Long Ball Does In Illini in 8-6 Loss to PSU
May 12, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Illinois scored three in the first inning and pounded out 14 hits but Penn State used four home runs to edge the Illini 8-6 at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Saturday, clinching a series victory. Willie Argo and Thomas Lindauer each had three hits and Matt Milroy struck out three in 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.
"We swung the bats much better today, but it's tough to defend the long ball," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "If you look at where those pitches were against the only guys in their lineup with some power, they weren't very good. They drove in a bunch of runs with just four swings of the bat. We cut down on strikeouts and took better swings, but we didn't pitch well. It's frustrating because our guys are doing a good job of battling and they have a good attitude, but we have to do things the right way more often."
The Illini (26-23 overall, 9-11 in the Big Ten) struck first, tagging Penn State (26-24, 12-8) starter Steven Hill for three runs in the top of the first. Shortstop Thomas Lindauer knocked a leadoff single to center and moved to third on center fielder Willie Argo's double over the third-base bag. Left fielder Justin Parr dropped a single into center, driving home Lindauer, and third baseman Brandon Hohl's sacrifice fly to left plated Argo. Parr stole second and, after an out, came home on DH Thomas Shelton's single through the right side for a 3-0 lead.
Illini starter John Kravetz struck out two in the bottom of the first in a 1-2-3 inning, then Illinois went down in order in the second. PSU first baseman Jordan Steranka hammered the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the second over the fence in right for a solo homer, but Kravetz retired the next three hitters to keep a 3-1 lead.
Lindauer drew a leadoff walk in the third but was caught stealing. After another out, Justin Parr singled up the middle and moved to second on a ball in the dirt, but Hohl struck out to leave him there. Kravetz retired the Lions in order in the bottom half on two liners to Hohl and a fly-out to Argo.
Illinois went down in order in the fourth, then Kravetz induced a come-backer to the mound from PSU center fielder Steve Snyder to start the bottom half. Kravetz knocked it down but hurried the throw to first, allowing Snyder to motor around to third. Then Nittany Lion third baseman Joey DeBernardis crushed the first pitch he saw from Kravetz over the fence in left, about 20 feet inside the foul pole, for a two-run home run that tied the game, 3-3.
Will Krug, who got a start in right field in place of Davis Hendrickson, slashed a base hit through the right side with one out in the fifth, but he was caught stealing and Lindauer struck out looking to end the inning. Kravetz retired the first two hitters he faced in the bottom half of the inning and got ahead of No. 9 hitter Elliot Searer 0-2, but ended up walking him. Then left fielder Sean Deegan crushed a low 2-2 pitch over the fence in right for a two-run homer that gave the Lions a 5-3 lead.
Argo led off the sixth with a base hit to left then, after an out, moved to third on Hohl's single up the middle. First baseman Jordan Parr singled through the left side, driving home Argo, but Shelton grounded into a double play as the Illini could only draw within 5-4 in the frame.
In the seventh, catcher Kelly Norris-Jones ripped a double to the left of center field to start the frame and second baseman Reid Roper sacrificed him to third. Krug singled off the pitcher's glove to put men on the corners and Lindauer lined a single to left-center to drive home Norris-Jones and tie the game. After a pitching change, Argo drew a four-pitch walk and Justin Parr lifted a deep sacrifice fly that pushed home Krug and gave the Illini a 6-5 lead.
But the lead was short-lived as PSU strung together a pair of one-out singles before Deegan crushed a 1-1 pitch from Ronnie Muck over the fence in right-center to put the Lions ahead 8-6. He gave up another single before retiring DeBernardis on a groundout to Lindauer. Matt Milroy took over for Muck and struck out Steranka on three pitches, keeping the Illini within two runs.
Illinois went down in order in the eighth then Milroy gave up a leadoff single in the bottom half. He allowed a sacrifice bunt before striking out a hitter. He walked the next batter but struck out another to end the frame and hold the Lions' lead at 8-6.
In the ninth, Roper lined out to center and PSU brought in closer Dave Walkling. After another out, Lindauer kept the Illini alive with a two-out single through the left side and Argo singled to right-center, pushing Lindauer to third. Justin Parr drew a full-count walk to load the bases with two outs, but Hohl struck out to end the game as PSU clinched the series win with an 8-6 victory.
Lindauer and Argo keyed the Illini offense on the day, each going 3-for-4. Lindauer drove in a run and scored a run, while Argo doubled and scored twice. Justin Parr was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, a run and a steal, and Krug went 2-for-4 with a run.
The Illini look to salvage a game of the series when they cap the weekend with an 11:05 a.m. CT first pitch against the Nittany Lions on Sunday. The game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network. Redshirt-freshman right-hander Drasen Johnson will start for Illinois, while PSU will give the ball to junior right-hander John Walter.