Illini baseball outlasts SIU-E in 10 innings to avoid upset

The extra-inning non-conference win keeps the Illini perfect at home this year, with an 8-0 mark.

The No. 26 Illinois baseball team needed extra innings to avoid falling victim to a major upset at Illinois Field on Wednesday night.

The Illini (17-5) defeated SIU-Edwardsville, 7-6, in 10 innings, though the Cougars outhit Illinois 12-9. The win keeps the Illini perfect at home this year, with an 8-0 mark.

Tied 6-6 in the bottom of the 10th, Illini freshman outfielder Willie Argo tripled, and fellow freshman Josh Parr’s singled to bring Argo home with the winning run. Parr batted 2-for-5 with an RBI.

“Coach just talked to me before the at-bat and told me to get a pitch up,” Parr said. “So I did, and I hit it hard.”

Sophomore pitcher Phil Haig got the start for Illinois after sitting out last weekend’s series against Michigan State due to a strained groin.

“I felt fine (being on the mound),” Haig said. “My groin felt good. There are just a few little mechanical things I need to quirk up before this weekend’s Big Ten series (with Indiana).”

Haig was substituted after just one inning of work in favor of junior right-hander Kevin Manson. Also seeing action on the mound for Illinois on Wednesday were Lee Zerrusen, Blake Fairchild, Nick Chmielewski, Corey Kimes, Aaron Martin and Mike Stankiewicz. Chmielwewski, who was credited with the win, pitched the last two innings and gave up no runs.

Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said the pitcher-by-commitee strategy is one the Illini commonly use leading up to a weekend series.

“We didn’t play yesterday, and we wanted to make sure everybody got some game competition so they’re ready and fresh,” Hartleb said.

The Cougars got off to a hot start at the plate. Junior Dustin Brooks’ two-run homer in the first inning was followed by a solo home run from senior left fielder Chilos Norris III in the second inning to give SIU-Edwardsville a 4-1 lead. Brooks batted 2-for-5 with two RBIs, while Norris went 2-for-3 with an RBI and scored two runs. Hartleb was impressed with the way the Cougars swung the bats.

“We threw some bad pitches early in the game … and they took advantage of it,” Hartleb said. “The top and middle of their order was good.”

The Illinois offense was led by catcher Aaron Johnson, who hit 3-for-5 with three RBIs, giving him 24 RBIs on the year.

“Johnson’s been very good offensively,” Hartleb said. “He’s also done a great job of really helping our pitching staff.”

SIU-Edwardsville held on to its three-run lead until the bottom of the fifth when right-hander Spencer Patton – who got the start on the mound for the Cougars – proceeded to load the bases before hits from juniors Johnson and Craig Lutes gave the Illini a 5-4 lead heading into the sixth. Patton was pulled after five innings and was charged with four earned runs. Freshman Dustin Quattrocchi, who relieved Patton, took the loss.

“I honestly did not think the game would be like this,” said Parr of the tight score. “But we can’t take anyone lightly. We maybe got a little overconfident, and it showed, but in the end we came back.”