|Fighting Illini ride big fifth inning to crunch Redbirds, 14-2|
|Written by Kevin Massoth Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Thursday, 31 March 2011 11:24|
Wednesday’s fifth inning could not have ended fast enough for Redbird starting pitcher JD Learnard in Champaign.
Unfortunately for Learnard and the ‘Birds, by the time the fifth frame was over, so were ISU’s chances of winning the game.
Seven runs plated in the fifth frame by Illinois proved to be too much of a deficit to overcome as the Redbirds lost to the Fighting Illini, 14-2, in the first of two matchups between the two teams this season.
“They just outplayed us in every area, no question,” ISU head coach Mark Kingston said. “They pitched better, they hit better and they played much better defense. In their home park, they definitely looked like a team that came out ready to play. They put a whooping on us.”
Learnard (2-2) suffered the loss for the Redbirds after leaving the game with one out in the fifth inning. The ISU sophomore had only given up two hits heading into the fifth frame but unraveled to give up five hits and seven runs to the Illini (8-10), who sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning.
The inning was highlighted by a two-run double by freshman Thomas Lindauer and RBI hits by Adam Davis and Matt Dittman.
Illinois tacked on three runs in the sixth inning, a single run in the seventh and two more in the eighth to seal an easy home victory.
After the extended fifth inning, the Redbirds made an attempt to get back into the game in the top of the sixth. Senior third baseman Ryan Court led off the inning with one of his two solo home runs in the game to get ISU on the board, but with two men on, Mike Hollenbeck grounded into a double play and Josh Colon lined out to end the threat.
The Illinois sixth inning started with a one out error by Colon at shortstop, one of three errors by the Redbirds on the day, followed by two hit batters in a row by ISU relief pitcher Ryan Camp, which loaded the bases.
After a sacrifice fly by Dittman, Brandon Hohl tripled to center field, scoring two Illini runners and blowing open the Illinois lead to 11-1.
The Illini added a run in the seventh inning on a double by Josh Parr scoring Willie Argo, and two more in the eighth on a bases-loaded walk by Pete Cappetta and a bases-loaded hit by pitch by Argo.
The Redbirds scratched across their second run in the top half of the eighth inning on another solo home run by Court, but they could not muster any more offense.
“[The Court home runs] are the only positives I can think of off the top of my head,” Kingston said. “Ryan was tremendous today offensively and defensively, but I think he’ll be the first to tell you that it was wasted in the loss.”
Justin Parr led Illinois with a 3-for-4 day at the plate including an RBI and run scored, and Hohl added three RBI for the Fighting Illini. Senior John Anderson recorded the win on the mound for the Illini by pitching three innings of two-hit, scoreless ball.
Learnard lasted 4.1 innings for the Redbirds and gave up seven hits and eight runs, six of them earned, while striking out just one Illini batter.
“Now the question is how do we respond?” Kingston said. The ‘Birds will return home to Normal this weekend to take on Chicago State in a four-game series at Duffy Bass Field. The two teams will play a single game on Friday, a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game on Sunday.