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    Brooke Dazzles But Wildcats Drop Opener to Illini, 2-0

    Francis Brooke faced the minimum in seven of his nine innings pitched.

    Francis Brooke faced the minimum in seven of his nine innings pitched.

    April 27, 2012

    Box Score |  Photo Gallery 

    Site: Evanston, Ill. (Rocky Miller Park)
    Score: Illinois 2, Northwestern 0
    Records: NU (14-24, 5-11 Big Ten), Illinois (23-18, 6-7 Big Ten)
    Next NU Event: Saturday, April 28 -- vs. Illinois (Rocky Miller Park), 1 p.m.

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- Senior right-hander Francis Brooke tossed a complete game with a career-high nine strikeouts, but Northwestern's offense couldn't back him up as the Wildcats dropped their series-opener with Illinois 2-0 Friday afternoon at Rocky Miller Park.

    Trailing by a pair entering the bottom of the ninth, NU mounted one final rally. Colby Everett started the frame with a single to right-center. Illini starter Kevin Johnson got the next two outs before pinch hitter Chris Kontos drew a walk to put the tying runs on base. However, Johnson was able to get a groundout to short to end the contest in a neat-and-tidy one hour and 53 minutes.

    Both starters dazzled with each working all nine innings. Brooke, who had struggled in the first inning in each of his last three starts, was on from the opening pitch on Friday. He put down Illinois in order in the opening inning, the first of six perfect frames that he tossed in the contest.

    Illinois got its first run in the top of the third as Thomas Shelton led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and then scored when Davis Hendrickson's single to right field was bobbled for a Northwestern error.

    Illinois Game One Highlights

    The Illini came into the game leading the Big Ten with 67 stolen bases on the season, but senior catcher Geoff Rowan gunned down both runners who attempted to swipe a base on him on the afternoon.

    Another NU miscue cost Brooke an unearned run in the top of the fifth. Jordan Parr started the inning was a single, but he was still there with two outs. Kelly Norris-Jones then singled to right and a misplay in the outfield allowed Parr to come all the way around to score, giving the visitors an insurance run.

    Johnson's curveball kept Northwestern batters off balance throughout the contest as the Wildcats didn't get a runner into scoring position until the sixth inning. Jack Havey drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. However, Johnson got a flyout and a strikeout to end the threat.

    The 'Cats attempted to rally again in the seventh as Rowan had a leadoff bunt single and Hamilton Wise singled with two outs, but both runners were left stranded. Johnson worked a perfect eighth before NU rallied in the ninth but came up short.

    Northwestern finished with a 7-5 edge in the hit column as Everett and Nick Linne had two hits apiece. Brooke didn't allow a walk while fanning nine batters. He dropped to 1-5 on the season despite lowering his ERA to 2.88.

    The teams are slated to resume their weekend series at 1 p.m. Saturday. Check or on Twitter at @NU_Sports for updates should the weather be a factor.


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