DeLAND, Fla. -- A six-run rally in the eighth inning helped Central Michigan claim a 9-6 victory over Illinois in 10 innings during the opening game of the Bright House Invitational, hosted by Stetson University, on Friday at Melching Field.
The Chippewas (4-5) tacked on three runs in the 10th to complete the comeback, taking the lead over the Fighting Illini (3-4) on a bunt single by senior Robbie Harman .
UI broke a scoreless tie with four runs in the fifth and added single runs in the seventh for a 5-0 lead after seven innings, the big blow coming on an RBI triple by Justin Parr in the fifth that set up the rally.
Senior reliever Mike Nixon came on for CMU starting pitcher Bryce Morrow in the seventh, with runners on the corners and one down. He fanned pinch hitter Pat Sheehan and induced a double play to escape further damage.
The big effort by Nixon carried over into the eighth, and the Chippewas took advantage of a few mistakes by the Fighting Illini. Three straight walks to open the inning loaded the bases, and Jordan Dean slashed a single through the left side to drive in two.
An infield single for Jordan Adams re-loaded the bases, and a sacrifice fly by Sam Russell added another run to make it 5-3.
William Arnold drew a walk to load the bases once again, and a throwing error moved everyone up a base on a grounder off the bat of Harman to draw CMU within a run. Facing reliever Wes Braun, the third Illinois pitcher used in the inning, senior Matt Faiman ripped a single to right to plate two more and give the Maroon and Gold a 6-5 edge.
"They were able to rally in the fifth, but Nixon's effort was huge," head coach Steve Jaksa said. "Their starter hit his pitch count, and we were able to get some help in the eighth. We got some big hits, and then it was a fight from there. We just kept playing."
UI was able to knot the game back up in the eighth, and CMU threatened in the ninth, but couldn't push across the potential winning run.
Russell led off the 10th with a double down the line in left and moved up on a sacrifice by Arnold. Harman's bunt single scored Russell, and Faiman put two on by drawing a free pass. A single back up the middle by Emmett loaded the bases, and Tyler Hall delivered a huge two-out, two-run single to right for the insurance tallies.
Enns (2-0) picked up the win in relief, tossing 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out four. Will Strack took the loss, giving up three runs in 1/3 of an inning.
"It's great when you have guys come in and pitch like they're capable," Jaksa said. "We have some guys in our pen that we have a lot of confidence in and today they did a nice job."
The Bright House Invitational continues throughout the weekend. CMU squares off with Columbia on Saturday at 1 p.m.