CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (UI Release)- After a pitcher's duel for the first seven innings, Michigan State took a 4-2 lead with a three-run eighth, but Illinois responded with its own three-run eighth to battle back and win the series opener, 5-4. Junior David Kerian plated sophomore Adam Walton as the tying run on a two-out RBI triple and scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch.
"Our guys found a way to come back like we've done all year," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "Sometimes in athletics things aren't as clean as you'd like them to be, but the bottom line is that we came out with the win."
Hartleb moved past Tom Dedin and alone into fourth place on Illinois' all-time wins list with 269 career victories. Illinois remained in second place in the Big Ten at 11-5 and improved to 25-17 overall. The Illini distanced themselves from the Spartans, who entered the game in fourth place in the conference standings but are now 8-8.
"It's a great honor to keep moving up on that list," Hartleb said.
Starter Drasen Johnson cruised through the first seven innings but ran into his first trouble when MSU notched three hits to start the eighth to tie it 2-2. After a walk loaded the bases with nobody out, sophomore Tyler Jay came on in relief. He recorded a strikeout and pop out but the Spartans connected on a two-out, two-run single to take a 4-2 lead with a three-run eighth.
Sophomore Ryan Nagle, who went 2-for-2 with two runs, walked to start the bottom half and Walton drilled an RBI triple to bring the Illini within one and knock out MSU starter Mick VanVossen. Two outs later, Kerian became the hero with a deep fly ball that landed for a triple as the right fielder overran it. When Anthony Misiewicz sent one to the backstop, Kerian crossed home for the go-ahead run.
Jay left the bases loaded in the top of the ninth and improved to 3-0 by capping off the Illini's 12th comeback victory. Johnson received a no decision after seven strong innings but was pinned with all four runs.
Sophomore Jason Goldstein smacked a leadoff solo home run in the second to put the Illini on the board. Michigan State tallied its first hit in the third, but Johnson erased it with a 6-4-3 double play. He faced the minimum through three innings.
Illinois played fundamental baseball for its second run in the third. Nagle legged out an infield single and Walton drew a walk to start the stanza. Junior Will Krug laid down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position followed by a sacrifice fly from junior Michael Hurwitz that brought home Nagle to make it 2-0.
The Spartans scored their first run on back-to-back two-out doubles in the fourth, cutting their deficit in half at 2-1. Johnson sat down the side and had two strikeouts in the fifth on nine pitches.
MSU collected its fourth hit in the sixth, but Goldstein recorded his second caught stealing, as only three Spartans came to the plate again. Johnson breezed through the seventh on five pitches and faced three batters for the sixth time in seven innings.
Up Next: The University of Illinois baseball team will host its third annual "Honor and Serve Day" at Illinois Field on Saturday, May 3, when it takes on Michigan State at 1 p.m. The event is designed to honor University of Illinois student veterans and all of America's heroes, and to serve the Champaign-Urbana community. The Fighting Illini Dugout Club donated special camouflage jerseys, which will be worn by the players and auctioned off during the game, with all proceeds from the auction going to Champaign County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
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