Kerian lines up latest victory

Kerian lines up latest victory

CHAMPAIGN — David Kerian’s dad, Steve, was among the 720 at Illinois Field for the Big Ten series opener between the Illini and Michigan State on Friday. He knows the truth. But if any of the Illinois junior’s friends and family back in Dakota Dunes, S.D., ask about that RBI triple he hit that tied the game at 4 in the eighth inning, he can make it sound as if it was a laser off the wall.

“In the books, it’s going down as a triple down the right-field line,” said Kerian, who scored the eventual game-winning run a couple of pitches later on a wild pitch in Illinois’ 5-4 win against the Spartans. “It’s a hit. It works.”

In reality, Kerian hit a towering fly ball down the line in right with two outs in the eighth. Michigan State’s Jimmy Pickens (2 for 3, three RBI) overran the ball, allowing Adam Walton, who tripled earlier in the inning, to score.

“Sometimes in athletics, things aren’t as clean as you’d like them to be, but the bottom line is we came out with a win,” Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said.

The eighth inning proved to be a defensive struggle for both teams on an unseasonably chilly evening. In the top half, the Illini (25-17, 11-5 Big Ten) botched a bunt play and committed an error on another bunt, chasing starter Drasen Johnson and opening the door for a three-run inning for Michigan State, giving the Spartans (24-18, 8-8) a 4-2 lead.

“I thought Drasen threw very well. You look at that game through seven innings and it was a very good game. A well-played, clean game. I thought both starting pitchers did a very good job. Both teams had to work for their runs,” Hartleb said. “I don’t care if it’s easy or not, it’s just about getting in the win column.”

The win was the 269th for Hartleb in his nine seasons at Illinois. That moved him into sole possession of fourth place all time in the program, passing Tom Dedin, who was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday.

“It was kind of special that we as a team had the opportunity to break that record with Coach Dedin here. I respect the guys that played here, and the program wouldn’t be where it’s at without what a number of coaches have done. It’s an honor moving up on that wins list,” Hartleb said. “It’s nice to have Coach Dedin back. He’s always been very supportive since I’ve been a part of the program. It’s nice that he’s here; it’s nice that we have a lot of alumni. (Saturday) we’re supposed to have close to 100 guys back.”

Ryan Nagle broke an 0-for-10 slump, registering two hits and crossing the plate twice. He was the lone Illini with multiple hits and runs scored against the Spartans.

For the 11th time in his last 12 outings, closer Tyler Jay didn’t yield a run, allowing three hits and striking out two in two innings to pick up the win.

Michigan State’s Jimmy Pickens appeared on his way to his fourth triple of the season after hitting a ball to the wall in right-center field in the fourth inning, but he tripped coming around second base and had to settle for an RBI double instead.

Right-handers John Kravetz (Illinois) and Justin Alleman (MSU) will each put their 5-1 records and sub-3.00 ERAs on the line for the third annual Honor and Serve Day as the Illini will wear orange-and-blue camouflage uniforms and honor UI student veterans and all military personnel who serve the community.

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