Illini Fall to Minnesota on Senior Day, 8-3

Reid Roper tripled and scored while going 2-for-3 on Saturday.
Reid Roper tripled and scored while going 2-for-3 on Saturday.

May 19, 2012

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Postgame Interviews: Coach Hartleb | Willie Argo

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois scored twice in the eighth to draw within a run but Minnesota responded with four in the ninth to pull away for an 8-3 win in front of 1,126 fans at Illinois Field on Saturday, preventing the Illini from earning the final spot in next week's Big Ten Tournament.

llinois ends the season 28-25 overall, 11-13 in the Big Ten and in a three-way tie for sixth with the Gophers and Ohio State. The crowd for the season's final game marked the 10th attendance figure over 1,000 in 2012 and bumped the season average to 1,042.7, the second-highest in Illinois Field history (since 1988).

But the Buckeyes earn the No. 6 seed in the tournament by virtue of a better winning percentage in the third tiebreaker used, record against common Big Ten opponents. It marks only the second time in the last eight years that the Illini have missed the postseason.

"It was a tough day," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "I thought we played hard and we were in a good frame of mind. They just swung the bats a little better than us and came up with a few more pitches than we did. If you look at our season as a whole, we would score some runs, then we'd give up some runs. We didn't have a lto of shutdown innings. That happened to us again today, and we didn't give ourselves a chance going into the ninth inning. It is a tough day because we lose a good group of seniors."

The Gophers struck first with a tally in the top of the first inning. Left fielder Andy Henkemeyer led off with a ground-rule double to right-center and, after a pair of groundouts, came home on a base hit to center for a 1-0 Minnesota lead.

Illinois went down in order in the bottom of the first, then Illini starter Drasen Johnson pitched over a one-out bunt single in the top of the second to keep the Gophers scoreless. In the bottom of the second, third baseman Brandon Hohl stroked a two-out single just inside first base and second baseman Reid Roper drew a walk. But right fielder Davis Hendrickson struck out to strand both runners.

Johnson retired the Gophers in order in the third but Minnesota starter Austin Lubinsky returned the favor in the bottom half. In the fourth, the Gophers took advantage of a leadoff walk with a pair of doubles and an RBI single to tack on three runs, extending their lead to 4-0 on the Illini.

Left fielder Justin Parr led off with a base hit through the left side in the bottom of the fourth, but he was stranded there. Matt Milroy relieved Johnson to start the fifth and worked around a one-out walk thanks to an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Illinois pushed a run across in the fifth when Roper crushed a double to left-center and, one out later, catcher Alex Lincoln drove him in with a groundout to shortstop, bringing the Orange and Blue within 4-1. In the top of the sixth, Milroy issues another one-out walk but worked around it with another inning-ending double play, this time a 6-4-3 twin killing despite the runner from first being in motion, to keep the Gophers off the board.

First baseman Jordan Parr knocked a base hit through the left side with two outs in the sixth but he was stranded there. In the seventh, Milroy gave up a one-out walk and a double before striking out the next hitter. He issued another walk to load the bases but Lindauer made a nice play behind second base and threw to Parr for the third out.

In the bottom of the seventh, Hendrickson was hit by a pitch on a 3-2 count and Bill Charvat pinch hit for Lincoln. On a 1-1 count, Charvat crushed a pitch down the right-field line but Gopher right fielder Bobby Juan hauled it in on the warning track near the right-field line on a dead run for the third out.

Milroy pitched over another one-out walk in the eighth, inducing a groundout to Hohl and recording his second strikeout to hold the Gophers scoreless. In the bottom half, Argo knocked a one-out double to right-center and Minnesota brought in left-handed reliever Tom Windle for starter Austin Lubinsky. He walked Justin Parr on four pitched and both runners moved up on a passed ball. After an out, Shelton dropped a hit into right-center, just out of the reach of a diving attempt by center fielder Trip Schultz, and made it to second on a two-run double when the ball went off Schultz' glove, as Illinois pulled within 4-3. Shelton moved to third on a wild pitch but Hohl struck out to end the rally.

Before the ninth inning began, Minnesota head coach John Anderson was ejected following a lengthy argument with home plate umpire John Coons. Milroy stayed in the game and walked the first hitter before allowing a base hit to right-center. A single to left loaded the bases, but Milroy got the first out on a shallow fly-out to right field. but he left a 1-0 pitch to first baseman Dan Olinger up in the zone and the Gopher crushed it off the wall in center for a bases-clearing double. Anthony Milazzo took over for Milroy and balked Olinger to third, then induced a sacrifice fly to center. He struck out the next hitter but Minnesota had extended its lead to 8-3.

Roper singled to right to start the bottom of the ninth but Krug was called out on strikes, then both he and Hartleb were ejected for arguing balls and strikes. The next two hitters made outs and the Gophers took the 8-3 victory.

Offensively, Roper was the lone Illini hitter to notch multiple hits, going 2-for-3 with a triple and a run. Shelton drove in two with a double, going 1-for-4, and Justin Parr was 1-for-3 with a run. Argo doubled and scored in the game.

In the series, Shelton led the Illini by hitting .417 (5-for-12) with a double and a team-high four RBIs. Argo went 4-for-11 (.364) with two doubles, an RBI, a team-high five runs and a stolen base. Krug also was 2-for-4 with a double and a run and Justin Parr hit .300 (3-for-10) with a triple, an RBI and three runs.