The No. 23 Illinois baseball team pounded six extra-base hits Thursday night, including homers from Zac Taylor and Kellen Sarver, to win at Michigan State, 8-4. Illinois took the opener of the three-game series and won for the 13th time in the last 16 games.
Illinois (35-16, 14-8 Big Ten) trailed 2-0 early but scored three in the fourth sparked by Taylor and Sarver's back-to-back homers to start the inning. Jack Yalowitz tripled off the wall and scored later in the inning, part of a three-hit day to bring his career hit total to 200.
Yalowitz also scored three runs to lead Illinois. Branden Comia had three hits and three RBIs and Grant Van Scoy scored twice.
After Comia plated two runs in the ninth to take a 8-3 lead, Michigan State (19-33, 7-14 Big Ten) rallied to load the bases in the ninth inning and bring the potential tying run to the on-deck circle. Illinois went to Garrett Acton, who worked three straight outs to record his national-leading 18th save. Acton tied the Big Ten record for saves held by Ohio State's Jake Hale in 2009 (18).
Andy Fisher (7-1) started and put together his fourth straight quality start to earn his seventh win. Fisher settled in to throw 6 2/3 innings while allowing three runs on seven hits. Fisher has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 straight starts.
Illinois and Michigan State are back at the ballpark Friday night at 5:35 p.m. CT for Game 2 of the series. The regular season finale is scheduled for Sunday at 12:05 p.m. CT.