Illini Break Out Brooms with 7-2 Win Over Indiana
May 13, 2007
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Brian Long had a career day, tossing five shutout innings of near-perfect relief to lift Illinois to a sweep of Indiana with a 7-2 win. It is the Illini's first Big Ten series sweep of the season and first since the Orange and Blue took all four from Northwestern May 6-8, 2005. Illinois is now tied for fifth place in the Big Ten standings with Ohio State, 1.5 games ahead of Michigan State for the final Big Ten Tournament berth. The Spartans visit Champaign next weekend.
"As you look at what other teams did this weekend, our games were must-win," Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said, "and our guys went out and got the job done. They had great composure all weekend and came to win every day."
After winning Saturday's second game with a four-run, two-out rally, Illinois got on the board in Sunday's first inning with a three-run, two-out rally. With two down, catcher Lars Davis singled through the right side, then first baseman Mike Rohde and DH Daniel Webb walked to load the bases. Shortstop Shawn Roof was hit by a pitch, driving home Davis, and second baseman Ryan Hastings singled home Rohde and Webb for a 3-0 lead.
Indiana got two runs back in the third after a pair of singles and a poorly-executed sacrifice bunt on which the lead runner was thrown out put runners at first and second with one out. The next hitter flew out to right, moving the lead runner to third, and Hastings couldn't handle the cutoff throw, allowing the runner at first to move to second. DH Jon Fixler then blooped a single into right field, scoring a pair and making the score 3-2 in Illinois' favor.
In the fifth, rightfielder Ryan Snowden led off with a double and scored when third baseman Brandon Wikoff reached on a fielding error by the first baseman and moved to second on a throwing error by the second baseman. Davis then drove in Wikoff with a base hit and, one out later, moved to third on a groundout. Roof plated Davis with a single up the middle, pushing the lead to 6-2.
One inning later, centerfielder Kyle Hudson tripled into the gap in left-center, just out of the reach of Indiana centerfielder Andrew Means. Snowden was hit by a pitch and Wikoff drove in Hudson with a sacrifice fly, making the Illini advantage 7-2.
That was more than enough for Long, who used just 44 pitches in his five innings of work, less than nine pitches per inning. He notched three 1-2-3 innings, facing the minimum in the fourth, fifth and eighth innings. He needed just four pitches to retire the side in the fifth and only seven pitches in the eighth inning.
"One person who really carried us today was Brian Long," Hartleb said. "He gave us a big pick-me-up, and the story all weekend for us was our pitching. Those guys keep maturing and if we keep taking care of business, I like where we're headed as we get late in the season."
Long earned his first win since May 14, 2006, at Indiana with five shutout innings, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out one. Twenty-nine of his 44 pitches (66 percent) went for strikes as he recorded 12 ground-ball outs out of 15 and only one ball got out of the infield, a single through the left side.
On the weekend, Illinois pitchers put together a 1.41 ERA with a .217 opponent batting average, giving up just 26 hits in 32 innings while striking out 12 and walking just six Indiana hitters. That allowed the Illini offense to outscore the Hoosiers 21-9.
Offensively, Davis was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI, while Roof and Hastings each had a hit and two RBI. Hudson tripled and scored, and Snowden doubled and scored. Webb extended his career-best hitting streak to 17 games with a line-drive single in the third.
Up Next: Illinois travels to GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill., for its annual wood-bat showdown with Missouri. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. The Illini then host Michigan State, the team directly behind them in the Big Ten standings, in the final series of the season. The four-game set starts with a 6:05 p.m. first pitch on Friday.