Illini Eliminate Titans Before Falling to Stanford
June 6, 2011
FULLERTON, Calif. - Senior first baseman Matt Dittman knocked in the go-ahead run with an eighth-inning single and sophomore right fielder Davis Hendrickson doubled home two more runs as Illinois held on for a 7-5 win over top-seeded Cal State Fullerton to eliminate the host Titans from the NCAA Tournament's Fullerton Regional on Sunday. The Illini then ran out of gas against second-seeded Stanford as the Cardinal scored nine runs in its last five times to the plate to win the Fullerton Regional with a 14-2 victory in the evening's championship game. Stanford will advance to face No.3 national seed North Carolina, which cruised through the Chapel Hill Regional, in next weekend's super regional round.
"We had a great game against Cal State Fullerton," Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. "What a quality program that is. We got some big hits and made some big plays. I'm proud of how we performed. I thought our guys competed really hard against Stanford but we ran out of pitching and the game kind of got away from us. I'm proud of what we've done."
The Illini finish 2011 with a 30-27 overall record and by making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000. Illinois went 2-2 in the Fullerton Regional, marking the fourth time out of nine appearances that the Orange and Blue have won at least two games in the NCAA Tournament. The Illini also won the Big Ten regular-season title for the first time since 2005 and the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2000. Illinois finished the season having won 11 of its last 14 games and 18 of its last 24 after starting the season 12-21, one of the most incredible turnarounds in Illinois baseball history.
"That was a very impressive performance (by Illinois)," Stanford head coach Mark Marquess said. "In fairness to them, they ran out of pitching. This is a great tournament. Obviously, Fullerton and the people running the tournament did a first-class job. We're proud we were able to win it; it was a tough regional."
Shortstop Josh Parr and right fielder Davis Hendrickson were named to the Fullerton Regional All-Tournament team after keying the Illini offense all weekend. Parr went 3-for-12 (.250) with a double, a triple, three RBIs and three runs, the most RBIs and runs by any shortstop in the tournament. Hendrickson hit .417 (5-for-12) with two doubles, a triple, three RBIs and a run, the second-highest average and tied for the most RBIs by an outfielder in the tournament. He also robbed a number of extra-base hits in right field in the regional tournament.
In the day's first game, Fullerton got on the board first with a run in the first inning after a leadoff walk, a sacrifice bunt and a two-out double by first baseman Nick Ramirez, the Big West Player of the Year. But Illini starter Corey Kimes fanned Titan center fielder Michael Lorenzen on high heat to end the inning as Fullerton took a 1-0 lead.
But the Illini answered in the bottom half when second baseman Pete Cappetta lined a leadoff double to right-center and, after an out, moved to third on a wild pitch. Catcher Adam Davis and third baseman Brandon Hohl drew consecutive walks to load the bases and left fielder Casey McMurray hit a soft liner up the middle that Fullerton shortstop Richy Pedroza gloved, touched second and tried to throw to first for a double play but McMurray beat it out to drive in Cappetta and tie the game, 1-1. But with men on the corners, McMurray was picked off on a third-to-first move that appeared to be a balk by Fullerton starter Colin O'Connell to end the inning.
After a scoreless second inning, the Titans went back on the attack in the third, scoring two runs on a walk, four singles and a double play that pushed in a run to go up 4-1 on the Illini.
The Illini went down in order in the third and Kimes gave up a one-out single to left fielder Ivory Thomas in the fourth. But Kimes picked him off and induced a grounder to third baseman Brandon Hohl to end the inning.
Illinois couldn't get anything going in the fourth and Kimes retired the first two hitters he faced in the top of the fifth. He allowed a double and a walk but Hendrickson made a spectacular diving play near the foul line to retire the side and keep the Titans scoreless.
O'Connell retired the Illini in order in the bottom of the fifth and Kimes set down the first two batters in the top of the sixth before walking Thomas. But Davis gunned him down trying to steal for the third out.
In the bottom of the sixth, Josh Parr broke O'Connell's string of 12 straight Illini retired with a leadoff single to left and Cappetta also singled. Cappetta was put out on a grounder by DH Justin Parr and, after another out, Hohl lined a single up the middle to drive in Parr to bring the Illini within 4-2.
