Nittany Lions Fall to Illinois in Series Finale
April 27, 2008
Champaign, Ill. - At least one team scored 10 or more runs for the fourth straight games in the four-game series between Penn State and Illinois on Sunday but unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, it was the Illini's turn to put up double digits as the Illini earned a split of the weekend series with the Nittany Lions with a 17-6 win in the series finale.
The game capped a weekend of offensive fireworks for both teams as the teams combined to score 92 runs, including 43 for the Nittany Lions. Penn State put up 10 or more runs in three of the four games while Illinois did the same for two of the four games, including 20 runs in the first game.
An eight-run fourth inning by Illinois broke open the game, as Illinois had led just 3-0 heading into the fourth. Meanwhile, Penn State did not record a hit until the fifth inning against Illinois starter Billy Barrett and after scoring two in the fifth and four in the sixth, it got no more runs. The Illini, meanwhile, scored in every inning except for the second.
Offensively for Penn State, Ryan Boonie went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and an RBI and reached base in all four plate appearances. Wes Borden had two RBI and extended his hitting streak to 15 games. Rick Marlin scored a pair of runs and went 1-for-3 with an RBI.
Illinois took a 2-0 lead in the first inning as they got a pair of singles from Joe Bonadonna and Kyle Hudson to lead off the inning and they used a throwing error and balk to move up. Bonadonna scored on the balk and Hudson later scored on a groundout. Another pair of throwing errors in the third helped the Illini score one more run, unearned, to take a 3-0 lead.
The disasterous fourth inning for Penn State featured just four singles but also two walks and and another error, making three of the runs unearned. Seth Whitehill relieved starter Mike Lorentson to begin the fourth and after getting the first out, walked a hitter and then gave up three straight singles, leading to one run being scored. He then issued a bases-loaded walk to Bonadonna to force in a run before being relieved by Paul Hawkins, who was greeted by a two-run single by Hudson. After getting the second out of the inning on a fly out, Aaron Johnson reached on a fielder's choice when Lou Picconi's throw to second on a grounder to short pulled Landon Nakata off the bag for an error. That was followed by a double by Ryan Hastings to knock in another run and a two-run single by Daniel Webb to score two more.
After being held hitless in the first four and two-thirds innings by Barrett, the Nittany Lions finally broke through both in the hits and runs column in the fifth inning as Marlin doubled with two outs and was followed by back-to-back walks by Boonie and Picconi. Borden followed by extending his hitting streak with a single through the right side to score two runs.
Hawkins gave up one more run in the fifth before being relieved by Calvin Grumley. Penn State then scored four runs in the sixth, putting together a string of six straight hitters reaching base, but also having two runners cut down at the plate. Joe Blackburn began the inning with a double to right center. Rob Yodice walked and Brian Ernst reached on an infield single. Cory Wine drove in Blackburn with an infield hit and Marlin drew a bases-loaded walk to force in another run. Another infield hit, this one by Boonie off relief pitcher Mike Stankiewicz, scored another run. Then, Wine was forced out at the plate on a grounder to third by Picconi before Marlin scored and the other runners moved up on a passed ball. However, Boonie was then cut down at home on a close play on a chopper back to the mound off the bat of Borden and Nakata lined out to right to end the inning.
Illinois scored one in the sixth off Grumley and then scored three more in the seventh off John Karr. They also scored one in the eighth off closer Drew O'Neil, who was making his first appearance of the series, although it was unearned as it was helped by a passed ball and an error.
Penn State finishes the weekend with a 10-10 overall record in Big Ten play and in the same place in which it started the weekend, in a tie for fifth place with Northwestern, who split with Ohio State. The Nittany Lions will play a midweek road game at Villanova on Wednesday, its final scheduled midweek game of the year, before returning home for two straight Big Ten series and their longest home stand of the year, beginning next Friday against Michigan State.
Notes: Borden's 15-game hitting streak is the longest for a Nittany Lion since Dan Beers hit in 15 straight games in 1998....O'Neil gave up his first run of the year to a Big Ten team but it was unearned. He is still yet to give up an earned run to a Big Ten team during the regular season and has only given up one earned run to a Big Ten team in his career, which came during the Big Ten Tournament last year....Penn State's 43 runs scored in the four-game series were the most for the Nittany Lions in a series under head coach Robbie Wine and the most since April 10-12, 1998 in a four-game series against Northwestern, which the Nittany Lions also split.