Illini Score Early, Hold Off Penn State, 8-6
May 11, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois scored seven runs in the first three innings and held off a Penn State comeback in an 8-6 victory in game two of the series on Saturday. Freshman Ryan Castellanos pitched into the seventh and improved to 3-1, while junior Ronnie Muck closed out the final two innings for his second save. The Illini improved to 30-15 on the year, marking the fifth time they have reached 30 wins under head coach Dan Hartleb in eight seasons.
"It was an interesting game," Hartleb said. "It looked like we were going to put the game away early, but it ended up being close. We got a good start out of Ryan. He wasn't as sharp as he normally is, but he found a way to battle through it."
Illinois also put itself back in control of its own destiny for the Big Ten Tournament. With the second-straight UI victory and the second Michigan State loss in a row to Iowa, the Illini (11-9) moved ahead of the Spartans (9-8) in the conference standings into sixth place. The Orange and Blue remained a game behind fifth-place Michigan (12-8) with four games left on the schedule.
Illinois jumped on the board early with four runs in the first. Junior Thomas Lindauer, who finished 2-for-3, led off the game with a single and advanced to third on a single to right by senior Justin Parr, who increased his NCAA-best hitting streak this year to 33 games. Redshirt-junior Jordan Parr singled through the right side, plating Lindauer for the first run of the game.
Senior Brandon Hohl added a second run with an RBI double, while redshirt-sophomore Reid Roper brought home the final two runs in the frame after a walk to sophomore David Kerian. Roper sent a high pop-up into the swirling wind at Illinois Field that dropped behind the shortstop, who proceeded to throw the ball away attempting to catch Roper rounding first. Hohl and Kerian both scored on the play.
After Penn State scored its first run of the series in the second, the Illini took a 7-1 lead by scoring three runs in the third inning with two outs. Senior Davis Hendrickson, who went 2-for-4 with two runs, knocked in Hohl on an RBI single to left. Freshman Jason Goldstein put up two more runs on a single to right that plated Hendrickson and Kerian.
PSU got its second run on an RBI groundnut in the bottom of the fifth, and Illinois left the bases loaded in the bottom half. After a scoreless sixth by both teams, the Nittany Lions made it a 7-4 game with three runs in the seventh. Castellanos, who allowed four earned runs over 6.1 innings, gave up an RBI single and was replaced by sophomore Anthony Milazzo, who allowed a single to his only batter. Freshman Nick Blackburn took over for Milazzo and finished the inning but let in an RBI groundout and RBI single.
"My only disappointment was that we had opportunities to break the game open, but we did not have good at-bats," Hartleb said. "We didn't swing at good pitches, so we need to clean that up tomorrow."
Lindauer added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh that knocked in Hendrickson, who tripled on a wind-aided pop fly. Muck relieved Blackburn in the top of the eighth, where PSU scored its final run of the game on an RBI fielder's choice. Penn State threatened in the ninth by putting runners on the corners with two outs, but Muck ended the contest with a strikeout.
Up Next: Illinois will go for the sweep of Penn State on Sunday at 11 a.m., the final regular season home game at Illinois Field. The game was previously slated for a 1:05 p.m. start, but was moved up to accommodate travel arrangements for PSU. Sophomore John Kravetz will start against PSU's Steven Hill. Senior Day recognition will take place on the field before the game, as the Illini will recognize six seniors: Davis Hendrickson, Brandon Hohl, Kevin Johnson, Alex Lincoln, Justin Parr and Bryan Roberts.