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Walk-off homer gives Illinois 4-3 winner

May 19, 2011

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- A walk-off homerun for Illinois in the bottom of the ninth handed the Hoosiers a 4-3 loss in the series opener on Thursday night. Indiana cranked out six hits in the first four innings to jump out to a 3-1 lead before watching it slowly fade away.

Alex Dickerson blistered a ball into right center which skipped past the center fielder and rolled to the wall, allowing Dickerson to migrate to third base. Jerrud Sabourin then drove him in on a well-struck ball to left for a sac fly and 1-0 Hoosier advantage in the top of the second.

After issuing a walk to open the home of half of the second, Joey DeNato quickly removed the runner from the base paths with his 12th pick-off of the season. Indiana's league-leading pick-off total runs to 29 while the second best team (Ohio State) has simply matched DeNato's 12 pegged runners. This particular pick-off proved to be a big one, too, as the next batter sent a full-count pitch over the right field fence, but had to settle for the solo shot.

A head first slide garnered Brian Lambert a lead-off infield single to open the third frame. He moved into scoring position on a groundball and circled all the way around to home via a RBI-double by Micah Johnson slapped into the left center gap.

The following inning, Wes Wilson made it a 3-1 ballgame; scorching a frozen rope hooking around the foul pole for a line-drive homerun that never rose more than a few feet above the fence. It is the sixth longball of the season for Wilson.

DeNato performed some damage control in the fifth. The southpaw surrendered a lone run when the Fighting Illini put runners on second and third with no outs.

Another solo homer in the sixth evened the score at 3-3, however. Chad Martin took the mound immediately after the UI dinger. He completely shut down the Illinois bats from there, tossing a perfect 2.2 innings of relief.

Neither squad could push across a run in the next two innings. It took just one swing in the bottom of the ninth to decide this one though as Casey McMurray blasted a no-doubt, walk-off homer to give Illinois the 4-3 victory.

Game two of the series is scheduled for a 7:05 pm EST (6:05 central) first pitch on Friday. The final regular season contest of the 2011 season is slated for a 1:05 pm EST start on Saturday. The top six teams advance to the Big Ten Tournament for a shot at the automatic berth to the NCAA Regionals. Below are the updated conference standings heading into Friday's action.

Michigan State 14-8
Minnesota 13-9
Illinois 13-9
Purdue 12-10
Ohio State 12-11
Penn State 11-11
Indiana 11-11
Northwestern 9-12
Iowa 9-13
Michigan 6-15