Arms Lift Illini to 5-2 Win Over OSU

Illini starter Kevin Johnson had his second-straight solid outing, allowing only one earned run in seven innings of work, to improve to 4-2.
Illini starter Kevin Johnson had his second-straight solid outing, allowing only one earned run in seven innings of work, to improve to 4-2.

May 8, 2010

Box Score

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Illinois scored five runs in the first three innings and held on for a 5-2 win over Ohio State thanks to an excellent outing by starter Kevin Johnson and a scoreless ninth inning by closer Bryan Roberts for his ninth save, giving the Illini their first Big Ten series win since the first conference weekend. Shortstop Josh Parr's three-run triple was the big blow in the third inning, catcher Adam Davis went 2-for-3 with a run and every Illini batter had at least one hit in the game. Johnson allowed only one earned run in seven innings of work and retired 10 straight Buckeye hitters at one point to lift the Illini to 23-21 overall, 8-9 in the Big Ten and only two games out of first place at the end of the day.

"We played well in all three aspects of the game today," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We got a great outing from Johnson and played extremely well behind him. And we also got some timely hits early in the game."

Center fielder Willie Argo started the game with a triple off the wall in right and right fielder Craig Lutes knocked him in with a single to left. After left fielder Casey McMurray struck out, DH Aaron Johnson drew a four-pitch walk and first baseman Mike Giller smacked an opposite-field RBI double to put the Illini up 2-0. Buckeye starter Dean Wolosiansky then fanned the next hitters to strike out the side in the first, but not before Illinois got a pair of runs.

OSU got a run back in the bottom of the first after a leadoff hit batter, a single and an RBI groundout, cutting Illinois' lead to 2-1. But the Illini responded in the third inning when third baseman Brandon Hohl laced a two-out single to right-center and second baseman Christian Cummins doubled to right-center. Davis walked to load the bases and Parr ripped a first-pitch triple over the left fielder's head to clear the bases and put the Illini up 5-1.

Lutes led off the fourth with a single and, one out later, Johnson doubled to right-center. But Giller fouled out to the catcher and Hohl struck out to strand the runners in scoring position. The Illini had another favorable situation in the fifth when Cummins drew a leadoff walk and Davis singled through the right side. But Parr popped out to the first baseman and Argo grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Kevin Johnson found a groove in the third inning after a leadoff walk, retiring the next 10 Buckeyes hitters before allowing a one-out single in the sixth to OSU second baseman Cory Kovanda. But Johnson induced a tailor-made 4-6-3 double play from catcher Dan Burkhart to end the inning and keep the Illini up 5-1.

OSU looked to get something going in the seventh when center fielder Michael Stephens reached when Parr's throw to first pulled Giller off the bag. Johnson induced a grounder to Cummins, who got the lead runner at second, and Hohl made a nice play over the bag at third before throwing to second to retire the lead runner once again. But Johnson gave up a walk and an RBI single before inducing another groundout to get out of the inning holding onto a 5-1 lead.

The Illini went down quietly in the eighth and Brian de la Torriente relieved Johnson in the bottom half. He allowed a leadoff walk but erased the runner with a double play before striking out Buckeye catcher Dan Burkhart to end the inning.

Illinois hit three fly-outs in the top of the ninth and Roberts came out of the bullpen looking for his ninth save of the year. He hit the first batter he faced before striking out DH Ryan Dew looking. He hit the next batter but fanned right fielder Brian DeLucia for the second out. He then coaxed a foul pop-up from first baseman Matt Streng, which Hohl squeezed for the final out and a 5-2 win.

Johnson was stellar, allowing only one earned run, two total, on three hits and two walks in seven innings while striking out four. De la Torriente and Roberts each posted scoreless innings as Roberts moved into second on the Illini single-season saves record list with his ninth save, equaling Mike Munson's 1986 season and Jeff Innis' total in 1982. He also has six saves in Big Ten games, tying Dave Mazurek (2002) and Jeff Richards (1989) for third on that record list, behind only Jake Toohey (2007) and Jimmy Journell (1999), who each have seven in a Big Ten season.

Davis led the offense with a 2-for-3 day and a run, and Lutes went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run. Giller went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI, and Cummins reached base three times, going 1-for-3 with a run, a walk and a hit by pitch. Parr also was 1-for-3 with a three-run triple.

The Illini look for a series sweep on Sunday when they take on the Buckeyes in a 12:05 p.m. CT start. Freshman Matt Milroy will start for Illinois and freshman Brett McKinney will take the ball for OSU.