April 28, 2013
| at Illinois
| Box Score
|| ILL 5, NU 3
|| NU 18-17 (7-11 B1G), Illinois 26-13 (8-7 B1G)
| Next Game
|| vs. Chicago State (Evanston, Ill.), April 30, 3:00 p.m.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois scored four times in the seventh inning to overcome a two-run deficit and eventually knock off the Northwestern Wildcats in the rubber game of a three-game series at Illinois Field in Champaign, Ill., Sunday, 5-3.
As they did in Friday's series-opening victory, the Wildcats were able to jump on the Illini in the first inning. Trevor Stevens continued to swing a red-hot bat when he hit a double on the first pitch he saw to lead off the game against Illinois starter Ryan Castellanos. Two batters later, NU starting pitcher Zach Morton notched a two-bagger of his own to drive in his team-best 28th run of the season and help his own cause. Two batters after Morton, freshman Zach Jones laced a base hit to right field that allowed Morton to score and make it 2-0 after a half-inning of play.
The first inning marked the first time in the series and the 45th time this season that the Wildcats posted a multi-run inning. It was the ninth time the 'Cats plated a run in the first inning and the 17th team that Northwestern scored before its opponent.
Castellanos settled down until Northwestern began to agitate him once again in the top of the fifth inning. Walker Moses legged out an infield single and Stevens placed a perfect bunt for a base hit. Both runners were sacrificed up 90 feet and Illinois called upon Ronnie Muck out of the bullpen. Muck did his job by picking up a strike out and inducing a pop fly to shallow left field to strand Moses and Stevens to end the inning.
The Illini got on the scoreboard for the first time Sunday in the bottom of that inning. Thomas Lindauer drew a one-out walk, stole second, and scored on a two-out base hit to right field off the bat of Justin Parr. Morton retired Parr's brother, Jordan, to end the inning and after five the Wildcats maintained a 2-1 lead.
Luke Dauch took it upon himself to get the run right back in the top of the sixth. The speedy center fielder doubled to right field to kick things off. Colby Everett grounded out to third, but Dauch read the play well and advanced to third base. On the return throw from the first baseman, Lindauer missed the catch and the ball squirted into shallow left, far enough to allow Dauch to score and pump the lead back to two runs at 3-1.
Illinois took its first lead of the afternoon with four runs in the bottom of the seventh off of Morton. The fifth-year senior walked the first batter of the inning before allowing a single to center and a sacrifice bunt. Michael Hurwitz then singled to left field to bring the first run home and a second run scored on an error by Northwestern; Hurwitz ended up on third base on the play. Justin Parr was intentionally walked before both Jordan Parr and Brandon Hohl drove in runs with a single and a sacrifice fly, respectively. When the dust had settled, Illinois led Northwestern, 5-3, after seven innings.
Morton singled off Muck to open the top of the eighth, but after a fly out, Illinois was the beneficiary of a close call at first base as they turned a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
The trio of Morton and relief pitchers Jack Quigley and Reed Mason teamed up to hold the home team off the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth. Mason capped the stanza with a big strikeout of Hurwitz.
Needing two runs to tie the game, the persistent 'Cats threatened in the top of the ninth inning by loading the bases against Illinois closer Bryan Roberts. Roberts eventually got a grounder to third to end the game and secure his fourth save of the year,
Northwestern will return to Evanston, Ill. to begin a five-game homestand on Tuesday, April 30 against the Chicago State Cougars. In addition to hosting the Cougars, the Wildcats will play a midweek game against Western Michigan on Wednesday, May 1 and the Big Ten home series of the year at Rocky Miller Park against Ohio State, May 3-5.
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