Illini Fall to Top-Seeded Titans, 10-4

Matt Dittman was greeted by his teammates after his two-run homer in the second inning on Friday.
Matt Dittman was greeted by his teammates after his two-run homer in the second inning on Friday.

June 4, 2011

Box Score |  Illinois at Cal State Fullerton Photos 

FULLERTON, Calif. - Senior first baseman Matt Dittman gave fourth-seeded Illinois a 2-0 lead with a two-run homer in the second inning but top-seeded Cal State Fullerton scored six runs in their final three times to the plate to pull away for a 10-4 win in front of a season-high 2,715 fans at Goodwin Field in the second game of the NCAA Fullerton Regional on Friday. Brandon Hohl and Casey McMurray each had two hits for the Illini, who will face third-seeded Kansas State in an elimination game Saturday at 6 p.m. CT.

"We got out-played in every aspect," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We got out-hit. Defensively we weren't as sharp as we have been. And Pill just did a great job against us. We struck out too many times. We just need to bounce back from what happened tonight and be a better team tomorrow."

After all three Illini hitters struck out in the top of the first, Illinois starter Kevin Johnson worked a quick bottom half. He coaxed a fly-out to McMurray in left field before fanning third baseman Richy Pedroza. He hit Fullerton pitcher Tyler Pill but retired the final batter with a fly-out to right fielder Davis Hendrickson.

The Illini got on the board first in the second inning when McMurray ripped a double down the left-field line and Dittman ripped a 2-2 fastball out to right field for his fifth home run in the last seven games to give Illinois a 2-0 lead. It also was Dittman's third-straight hit that was a home run as both of his hits at the Big Ten Tournament were dingers.

In the bottom of the second, Titan center fielder Michael Lorenzen beat out an infield hit by a step, chopping a ball hard up the middle that second baseman Pete Cappetta gloved near the bag but made a late throw to first. The next hitter sacrificed him over and Johnson coaxed a fly-out to center fielder Willie Argo for the second out. Shortstop Keegan Dale dropped down a two-strike bunt single down the third-base line that Brandon Hohl allowed to roll, but it stayed fair for a hit. After Dale stole second without a throw, catcher Jared Deacon chopped one to the right side that Cappetta snared with a sliding play and threw to Johnson covering first, who beat the runner by a half-step for the third out to keep the Titans off the board.

The Illini went down in order in the third and Fullerton left fielder drew a leadoff, four-pitch walk in the bottom half. But Johnson retired the next three hitters on a sacrifice bunt, a fly-out to Argo that allowed the runner to moved to third and a pop-up to shortstop Josh Parr.

But the Titans tied it up in the fourth after Johnson retired the first two hitters in the inning. He gave up consecutive singles then walked Fullerton's No. 9 hitter to load the bases. Left fielder Ivory Thomas then lined a single to right that Davis Hendrickson mishandled, allowing another run to score and Fullerton to draw even at 2-2.

Hendrickson drew a four-pitch walk to start the fifth and Parr flew out for the first out. Hendrickson was caught stealing, though, and Cappetta was rung up on strikes to end the inning.

Pill knocked a first-pitch single in the bottom half but was erased on a 4-6-3 double play that Ramirez hit into. But Lorenzen was hit by a pitch and and right fielder Carlos Lopez smashed a first-pitch, RBI double to the gap in right-center. Second baseman Greg Velazquez singled to right, driving home Lopez to put the Titans up 4-2.

But the Illini battled back in the sixth, as catcher Adam Davis was hit by a pitch and third baseman Brandon Hohl smoked a double down the left-field line to put men at second and third. McMurray smacked an 0-1 offering from Pill back up the middle, driving in both runners and tying the game at 4. McMurray stole second and Dittman walked but Argo flew out and Hendrickson bounced out to second base to end the inning.

Fullerton kept swinging in the bottom of the sixth, though, as Johnson hit the first batter he faced and Thomas singled on a fake-bunt-slash down the left-field line. The next hitter sacrificed the runners over and both scored on Pill's sinking liner that landed out of Parr's reach and scooted into left field to give the Titans a 6-4 lead.

Fullerton added a run in the seventh after reliever Luke Joyce, who recorded the final two outs of the sixth, gave up a leadoff walk and an RBI double on a wild play. Hendrickson dove for a sinking liner and trapped it off the short hop, but his glove came off as he rolled over. The ball trickled toward right-center but he went back toward his glove, thinking the ball was inside it. By the time he recovered the ball, second baseman Greg Velazquez was on second with an RBI double. But Joyce recovered by striking out the next hitter and coaxing a grounder to Dittman for a 3-1 putout to end the frame as the Titans extended their lead to 7-4.

The Illini went down in order in the eighth and Fullerton tacked on two more runs after a leadoff walk by new pitcher Will Strack, a stolen base and a grounder to the right side put a runner on third. Pill walked and first baseman Nick Ramirez chopped a ball over Dittman's head and down the right-field line for a two-run double. Bill Barrett relieved Strack and induced a groundout before giving up an RBI single that pushed the Fullerton lead to 10-4.

Argo walked to start the ninth but Hendrickson lined into a 4-3 double play after Argo took off on the pitch. Parr was hit by a pitch but Cappetta struck out to end the game.

McMurray led the offense, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs, a run and a stolen base, while Hohl was 2-for-4 with a run. Dittman accounted for Illinois' other hit on the night, going 1-for-3 with a two-run homer and a walk.

The Illini will face third-seeded Kansas State in Saturday's elimination game at 6 p.m. CT. Illinois will send right-hander John Anderson to the hill, while the Wildcats will give the ball to right-hander Matt Applegate.