Fighting Illini Take Two of Three at Box
POSTED: Sunday, March 8, 2009 - 4:49pm
UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:57pm
Illinois starter Ben Reeser stymied LSU’s potent offense, limiting the top-ranked Tigers to just six hits and two runs in 8 and 2/3rds innings to spearhead the Illini to a 6-2 victory Sunday in Alex Box Stadium.
With the win, the Fighting Illini took the series and improved to 7-2 on the season. LSU fell to 10-2 with Sunday’s loss.
Reeser (2-0) registered a career-high nine strikeouts en route to his second victory on the year. LSU starter Austin Ross (2-1), who hurled five innings and surrendered only two earned runs, was charged with the loss.
Junior Sean Ochinko, who started at catcher for LSU on Sunday, launched his fourth home run of the season with a solo shot in the ninth. Senior Buzzy Haydel followed three batters later with a pinch-hit RBI double to account for the Tigers’ other run.
“Frankly, I thought Illinois outplayed us,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “Reeser was phenomenal. He probably threw about 75 percent changeups, and our guys just could never really make the adjustment to it. His arm action was so good that it looked like a fastball coming in, and he just had us completely fooled all day.
“I tip my hat to them because they absolutely deserved to beat us. We obviously have a lot of room for improvement. Fortunately, it’s still very early in the season, so we can make that improvement, but we need to get better.”
The Illini took advantage of a couple of defensive miscues by LSU in the third inning to plate two runs. Second baseman Josh Parr singled and subsequently took third after an errant throw on a pickoff attempt got behind Tigers’ first baseman Grant Dozar. Center fielder Joe Bonadonna followed with an RBI single and reached second on a throwing error.
Designated hitter Casey McMurray then brought Bonadonna home on a base hit to center, and the Illini seized an early 2-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Reeser kept the Tiger bats quiet, allowing just one hit and fanning four batters through four innings.
The Illini added a run in the fifth to extend their lead to 3-0. Bonadonna doubled to left field, and McMurray drove him in with his second RBI of the game on a two-out single to left center.
LSU right-hander Matty Ott, who relieved Ross after the fifth frame, kept the game close with solid pitching out of the bullpen, as the freshman fired two shutout innings and struck out the side in the seventh.
However, the Illini tallied three more runs in the top of the eighth to lengthen their lead to 6-0. The Tigers tried to respond, putting two men on with two outs in the bottom of the frame, but Reeser got shortstop D.J. LeMahieu to line out to left.
The Tigers pushed two runs across in the ninth with Ochinko’s solo homer and Haydel’s RBI double to chase Reeser from the game. With two outs and a runner in scoring position, Illinois right-hander Nick Chmielewski fanned pinch-hitter Nicholas Pontiff to end LSU’s rally.
LSU returns to action Tuesday at 6 p.m. (CDT) when the Tigers make the short trip to Hammond, La., to face Southeastern Louisiana.