Milroy records win in first collegiate start

It wasn’t the cleanest or most efficient start Matt Milroy has had in his career. But considering it was his first collegiate start, he will take a win any day.

The freshman right-hander struggled with his control at times but managed to find the right stuff to work out of trouble, picking up his first career win as the Illini scored nine runs in the first two innings of an 18-2 victory against Chicago State on Wednesday night in Illinois’ home opener.

“He’s very talented,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “He’s got a good arm. He was good at times, and there were times he struggled a little bit. But the offense gave him a little room so we could leave him out and get him to struggle through some things. I’m pleased with his first performance.”

Milroy went five innings, giving up just one run on five hits while striking out five. But he also walked five and hit a batter.

“I wasn’t nervous, I was little jumpy though, some butterflies,” Milroy said. “I had a little trouble staying back, I was dragging my arm a bit. I needed to keep my hip closed. When I do that, I throw strikes.”

Milroy worked out of trouble in the second inning. A leadoff walk, a hit batsman and a bunt single loaded the bases before he retired Michael Carpen on a chopper up the middle. Milroy got in a bigger jam in the third inning, when he gave up his only run on a bases-loaded walk with one out. But he limited the damage by striking out Kevin Hussey and Christian Prince to end the inning and keep the lead intact.

Catcher Adam Davis thought the freshman did a good job making changes as the game progressed.

“He made adjustments after (the mound visit),” Davis said. “He was dragging his arm and leaving balls up. Then he settled down and got himself out of innings.”

The Illini (9-9) wasted no time getting on the board, as the first four batters of the game got hits, with Willie Argo scoring on a Casey McMurray single and Mike Giller doing the same on an Aaron Johnson knock to left field. A Brandon Hohl sacrifice fly, a Craig Lutes RBI double and a Josh Parr RBI single quickly made it 5-0 by the end of the first frame.

Illinois kept the pressure on with a four-run second inning. Johnson hit his first home run of the year, a two-run shot to left field, to make it 7-0.

With runners at first and second and two outs, Pete Cappetta lined a one-hopper to Chicago State (1-13) shortstop Miguel Camacho, who gloved the ball nicely but threw wildly past second base, allowing two more Illini runs to score.

For the game, the Illini pounded out 16 hits. Johnson led the way, going 2-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs. McMurray was also 2-for-3 and had three runs and two RBIs.

Illinois picked up a run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly from Davis and two more runs in the fifth on McMurray’s RBI triple to right and another sac fly from Hohl. Cappetta had a sac fly in the sixth, and a Doug Schumacher homer highlighted a five-run eighth that rounded out the scoring barrage.

“The thing I’ve said for a while is, ‘We need to bunch hits together,’ and we did that tonight,” Hartleb said.

“It gave our young pitcher an opportunity to go out and settle in. Offensively, I was very, very pleased. We moved runners in the first inning and created some opportunities and got some big hits.”