Illini baseball top Michigan in Game 1 of series; Game 2 postponed

Illinois baseball head coach Dan Hartleb shuffled up the batting order, and it paid off for the Illini on Friday.

After dropping leadoff hitter Willie Argo to the seventh spot and moving Brandon Hohl up two spots the fourth, among other changes, Hartleb’s squad broke out of its hitting funk with two big innings and claimed a 9-2 series-opening win against Michigan.

The Illini (12-17, 4-3 Big Ten) had scored just one run combined in losses to Eastern and Southern Illinois last week and broke an 18-inning scoreless streak in the third inning Friday afternoon when Casey McMurray tripled to right-center field, scoring Pete Capetta from second and Davis Hendrickson from first. McMurray scored on a passed ball to round out the inning, putting Illinois up 3-1.

The Illini weren’t done yet, however, as they blasted their way to six more runs in the top of the fourth. First baseman Matt Dittman led the inning off with a solo home run to right field. After two quick outs, Illinois loaded the bases for cleanup hitter Brandon Hohl, who responded with a three-run, bases clearing double. Adam Davis singled to bring home Hohl, and the Illini ended the inning with a comfortable 9-1 lead.

The insurance runs turned out to be unnecessary, though, as starting pitcher Kevin Johnson threw a complete game, giving up just two runs on six hits while striking out eight. The win was just the second of the season for Johnson (2-3, 3.16 ERA), who has pitched well for the Illini but had not received good run support.

Saturday’s game two in the series was postponed to Sunday amid inclement weather, and the Illini will now play a double-header against the Wolverines to finish out the series.