Illini Edged by Nittany Lions, 3-2
May 13, 2012
Postgame Interview: Coach Hartleb
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Illinois scored a run in the top of the ninth and had runners at first and second with one out, but Penn State closer Dave Walkling retired the next two hitters to seal the 3-2 Nittany Lion victory as PSU finished the series sweep of the Fighting Illini at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Sunday. In the series, Penn State won the three games by a total of four runs, with both Friday's and Sunday's games being decided by a 3-2 score.
The loss drops Illinois into ninth place in the Big Ten at 9-12 in the conference and 26-24 overall, two games out of sixth place, the final qualifying spot for the Big Ten Tournament.
"I thought we continued to fight and battle throughout the game," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "But once again, it was the little things that we didn't do that hurt us. Those are some of the things that separate veteran teams from inexperienced teams."
Both starting pitchers cruised through the first inning, as Penn State's John Walter struck out the Illini side in the first and Illinois' Drasen Johnson worked a 1-2-3 bottom half of the inning with one strikeout. Illini DH Thomas Shelton drew a two-out walk in the second but a fly-out ended the frame.
Johnson worked around a pair of hits in the bottom of the second to keep Penn State scoreless and shortstop Thomas Lindauer knocked a double down the right-field line with two outs in the third. But center fielder Willie Argo flew out to center to end the inning.
Johnson continued to cruise in the third, retiring the Lions in order on a groundout, a fly-out to right-center and a foul pop-up to third baseman Brandon Hohl. The Illini went down in order in the top of the fourth and Johnson allowed a one-out double to PSU first baseman Jordan Steranka. He moved to third on a fly-out to Argo but Johnson induced a groundout to Hohl to strand Steranka and keep the game scoreless after four innings.
In the fifth, Roper drew a one-out walk and, after another out, catcher Alex Lincoln looped a single into right-center, moving Roper to third. Lindauer worked the count to 2-2 against Walter but popped out to the catcher to strand the runners.
The Lions notched a leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth but Johnson induced a foul-out by PSU catcher Alex Farkes after two unsuccessful bunt attempts, a fly-out and a strikeout of Lion slugger Sean Deegan to keep the game scoreless after five innings.
Illinois touched the scoreboard first with a run in the sixth inning. Argo drew a leadoff walk and left fielder Justin Parr reached on an infield hit. After Hohl sacrificed them each up a base, first baseman Jordan Parr dropped a base hit into shallow center, driving home Argo for a 1-0 lead. But Jordan Parr was picked off first base and Shelton struck out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Johnson walked PSU third baseman Joey DeBernardis with one out and Steranka cracked an RBI double to the right-field corner to tie the game. Hartleb brought on Matt Milroy out of the bullpen and he walked the first hitter he faced before coaxing a pair of fly-outs to hold the score at 1-1.
Roper started the top of the seventh with a bunt single and moved to second on right fielder Will Krug's sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher. But he was stranded there after Lincoln flew out to right and Lindauer grounded out to third base.
But Penn State put up a pair of runs against Milroy in the bottom of the seventh after a leadoff walk, a sacrifice, an RBI double by Deegan and a two-out RBI single by Steranka to put the Lions up 3-1.
Illinois went down in order in the eighth as Walter continued to stymie the Illini offense. Milroy walked the leadoff man in the bottom half before coaxing a fly-out to Krug. After a base hit through the left side, he induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to keep the Illini within 3-1.
As they did on Saturday, the Orange and Blue mounted a rally in the ninth as Jordan Parr ripped a double off the wall to start the frame and PSU brought in left-handed reliever Greg Welsh. Shelton dropped a base hit into left-center to put men at the corners with no outs and Roper sent a ground ball to the shortstop. He flipped to second for the first out but Roper hustled down the line and beat out the throw to first as Parr scored to bring the Illini within 3-2. Krug was hit by a pitch and the Lions brought in closer Dave Walkling to face pinch hitter Bill Charvat. Charvat flied out to left-center and Lindauer hit one on the screws but only a couple steps from Deegan, who gathered it in for the third out to clinch the series sweep.
Jordan Parr led the Illini at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run, and Roper was 1-for-3 with an RBI. Lindauer doubled and Argo walked and scored. Johnson was effective on the hill, holding PSU to one run in 5 1/3 innings of work, allowing only five hits and one walk while striking out two.
Illinois returns to action on Thursday when it hosts Minnesota to open the final regular-season series of 2012. First pitch is at 6:35 p.m. and the Big Ten Network will broadcast the game live.