Friday, March 4, 2011

Late rally pushes CMU past Illinois

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || March 04, 2011

Through seven innings of play Friday afternoon, the Central Michigan baseball team couldn’t figure out Illinois starting pitcher Kevin Johnson.

The sophomore right-hander stymied the Chippewas, allowing no runs on five hits, and left after the seventh inning with a five-run cushion.

But then came the eighth inning and six Chippewas runs to take the lead. And three more in extra innings to seal a tournament-opening 9-6 victory over the Fighting Illini at the Bright House Invitational in DeLand, Fla.

“It was a really good win for us,” said head coach Steve Jaksa. “No question. You can’t say it any other way.”

Trailing by five runs late, CMU drew three consecutive walks to open the eighth inning and thanks in large part to a pair of two-RBI singles from sophomore second baseman Jordan Dean and senior right fielder Matt Faiman, scored six runs in the frame to take the lead.

Illinois (3-4) tied the game in the bottom half of the inning and senior shortstop Robbie Harman’s suicide squeeze in the 10th inning scored senior outfielder Sam Russell and proved to be the game’s deciding play.

“I thought they were going to come after Robbie,” said Jaksa about the suicide squeeze. “He stayed with it and got the ball on the ground.”

Harman bunted a breaking ball off Illinois reliever Will Strack with no balls and one strike in the count.

But what impressed Jaksa most about the comeback were the two insurance runs CMU added after Harman’s squeeze.

“You can never score enough runs in this game,” he said. “I was very happy with the way we came back and kept the pressure on.”

Starting pitcher Bryce Morrow went six innings, allowing five runs on six hits, followed by relievers Mike Nixon, Jon Weaver and Dietrich Enns.

“I was really pleased with how our pitchers threw,” Jaksa said. “Every one of those guys got big outs for us.”

Sophomore designated hitter Jordan Adams recorded three hits and Dean prolonged his hit streak to eight games with an eighth inning single.

CMU (4-5) takes on Columbia on Saturday at Stetson University’s Melching Field.

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