Duchene, Fighting Illini Storm Nittany Lions

Story posted April 25, 2015 in CommRadio, Sports by Marley Paul

Starting ace pitcher, Kevin Duchene, was as good as advertised, as the No. 8 Illinois Fighting Illini crushed the Penn State Nittany Lions 10-1 Friday evening at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

The junior left-hander came into the contest ranked second in the Big Ten in strikeouts (62), earned runs allowed (5) and ERA (0.82). Making his eighth start of the season, Duchene cruised through six innings, conceding one unearned run in addition to five strikeouts.

Penn State coach Rob Cooper praised Duchene’s effort, but acknowledged his team could have applied more pressure to Illinois’ (34-6-1, 11-1 Big Ten) top pitcher after going 3-for-12 with runners on base.

“There’s a reason why Illinois is the number 8 team in the country and there’s a reason why Duchene is 7-1,” said Cooper. “That guy can really pitch, they’re a complete team." 

“I felt like we could have made it a little bit tougher on him with some better at-bats,” he added.

After a hit batter and an error, Penn State (13-24, Big Ten 2-10)

was in position to respond to Illinois’ first inning run, but sophomore infielder Jim Haley grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to finish the inning.

Alex Malinsky scored the Nittany Lions’ lone run in third inning after reaching base on an error.

The Fighting Illini’s lineup boasts premier talent as the top-seven batters in the lineup came in hitting over .300. 

David Kerian added to his conference homerun lead, essentially closing the door on Penn State in the third inning, with a demoralizing two-out grand slam to push the Fighting Illini to a 6-0 lead.

Entering the game tied for third in the Big Ten in RBIs, Reid Roper added four more giving him 37 on the season after going 2-for-4 and a run scored.

Nick Hedge continued to struggle as the Fighting Illini scored every inning he pitched. The final out was the hardest one to get for Hedge as he allowed six runs with two outs on the game. 

Hedge concluded the game with four innings pitched, allowing eight runs on nine hits with two walks and one strikeout. The loss gives Hedge his sixth of the season, tied for fourth worst in the conference.

The remaining five innings were split between Tom Mullin and Schuyler Bates, who combined to provide much needed relief. Bates recorded the final six outs with just 12 pitches. 

“That was an example of those guys starting at-bats with conviction,” Cooper said. “Hopefully it gives those two guys confidence that they can pitch against anybody and do well.” 

Leftfielder Greg Guers experienced success in the batter’s box, going 2-for-2 with an RBI and reaching base an additional two times on a walk and hit-by-pitch. 

“We have the confidence to play with anybody,” Guers said. “I think as a team we just need to refine our approach a little bit heading into tomorrow … I think the next two games are gonna be a different story.”

Marley Paul is a junior majoring in digital and print journalism. To contact him, email mdp5300.psu.edu.