John Kravetz held Minnesota to one run over seven innings and the Illini held on for a 3-2 victory.
May 18, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Freshman John Kravetz held Minnesota to one run over seven innings and center fielder Willie Argo scored twice as Illinois grabbed a 3-2 victory in front of 1,385 fans at Illinois Field on Friday, clinching the series win. Reid Roper notched his second save of the weekend with a scoreless ninth inning of work as the Illini moved into a tie for sixth place in the Big Ten standings with Ohio State at 11-12 in conference play.
With a win against the Gophers on Saturday, Illinois would earn the No. 6 seed in next week's Big Ten Tournament, regardless of how the Buckeyes fare at Indiana. Should both the Illini and Ohio State win on Saturday, Illinois and OSU would tie for sixth at 12-12 in league play and the Illini would clinch a spot in the tournament by virtue of their series win over the Buckeyes in April. If Illinois and the Buckeyes both lose, they would fall into a three-way tie including the Gophers at 11-13 in the conference, a tie that OSU would win.
"We got a great start out of John Kravetz," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We had some timely hits. You look at what Willie did tonight; he was outstanding. Just a very well played game on our part. And again, I go back to the composure that our guys had. This isn't an easy venue when you get into a situation where your back's against the wall, where your season's on the line, and for two days, we've handled it very well."
Illini starter John Kravetz worked a quick 1-2-3 first inning, retiring the Gophers (28-27 overall, 10-13 in the Big Ten) on a deep fly-out to left and a pair of groundouts, including a nice play by shortstop Thomas Lindauer deep in the hole. In the bottom half, center fielder Willie Argo ripped a one-out double down the left-field line and moved to third on a wild pitch. First baseman Jordan Parr chopped one over Gopher pitcher D.J. Snelten's head and shortstop Matt Puhl couldn't make a play as Illinois took a 1-0 lead.
Kravetz allowed two hits and Illinois (28-24, 11-12) committed an error behind him in the second but he induced a deep fly-out to left to strand the bases full of Gophers. Third baseman Brandon Hohl drew a leadoff walk but the next three hitters made outs to keep the Illini off the board.
The Gophers got a one-out single in the third but Kravetz induced a fly-out to right and a liner to center to retire the side. Snelten retired the Illini in order in the bottom half, then Gopher right fielder Bobby Juan led off the fourth with a single. Kravetz started a 1-6-3 double play with a leaping stab, then induced a groundout to first baseman Jordan Parr to end the frame.
Illinois went down in order in the bottom of the fourth, then the Illini flashed the leather in the top of the fifth. After a leadoff single, catcher Alex Lincoln nailed the runner trying to steal second. Third baseman Brandon Hohl snagged a sinking liner toward the line for the second out and Argo recorded the third out with a diving effort coming in toward the infield on a full sprint.
In the bottom of the fifth, right fielder Will Krug lined a single over first base, but after a fly-out, he was put out at second on Lindauer's grounder to shortstop. Kravetz retired the Gophers in order in the sixth, then Argo drew a four-pitch leadoff walk in the bottom half. He moved to second on a passed ball and left fielder Justin Parr walked. They executed a double-steal and, after an out, Shelton drove in Argo with a bloop single into right-center. Shelton and Parr attempted a delayed double-steal but Gopher second baseman Michael Handel sniffed it out and got Parr at the plate on a bang-bang play. Hohl singled up the middle but a strikeout ended the inning as Illinois extended its lead to 2-0.
Juan led off the seventh with a solo shot to right but Kravetz retired the next two hitters. He gave up an infield hit on a two-hopper to the right side that Jordan Parr fielded, but Minnesota center fielder Jake Bergren beat Kravetz to the bag. But Kravetz coaxed a foul-out to Hohl to retire the side and keep the Illini ahead 2-1.
Illinois got the run back in the bottom of the seventh when Krug smashed a double down the right-field line. Minnesota brought in right-handed reliever Ben Meyer with a 1-1 count to Lincoln, who bunted the first pitch he saw from Meyer to move Krug to third. Lindauer walked on four pitches and Argo grounded to the third baseman, but the Gophers weren't able to turn the double play and Krug scored to push the margin to 3-1.
Matt Milroy took over for Kravetz in the eighth and gave up an infield hit before walking the next hitter on five pitches. After a sacrifice bunt moved both runners up a base, Milroy induced a grounder to Jordan Parr that drove in a run but recorded the second out. On a 2-1 count, Minnesota DH David Bettenburg crushed a high fly ball to left that hooked past the foul pole just before it crossed the fence, turning it into a long strike. Milroy then froze him with a slider on the outside corner to strand runners on the corners and keep the Illini ahead 3-2.
Shelton was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the eighth and moved to second on a passed ball. But he was stranded there as Gopher third baseman made a nice stab on a sharp liner by Hohl and Roper flew out to left.
As he did on Thursday, Roper moved to the mound to pitch the ninth and induced a full-count tapper back to the mound for the first out. He gave up an infield hit but struck out Minnesota shortstop Matt Puhl for the second out and the runner moved to second on a wild pitch. But Roper induced a grounder to Lindauer, who threw to Parr for the final out, clinching the 3-2 victory.
Kravetz was very good, holding Minnesota to one run in seven innings on six hits. He struck out three and didn't walk a single batter, the second time this season that he's pitched seven-plus innings and not allowed a walk. Roper struck out one and gave up an infield hit in the ninth.
Offensively, Krug was the only Illini with two hits, going 2-for-3 with a double and a run. Argo was 1-for-3 with a double, a steal, an RBI and two runs. Shelton went 1-for-3 with an RBI and Jordan Parr was 1-for-4 with an RBI. Hohl went 1-for-3 on the night as well.
Illinois and Minnesota wrap up the series on Saturday at 12:05 p.m., with the Illini sending redshirt-freshman right-hander Drasen Johnson to the mound. The Gophers will counter with senior right-hander Austin Lubinsky. Illinois will honor its six seniors prior to the game.