Heartbreaking 6-3 Loss to Georgia Tech Ends Illini Season
June 2, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - No. 3 Illinois took a 3-2 lead on Jordan Parr's inside-the-park home run in the eighth, but No. 2 Georgia Tech responded with four runs in the ninth, knocking the Illini out of the Nashville Regional with a 6-3 defeat. The heartbreaking loss at Hawkins Field on Sunday ended the Illini's season, which saw Illinois (35-20) collect its most wins under head coach Dan Hartleb and play in a regional for the second time in three years.
"It's tough to see it end this way, but I'm proud of what this team has accomplished this year," Hartleb said. "It is obviously very disappointing because I thought we played well today. Our guys bounced back from a tough loss last night. We gave them the lead going into the ninth inning and just couldn't close it down."
With the game tied 2-2, Jordan Parr led off the eighth inning with an inside-the-park home run, his third homer of the regional, as the Georgia Tech center fielder and right fielder collided tracking down his line drive to the gap. Fifth-year senior Bryan Roberts, who tallied the final out of the top of the eighth on one pitch, trotted back out to the mound for the ninth with a one-run lead.
Roberts, who had given up just four runs all year, was tagged for four runs in the inning, marking his final appearance as an Illini. The Yellow Jackets started the ninth with a single and a groundout to put a runner on second and one out. The top of the Tech order tied the game with an RBI single and followed it up with an RBI double to make it 4-3, giving Georgia Tech its first lead against the Illini in 17 innings.
After an intentional walk, the Yellow Jackets tallied another RBI single and a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 6-3. The Illini couldn't overcome the deficit in the bottom of the ninth, as they fell to the opponent they defeated in the opening round. Georgia Tech advanced to face Vanderbilt in the regional title game on Sunday night.
The Illini went down in order in the first inning, but Jordan Parr, who homered twice in the first game against Georgia Tech, started the second inning with a four-pitch walk. Senior Brandon Hohl followed with a single, and sophomore David Kerian sacrificed the runners to second and third. Redshirt-sophomore Reid Roper, who matched a career-high by going 3-for-4, brought Parr home with a single through the right side for the first run of the game. Roper picked up his second stolen base of the season, but the Illini stranded two runners in scoring position to end the second.
Georgia Tech tallied two quick Illini outs in the third inning, but senior Justin Parr struck a two-out single and stole second. Jordan Parr got a good pitch on a 3-1 count and singled up the middle to drive in Justin and give the Illini a 2-0 lead.
Freshman Ryan Castellanos turned in one of his strongest outings of the year and received a no decision. The Davie, Fla., native started the game with five scoreless innings for the first time in his young career before running into trouble in the sixth. The Yellow Jackets began the inning with three straight hits and plated their first run. Castellanos notched a big strikeout, but Georgia Tech knocked him out of the game with a game-tying double. Redshirt-sophomore Drasen Johnson replaced Castellanos and induced a pop out and ground ball to prevent any further damage.
The Illini had men in scoring position in the fourth, fifth and sixth but couldn't bring any of the runners home. Junior Thomas Lindauer extended his career-high hitting streak to 18 consecutive games with a one-out infield single in the bottom of the seventh. He picked up his 15th steal in 16 tries a few pitches later and advanced to third on Michael Hurwitz's groundout to the right side, but Illinois also stranded him.
"We had multiple opportunities throughout the game with runners on second and third," Hartleb said. "We could've broken the game open but couldn't come up with those two-out hits. We had one 2-out hit by Jordan earlier in the game, but other than that we did give up a lot of opportunities. That's part of baseball. It's been a little frustrating down the stretch because we've done that over the past three weeks a number of times."
Justin Parr finished 2-for-4 and walked in his final at-bat, finishing his season with a .398 average. The first-team All-American, who set an Illinois school record with a 33-game hit streak this year, narrowly missed becoming the first Illini to hit .400 in a season since Lars Davis in 2007.
With 35 wins in 2013, the Illini earned their most victories since finishing 41-23 in 2000.
"We're heading in the right direction," Hartleb said. "We look at what happened on the mound in this tournament and over the past month. We've been starting two freshmen and a sophomore. They've done a very good job. We've had our backs against the wall a number of times, and they've shown they can compete at the national level. We've used guys out of the bullpen that are freshmen. We have Jason Goldstein behind the plate who's done a great job. I think we're building a very strong program."