career save with a perfect inning of work.