Kimes gave up a two-out single to Nick Ramirez in the seventh and Ramirez moved to second on a wild pitch, but Kimes kept his composure and coaxed a pop-up to Hohl to end the inning.
The Illini pulled even in the bottom of the seventh when Argo reached on an error with one out and moved to second on Hendrickson's grounder to the first baseman. Josh Parr was hit by a pitch then one of O'Connell's pitches got away from catcher Zach Tanida and rolled toward the Titan dugout. He couldn't locate the ball quickly and Argo scored all the way from second, while Parr moved up to third. Cappetta singled to left, driving home Parr and tying the game, 4-4.
In the eighth, Chris Pack relieved Kimes and gave up a one-out single before inducing a line-out double play to Dittman, who tagged first to double off pinch runner Austin Kingsolver and end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Davis grounded out to second and Hohl walked. He moved to second on a wild pitch and McMurray grounded out to third. But Dittman knocked him in with a bloop base hit to left-center and moved to second when Argo walked. Hendrickson then smacked a two-run double to left-center to plate both runners and extend Illinois' lead to 7-5.
In the ninth, Pack induced a dribbler in front of the plate that Davis fielded and threw to first for the first out. Pack then struck out Thomas but the ball got away from Davis, allowing Thomas to reach base. Third baseman Richy Pedroza hooked a double over first base to put runners on second and third, but Pack stayed in control, coaxing a run-scoring groundout to Cappetta and a foul pop-up to Davis near the Illinois dugout to end the game.
In the nightcap, Stanford jumped on top in the first inning with a run on a pair of doubles to take a 1-0 lead. After a scoreless second inning, the Cardinal tacked on three runs in the third to chase Illini starter Lee Zerrusen. Reliever Matt Milroy entered the game and gave up an RBI single before inducing an inning-ending groundout to Hohl as Stanford extended its lead to 5-0.
But the Illini started battling in the bottom of the third when Hendrickson led off with a base hit up the middle. After an out, Cappetta singled through the left side to put men at first and second. But Hendrickson was picked off before Justin Parr ripped a triple into the right-field corner that scored Cappetta, cutting Stanford's lead to 5-1.
Milroy gave up a two-out double in the fourth but retired the side by striking out left fielder Tyler Gaffney. The Illini kept chipping away in the bottom half as Hohl drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on McMurray's groundout. Dittman beat out an infield single, moving Hohl to third, and Hohl scored on Argo's fielder's choice groundout, bringing the Illini within 5-2.
But Stanford took advantage of an error by Josh Parr to start the fifth, as the runner moved up on a slow grounder to Hohl and came home on a base hit to extend the Cardinal's lead to 6-2.
The Cardinal tacked on two more runs in the sixth and four in the seventh off three different Illini pitchers as Wes Braun and Luke Joyce stumbled before Ronnie Muck was able to come on and retire the side. Muck pitched a scoreless eighth before giving way to Brian de la Torriente in the ninth, who gave up two runs on three hits as Stanford extended its lead to 14-2.
Pinch hitter Thomas Shelton lined a double down the left-field line off Gaffney's glove to start the bottom of the ninth and pinch hitter Alex Lincoln struck out. Pinch hitter Pat Sheehan struck out and Cappetta hit a deep fly ball to center field but Jake Stewart hauled it in for the final out as Illinois lost, 14-2.
On the day, Cappetta went 5-for-9 (.556) with an RBI, a double and two runs. Hendrickson was 3-for-7 with a double and two RBIs, as well as a highlight-reel catch that saved two runs. Dittman went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run, while Josh Parr and Hohl both were 1-for-5 with two runs scored. Hohl also drove in a run.
The Illini players now will scatter across the country, playing in various summer collegiate leagues from coast to coast. Many of their teams already have started their seasons. A few Illinois players also will look to hear their name called in this week's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on June 6-8, with the first round being held on Monday, rounds 2-30 on Tuesday and rounds 31-50 on Wednesday.
2011 FULLERTON REGIONAL ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM