Illini Reach Title Game with 4-1 Triumph Over Spartans

John Anderson pitched 7 1/3 strong innings to lift the Illini to a 4-1 win over Michigan State in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
John Anderson pitched 7 1/3 strong innings to lift the Illini to a 4-1 win over Michigan State in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

May 27, 2011

Box Score

Big Ten Network Highlights | Postgame Press Conference

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Senior John Anderson allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings of work and Josh Parr had a two-out, two-run double in the fourth as top-seeded Illinois advanced to the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament with a 4-1 win over No. 2 seed Michigan State at Huntington Park on Friday. Anderson scattered six hits and four walks to lift the Illini to their seventh-straight win and within one victory of their first berth in the NCAA Tournament since 2000.

"It all started with John Anderson; he was just outstanding on the mound," Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said. "We came up with a timely two-out hit to have the big inning (in the fourth) and then Matt Dittman stepped up with the big home run. I was pleased with the way we played all around. We were very solid."

The victory is Illinois' seventh in a row, marking the longest Illini winning streak since a nine-game streak from March 18-April 1, 2006. The Illini advance to the title game of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2000, which also is the last time the Orange and Blue won the event. And Illinois held MSU to a single run, the fewest runs by any Division I team against the Illini this season.

After Anderson required only pitches to retire the Spartans in order in the first inning, the Illini struck first with a run in the bottom half. DH Justin Parr singled to right-center and moved up a base when the right fielder misplayed the ball. Catcher Adam Davis ripped a 1-0 pitch to left that one-hopped the wall for an RBI double, putting the Illini on top, 1-0.

Anderson worked another 1-2-3 inning in the second, this time using nine pitches. Center fielder Willie Argo drew a one-out walk but right fielder Davis Hendrickson grounded into a 6-3 double play to end the inning.

Spartan left fielder Jordan Keur ripped a one-out double to left-center for MSU's first hit of the game in the third, but Anderson retired the next hitter on a grounder to third baseman Brandon Hohl. Keur moved to third on a wild pitch but Anderson got center fielder Brandon Eckerle to ground out to Matt Dittman at first base to retire the side and keep MSU scoreless.

The Illini looked to get a two-out rally going in the third when Justin Parr smacked a single to center and moved to third on Davis' double down the left-field line. But Hohl grounded out on a slow chopper to third to end the inning with Illinois clinging to a 1-0 lead.

In the top of the fourth, MSU tried to start a rally with a pair of one-out singles by first baseman Jeff Holm and third baseman Torsten Boss, but Anderson coaxed a fly-out and a groundout from the next two hitters to get out of the jam and keep Illinois ahead by a 1-0 score.

Left fielder Casey McMurray led off the bottom of the fourth by beating out an infield hit that MSU shortstop gloved behind second base but couldn't throw out McMurray. After two outs, Hendrickson drew a walk and, after a visit to the mound by the Spartans' pitching coach, shortstop Josh Parr cranked a double into the gap in left-center driving home both runners to push the Illini lead to 3-0.

Anderson gave up a leadoff single to MSU shortstop Justin Scanlon before retiring the next two hitters. He walked Eckerle but, after a visit to the mound from pitching coach Ken Westray, induced a first-pitch fly-out from second baseman Ryan Jones to get out of the inning and keep the Spartans off the board.

Davis drove a one-out single off the shortstop's glove and into left field with one out in the bottom of the fifth and, one out later, stole second, but McMurray popped out to second base to end the inning.

Anderson worked around a two-out walk in the top of the sixth to keep the Spartans scoreless and Dittman started the bottom half of the inning by smashing a 2-0 pitch from MSU starter Tony Bucciferro over the 20-foot-high wall in right field to extend the Illini lead to 4-0.

The Spartans got a leadoff single to right from Scanlon to start the seventh but he was erased on a 4-6-3 twin killing. But Anderson walked the No. 9 hitter, catcher Joel Fisher, and Josh Parr misplayed a potential inning-ending ground ball, resulting in runners at the corners with two outs. Anderson kept his composure, though, coaxing a foul pop-up to Davis to get out of the jam.

Illinois went down in order in the seventh as MSU used a different pitcher for each out, going for the situational matchups against right- and left-handed hitters. In the bottom half, Holm drew a leadoff four-pitch walk and Anderson coaxed a pop-up to shallow right-center that second baseman Pete Cappetta gloved. But DH Jared Hook smacked an RBI double to right-center and Hartleb brought in Chris Pack to relieve Anderson. He induced a fly-out to Argo in right-center for the second out and a grounder to Parr to get out of the inning as the Spartans got within 4-1.

Hohl led off the bottom of the eighth with a double to right-center but McMurray flew out to center. After a pitching change to a left-hander, Hohl moved to third on a wild pitch and Dittman struck out. Argo was walked intentionally to get to the left-handed hitting Hendrickson, who was hit by a 3-2 pitch, loading the bases. But Parr lined out sharply on the first pitch he saw to retire the side and keep the Illini off the board.

Pack stayed in to pitch the ninth and fanned Keur for the first out. He got Fisher to hit a sharp grounder up the middle, which Cappetta gloved on a sliding play after taking two steps to his right and threw a laser to Dittman at first. Pack then induced a chopper up the middle that Parr gloved and threw to first for the final out, giving the Illini a 4-1 win.

Davis keyed the offense on the night, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI and a steal. Justin Parr went 2-for-4 with a run, and Josh Parr was 1-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Argo walked twice and stole a base, and Hohl, McMurray, Dittman and Hendrickson each recorded a hit.

Anderson was stellar, allowing only one run on six hits and four walks while striking out one. Pack pitched the final 1 2/3 innings, striking out one while not allowing a hitter to reach base and requiring only 20 pitches to record five outs.

The Illini have to wait to discover who they will face next, as they will play the winner of the elimination game between MSU and Minnesota at 6:05 p.m. CT on Saturday. The Spartans and Gophers will square off at 2:35 p.m. Saturday. Illinois will send left-hander Corey Kimes to the hill in the championship game.