Illini Complete Sweep of PSU with 5-4 Comeback Win

Sophomore David Kerian scored the game-winning run on the RBI single by Reid Roper in the eighth.
Sophomore David Kerian scored the game-winning run on the RBI single by Reid Roper in the eighth.

May 12, 2013

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois overcame a four-run deficit by scoring five runs in its final three innings, capping off a 5-4 comeback win on Senior Day to complete the sweep of Penn State. The Illini only had one hit in the first five innings before turning it on late with a run in the sixth, three in the seventh to tie it at four and the game-winning RBI single by redshirt-sophomore Reid Roper in the eighth.

"We didn't do anything very well today, but the bottom line is that we found a way to win," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "That shows we are a good team. When things don't go well, our guys don't give in or get frustrated. They battled back and got us a really good win."

With the sweep of Penn State, Illinois (31-15) improved to 12-9 in the Big Ten and moved into a tie for fifth place with Michigan (12-9), which lost to Purdue on Sunday. Michigan State sits in seventh place at 10-8 heading into the final series of the season. All three teams will be on the road next week fighting for the final two spots to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament.

"It was huge to get a sweep," Hartleb said. "We are fighting for our lives to keep our season alive. It was a huge win today."

Illinois, which will play at Minnesota (12-6), and Michigan, which will head to Nebraska (14-7), will both play teams tied for second in the conference standings, while Michigan State will travel to last-place Penn State (3-18). Indiana currently leads the Big Ten at 15-6 and will finish the season at Ohio State, which is involved in the three-way tie for second at 14-7. At the end of next weekend, the top six teams in the Big Ten will qualify for the Big Ten Tournament, which is slated for May 22-25 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn.

With the game tied at four in the bottom of the eighth, sophomore David Kerian led off the inning with a walk and advanced all the way to third on a failed pickoff attempt. On a 3-1 count, Roper sent a single up the middle through the drawn-in infield, bringing home Kerian for his second game-winning hit this season.

"With a guy on third and less than two outs, I was just trying to get him home any way I could," Roper said. "I was fortunate to get one through the hole, so I was excited about that. We were happy to complete the sweep and roll into Minnesota with some momentum next week."

Fifth-year senior Bryan Roberts took the ball in the ninth and held on to the one run lead for his fifth save this season and 14th career save, which is tied for fourth in school history. Roberts got a strikeout looking to start the stanza, but ran into trouble after that with a walk and a single. The Lisle, Ill., native ended the game himself by starting a 1-6-3 double play, sealing the victory for reliever Drasen Johnson (2-1), who tossed a scoreless eighth. Sophomore starter John Kravetz received his seventh no decision after allowing four runs (2 ER) over seven innings.

"John did a good job by continuing to throw strikes to give us an opportunity to win late," Hartleb said. "Drasen got the job done when his name was called. Bryan has been through so much in his career here, so it was great to see him finish it off today."

Penn State grabbed its first lead of the series, jumping in front 4-0 after scoring a pair of unearned runs in the second and tacking on two more in the third. Kravetz kept his composure and left the bases loaded in the third, preventing a big inning. The Lansing, Ill., native only gave up two hits over the next four innings, keeping the Illini within striking distance.

The Illini finally got on the board in the sixth when senior Brandon Hohl drew a bases-loaded walk, scoring junior Thomas Lindauer, who finished 1-for-5 with two runs and two RBI. Lindauer knocked in the first two runs of the three-run seventh on a single to left and scored the tying run on an RBI single to center by redshirt-junior Jordan Parr.

Illinois broke the 4-4 tie in the next inning with the PSU two-base throwing error and heroics from Roper. The Illini captured their second Big Ten series sweep of the season and won their eighth one-run game of the year. For the series, UI outscored Penn State 22-10 and hit .327 while boasting a 2.67 ERA with 23 strikeouts.

Senior Justin Parr saw his school-record 33-game hitting streak come to an end after finishing 0-for-2 with two walks. The Chillicothe, Ill., native turned in the longest streak in the NCAA this season at 33 games and did not record a hit for just the third time this season.

"I'm sure he is disappointed to see the streak end, but at the same time, he will probably breathe a sigh of relief," Hartleb said. "I guarantee you that if he had a choice to win the game and help us move forward or to continue the streak, he would give up his streak. That is the sign of a mature player."

Six Illini seniors, Davis Hendrickson, Brandon Hohl, Kevin Johnson, Alex Lincoln, Justin Parr and Bryan Roberts, were recognized before the game at Illinois Field.

Up Next: Illinois will hit the road for a three-game series in Minneapolis, Minn., from May 16-18. The first two games between Illinois and Minnesota on Thursday and Friday will be aired live on the Big Ten Network.