Illinois Rallies to Edge Hawkeyes in Series Opener


April 8, 2011

Box Score (pdf)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – – Illinois scored four unanswered runs, including three in the seventh and eighth innings, to rally and beat the Iowa baseball team, 4-3, in the series opener Friday night at Illinois Field.

“This one stings a little,” said Iowa Head Coach Jack Dahm. “It was a heck of a game. Give Illinois credit as they kept applying the pressure and didn’t give in. We’ll have to show some character to come back from this one.”

Iowa (11-16, 1-3) scored the first three runs of the contest. The Hawkeyes scored a single tally in the top of the second. Tyson Blaser led off the frame with a double down the right field line. Two batters later, Chett Zeise recorded an RBI single through the right side allowing Blaser to cross home plate.

The visitors added two more runs in the fifth on one swing of the bat. With Bryan Niedbalski already on base after reaching base via his second walk, Trevor Willis sent a 3-2 pitch over the right field fence to put the Hawkeyes in front 3-0. The home run is Willis’ ninth of his career and first of the season. Furthermore, the big fly is the second in as many games for the Hawkeyes after collecting only one the first 25 games.

Illinois (10-14, 2-2) finally touched Hippen for a run in the fifth. After recording the first two outs, the Fighting Illini strung together three consecutive singles to make the score 3-1.

The Fighting Illini added another run in the bottom of the seventh. Willie Argo collected his third hit, this time with a runner in scoring position, to pull Illinois within one run. Later in the inning, Hippen got Adam Davis to strikeout looking to leave the bases loaded and keep the Hawkeyes in front, 3-2.

Illinois snagged the lead from the Hawkeyes with two, two-out runs in the bottom of the eighth off Hawkeye closer Patrick Lala. With a runner on second base and two strikes on Thomas Shelton, the pinch hitter was able to hit one to left field for the game-tying score. Davis Hendrickson then hit one up the middle, sending Shelton home for the game-winning run.

Junior starter Jarred Hippen got another hard luck no-decision after throwing seven-plus, yielding only one run while scattering 10 hits with six strikeouts. Lala got the loss, his first of the season.

Will Strack only pitched two thirds of an inning, but notched his second victory. Wes Braun pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his fourth save.

Tonight marked Iowa’s first loss of the year when having the lead after seven innings (8-1).

Iowa and Illinois will play game two of the series tomorrow at 6:05 p.m. Fans can watch the game live on the Big Ten Network (HD).

Illinois 4, Iowa 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Iowa (11-16, 1-3) 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 5 1
Illinois (10-14, 2-2) 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 2 0 4 12 0
Game Decision
W: Strack (ILL) 2-1
L: Lala (UI) 1-1
SV: Braun (ILL) 4