Illini Bats Bounce Back to Eliminate Ohio State, 6-5


May 22, 2014

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OMAHA, Neb. - After the start of the Thursday's game was pushed back an hour and a half due to a rain delay, No. 3 Illinois (32-20) knocked No. 7 Ohio State (30-28) out of the Big Ten Tournament with a 6-5 victory at TD Ameritrade Park. The Illini never trailed and saw their offense come alive with every player in the lineup recording a hit for their second-highest output this season (15).

"This was a very important game for us," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "Our guys did a very good job of jumping out offensively. We didn't have a great offensive game yesterday, but we found a way to score early and put pressure on Ohio State all day. We swung the bats well and had some big hits in crucial situations."

Sophomore Kevin Duchene (4-1) notched the win with only one of his five runs going down as earned after the defense made three errors behind him in six innings of work. Sophomore Nick Blackburn took over in a tight spot and recorded two outs in the seventh before Tyler Jay closed the door with 2.1 scoreless innings for his 10th save, which ranks as the second-most in a season in school history.

"Kevin gave us a good start," Hartleb said. "He wasn't as sharp as he has been in the past, but he came out and competed. We were solid on the mound, but made a couple mistakes defensively that put us in jams and made the game tight. Nick got a couple of key outs and Tyler got the big strikeout to end the seventh and then cruised in the eighth and ninth."

The Illini got off to a much better start in their second game of the Big Ten Tournament, grabbing a 2-0 lead with a pair of two-out hits in the first inning. Sophomore Jason Goldstein smacked an RBI double to the gap in left center that brought home redshirt-freshman Adam Walton. Redshirt-junior Reid Roper followed with an RBI single to knock in Goldstein.

Ohio State threatened in the second by putting its first two hitters on and appeared to load the bases with nobody out on a sacrifice bunt attempt. Interference was called on the runner who made contact with second baseman Reid Roper resulting in an out, while a 4-6-3 double play ended the inning.

The top of Illinois' order began the fifth with three consecutive hits on the way to two more runs for a 4-0 lead. Junior Will Krug and Walton each singled followed by an RBI single from junior David Kerian. Walton scored for the second time on a double play.

The Buckeyes got their first run across on a two-out RBI single in the fifth which was extended by an error at third base. OSU capitalized on another UI error and tied it at four with three runs in the sixth. A two-out grounder to shortstop was thrown high to first base, allowing two runs to score. An RBI single evened the game.

Illinois capitalized on a Buckeye throwing error in the seventh to go ahead 6-4. Redshirt-junior Kelly Norris-Jones and Krug began the frame with singles. Walton laid down a bunt that OSU starter Ryan Riga threw wide of third base, allowing both runners to score.

Duchene ran into trouble with a double and hit by pitch in the bottom of the seventh. Blackburn took over and OSU loaded the bases on a bunt single. A sacrifice fly made it 6-5 followed by a strikeout and walk that jammed the bags again. Jay entered to face the left-handed hitter Troy Montgomery and delivered a clutch strikeout to keep the Illini in front.

The Illini left the bases loaded in the eighth and two on in the ninth, missing chances to add insurance runs. A one-run lead was enough for Jay, who retired all seven batters he faced and breezed through the eighth and ninth. The Lemont, Illinois, native is now three saves shy of Jeff Richards' school-record mark of 13 in 1989.

Illinois' first five hitters - Krug, Walton, Kerian, Goldstein and Reid Roper - each collected two hits along with Norris-Jones in the nine hole.

Up Next: Illinois will face the loser of Thursday night's Nebraska-Michigan State game on Friday at 3:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. Junior John Kravetz (6-1, 3.15 ERA) will start for the Illini.