STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — One year ago, the Illinois men’s gymnastics team had no equal at the NCAA Championships.
On Saturday night, the defending champion Illini saw fellow Big Ten member Michigan take their place at the summit. It was more of a distant view than Illinois would have liked, as Justin Spring’s team placed sixth in the six-team finals.
There will be more gymnastics for the UI, however. Four Illini qualified for today’s individual-event finals by placing in the top 10 during the team finals. Freshman Fred Hartville, the Big Ten vault champion, finished second in his signature event. Austin Phillips tied for fourth place in the high bar, Mike Wilner shared eighth in still rings, and Vince Smurro placed ninth in floor exercise.
UI freshman Joey Peters was eighth in Saturday’s all-around finals, earning All-America honors.
Shelese Arnold pitched a two-hit shutout and freshman Remeny Perez belted a two-out home run in the sixth inning to carry Illinois to a 1-0 Big Ten victory and a doubleheader sweep of Indiana at Eichelberger Field.
The Illini also won Game 1 in their final at-bat, 5-4, when Jessica Davis hit a walkoff homer to lead off the bottom of the eighth.
The sweep halted a nine-game losing streak for Illinois (13-25, 3-11 Big Ten).
Arnold (6-10) struck out six and walked one while throwing Illinois’ second shutout of the season.
“Shelese was outstanding using her defense and trusting her pitches,” UI coach Terri Sullivan said.
Illini left fielder Alex Booker went 4 for 7 for the day to raise her batting average to .360.
Illini reliever Bryan Roberts yielded his first run of the season on a one-out double by Brad Hallberg in the 10th inning that lifted Ohio State to a 7-6 Big Ten victory at Columbus, Ohio.
Working his third inning of the game, Roberts (3-1) hit Greg Solomon to lead off the 10th. After Solomon was sacrificed to second, Hallberg delivered his third hit and second double of the game to end it.
“It was a battle,” Illini coach Dan Hartleb said. “We dug ourselves into holes at certain times, but our guys competed well. We thought we could win the entire time, but they got the big hit and we didn’t.”
The defeat snapped a five-game winning streak for Illinois (24-11, 6-5 Big Ten).
First baseman David Kerian went 2 for 5 with two RBI for Illinois. Illini center fielder Justin Parr (2 for 5) extended his hitting streak to 23 games, tying the second longest in program history.
In men’s track & field:
The Illini’s 1,600-meter relay team edged Texas A&M by 0.07 second to place first in the LSU Alumni Gold meet at Baton Rouge, La. The Illinois foursome of DJ Zahn, Cam Viney, Juan Green and Stephon Pamilton finished in 3:04.58 — the fifth-fastest time in program history and the best UI clocking in the event in 19 years.
Pamilton also was second in the 400 in 46.00 seconds. Illini sophomore and St. Thomas More graduate Brandon Noe placed second in the discus with a throw of 178 feet, 10 inches. Cody Klein (pole vault), Viney (400 hurdles) and Ryan Lynn (800) finished third.
In women’s track & field:
Illini junior Stephanie Richartz tied for second in the pole vault at the LSU Alumni Gold meet, clearing 13 feet, 41/4 inches. Teammate Samantha Murphy finished fourth in the 800 in 2:06.09. The UI’s 400 relay unit of Jesica Ejesieme, Asia Thomas, Lauren Hollingsworth and Ashley Spencer was fifth in 45.10.
In men’s golf:
Alex Burge shot a 2-under-par 70 in the second round to lead Illinois to second place in the Boilermaker Invitational at West Lafayette, Ind.
Through 36 holes, the Illini stood at 7-over 583 — 6 strokes beyond first-place Iowa. The final round of the 18-team event is today. Thomas Pieters and Mason Jacobs carded 71s in the second round for Illinois, which cut 9 strokes off its first-round total. Pieters was tied for fifth place at 1-under 143, and Burge shared 14th place with a 145.
In women’s golf:
Illini junior Ember Schuldt was tied for 22nd place after two rounds of the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational at Columbus, Ohio. Schuldt enters today’s final round with a 12-over score of 156.
Illinois was 11th in the 12-team field with a 32-over 635 total.