The loss marks the first for the Blue and White at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, as the team was 8-0 coming into the weekend in games played at home. The defeat was also the first in the opening game in a Big Ten series this season. The squad was 3-0, winning the openers over Northwestern, Purdue and Ohio State before falling to the Fighting Illini.
Tim Dunn turned in one of his best performances of his four-year career on the mound, recording a personal best 6.2 innings pitched. The senior allowed just five hits, one walk and no earned runs, while punching out a season-high five batters.
In the batter’s box Penn State scattered 10 hits over the nine innings with eight of the nine starters recording a base knock in the game. The two members of the Blue and White to record multi-hit performances were Alex Farkes (Boston, Mass.) and James Coates (Girard, Ohio). Each had two hits on the night and scored a run.
The Nittany Lions jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on Friday evening, scoring a run in the bottom half of the first. Coates started the inning with a one-out single followed by an infield single from J.J. White (Landsowne, Va.) to put runners on first and second. Two batters later Jim Haley (Upper Darby, Pa.) stepped into the box and gave Penn State the lead with an RBI single to right field to score Coates.
Dunn carried the Penn State defense through the next four innings of play, allowing just two hits over the stretch to allow the Lions to hold onto their one-run advantage.
Both Penn State’s and Illinois’ defenses let their sides down in the sixth stanza. The Blue and White committed two costly errors in the top of the sixth to go along with two hits from the visitors to give the Fighting Illini their first lead of the game at 2-1.
The Nittany Lions immediately responded in the bottom of the sixth, plating a run to level the score at 2-2. Greg Guers (Langhorne, Pa.) led off with a single up the middle and then advanced to second on a groundout to shortstop. The Fighting Illini made a fielding error on what would have been the third out of the inning, allowing Guers to come around and level the score at two runs apiece.
One inning later Illinois was threatening to regain the lead, as the Illini had runners on first and second with two outs when Jack Anderson (Evanston, Ill.) was summoned from the bullpen to relieve Dunn on the mound. The sophomore came in and recorded a big strikeout to end the threat and keep the game deadlocked at 2-2.
After escaping the top of the seventh with no damage done, the Blue and White wasted no time in reclaiming the lead, scoring a run off a groundout to second from White to score Farkes and put the Nittany Lions back on top at 3-2.
Unfortunately for Penn State, the lead was short lived as Illinois struck for four runs in the top of the eighth to take a 6-3 lead. Illinois produced its four scores off three hits, two walks and a hit by pitch. The Fighting Illini also stole two bags in the frame to help score their runs.
In the Nittany Lions’ final at bat, the team loaded the bases off a Steve Snyder (West Chester, Pa.) single followed by White and Haley reaching by getting hit by pitches, bringing the winning run to the dish. However that is as close as Penn State was able to get as the final batter struck out to end the game and give Illinois the victory.
The Blue and White are back in action tomorrow for game two of the three-game set with the Fighting Illini. Saturday’s game is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
--Penn State Athletic Communications
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