May 15, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Freshman Kevin Johnson twirled a complete-game six-hitter to lift the Fighting Illini to a 7-0 win over Purdue at Illinois Field on Saturday. Johnson didn't allow a runner past second base and needed only 103 pitches to post his first complete-game shutout and the first by an Illini pitcher since Will Strack accomplished the feat on March 29, 2009. Left fielder Casey McMurray reached base all four times he went to the plate and center fielder Willie Argo stole his 39th base of the year to get within one of tying the school record.
Illinois moved to 24-23 on the year, 9-11 in the Big Ten, and into a tie for seventh with Ohio State and Indiana, but only two games out of second place.
"Kevin pitched very, very well tonight," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "He did a nice job of throwing three pitches for strikes and getting ahead in the count. But it wasn't just Kevin; we played well defensively, too."
Johnson got it going in the top of the first when he needed only eight pitches to retire the side despite allowing a leadoff hit, thanks to an inning-ending double play where shortstop Josh Parr gloved a grounder near second base, touched the bag and threw to first.
The Illini scored first with a run in the bottom of the first inning. With two outs, left fielder Casey McMurray walked and moved to second on a wild pitch. DH Aaron Johnson then smacked a single to center that Purdue center fielder Jonathan Lilly trapped against the turf, allowing McMurray to scamper home for a 1-0 lead.
Johnson got two quick outs in the second before allowing a single and hitting a batter. But he struck out Lilly to end the frame. In the third, he gave up a one-out single off the wall in right field, but Pete Cappetta threw a laser to second base and Tyler Spillner was called out after over-sliding the bag. Johnson allowed another base hit but induced a grounder to Hohl to end the inning.
Illinois tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the third when center fielder Willie Argo walked and was sacrificed to second by first baseman Craig Lutes. McMurray singled up the middle, driving him home, and moved to second on a wild pitch. He advanced to third on a groundout and came home when catcher Adam Davis swung at a third strike that bounced away from Purdue catcher Kevin Plawecki to put the Illini up 3-0.
Johnson coaxed a groundout and a flyout before walking a batter, but he struck out Purdue third baseman Cameron Perkins to finish the frame. The Orange and Blue put two more on the board in the bottom half when Cappetta led off with a single through the left side and third baseman Brandon Hohl knocked a base hit through the same hole, his second hit of the day. Second baseman Christian Cummins laid down a sacrifice bunt and shortstop Josh Parr lined out to center to drive in Cappetta from third. Argo laced a double underneath the glove of the first baseman to drive in Hohl, then he stole third, his 39th steal of the year, just one short of tying school record. But he was stranded there as Illinois increased its lead to 5-0.
Johnson kept the cruise control on, posting two quick outs to start the fifth before giving up a single through the right side. But he induced a grounder to Cummins to record the third out. He allowed a leadoff walk in the sixth before inducing a grounder to Hohl that moved the runner up to second. Johnson hit the next batter but coaxed a flyout to McMurray and a come-backer to the mound to finish the frame.
The Illini kept the offense rolling in the bottom of the sixth when Argo made it all the way to third after Purdue right-fielder Payton Bieker trapped a ball against the turf. Lutes ripped a double down the right-field line and McMurray doubled over the third-base bag to bump Illinois' lead to 7-0.
Johnson hit the leadoff man in the seventh before coaxing a fly-out to Cappetta. Spillner reached when Parr bobbled a potential double-play ball, but Johnson induced another fly-out to Cappetta and an inning-ending bouncer to Cummins.
He gave up a leadoff single down the left-field line in the eighth but got a pair of fly-outs and Parr made a great play to his right, throwing across his body to record the third out of the inning. He ramped it up in the ninth, coaxing a fly ball to Argo for the first out, then dropping a curveball over the inside corner to punch out shortstop Barrett Serrato for out number two. Spillner chopped one in front of the plate that catcher Adam Davis fielding cleanly and threw a strike to Lutes to end the game.
Johnson allowed only six hits and two walks over a career-high nine shutout innings, striking out four. He induced 10 groundball outs and 11 fly-outs, throwing 67 of his 103 pitches (65 percent) for strikes. He also threw first-pitch strikes to 25 of the 37 batters he faced (68 percent).
Offensively, McMurray was on base all four times he went to the plate, going 2-for-2 with a double, two RBIs, two runs and two steals. Argo went 2-for-4 with a double, a triple, an RBI, two runs and a steal. Cappetta went 2-for-3 with a run and Hohl went 2-for-4 with a run, notching his first multiple-hit game since April 14, a span of 19 games.