Panthers drop in-state battle to Illinois

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

Eastern starting pitcher Andrew Grahn had not allowed a hit through four innings against No. 8 Illinois.

Grahn’s no-hitter was broken up in the bottom of the fifth on a single by Illini senior outfielder Casey Fletcher.

Illini senior outfielder David Kieran hit a home run to right field in the next at-bat to give the Fighting Illini a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth.

Eastern got their solo run in the top of the first inning on an RBI-groundout by senior Caleb Howell, which scored freshman Joe Duncan.

Grahn was taken out after five innings and finished with allowing two runs on two hits.

The Illini would break the game wide open in the bottom of the sixth inning off Eastern pitcher Garrison Stenger.

Stenger only got one out before he was taken out of the game. He allowed four runs on two hits.

After allowing bases loaded, Fletcher singled through the right side, which scored red-shirt sophomore Adam Walton and junior Ryan Nagle for the first two runs of the inning.

Stenger walked sophomore Ryne Roper to force in the third run of the bottom of the sixth inning to give Illini a 6-1 lead.

Red-shirt senior Christian Slazinik was put into the game for Stenger and walked the second man he faced in red-shirt senior Kelly Norris-Jones.

Walton flied out to left field to end the inning for the Illini, in which they scored four runs.

The Illini would tack on four more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to give them a 10-1 lead.

Norris-Jones started off the inning with a triple to right center field, which scored Kerian and senior Will Krug to make it an 8-1 lead for the Illini.

Walton singled to center for the Illini’s ninth run of the game, which scored Norris-Jones.

Sophomore Matthew James singled home red-shirt sophomore Zack Kolakowski for the final Illini run of the game.

Illini red-shirt senior pitcher Rob McDonnell got the win on the mound. He pitched six innings, allowed just one run on four hits and he struck out three Panther batters.

Fletcher finished 2-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBIs for Illinois.

Eastern red-shirt junior Demetre Taylor was the lone Panther to get two hits on the day as he went 2-for-4.

Grahn took the loss for Eastern and is now 1-2 on the season.

Illinois is now 33-6-1 on the season, while Eastern drops to 7-28.

The Panthers will be off until Friday when they host Eastern Kentucky for a 3-game series at Coaches Stadium.

Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].