No comeback today. No dramatic walk-offs in the ninth inning. Not even a stray cat made its way onto the field tonight. The Illini just cruised to a victory over their co-conference title holders Michigan State in the Big Ten Baseball Tournament by the score of 4-1.
We can thank starter John Anderson (right) for the lack of dramatics. He simply kept Spartan batters at bay for seven plus innings. As a matter of fact, MSU was kept scoreless for the first seven innings. When Jeff Holm scored on a Jared Hook double in eighth, Coach Hartleb brought in Chris Pack to relieve. It reminded me of the first few weeks of the season when those two paired up often. Pack was perfect in an inning and two-thirds getting his third save.
Meanwhile, the Illini had already gotten the lead they needed. In the second, Adam Davis doubled home Justin Parr for a run. Two innings later, Josh Parr doubled home Casey McMurray and Davis Hendrickson. For some insurance, Matt Dittman showed the Tournament crowd a little bit of what we saw last weekend. He hit a home run BLAST to the right field which bounced back almost to the infield.
Illinois gets to rest until Saturday night while Michigan State and Minnesota battle it out. The loser of that game goes home but the winner goes on to play Illinois for the evening game.
If Illinois wins, they win the Tournament Championship. If they don’t, the same teams play on Sunday for the Championship.
What does this mean, really?
A lot of things actually but Illinois is sitting in the driving seat.
1) Illinois hasn’t lost yet and to get eliminated from the tourney, a team needs to lose two games. Either Minnesota or Michigan State will have to win three straight games (one against the other and two against Illinois) to win it all. Illinois just needs to win tomorrow night’s game.
2) Rest. Going into tomorrow night’s game against Illinois, the winner of the MSU-Minn game will have just played a full game and will be expected to go out and play another with about an hour’s rest. (Some could make a valid argument that a win would bring them momentum and sitting around takes that out of you.)
3) If Minnesota takes Michigan State in tomorrow’s loser’s bracket game, pitching will be an issue. I’ve seen this happen in other Tournaments. Keep in mind that tomorrow’s game against MSU will be the Golden Gophers’ fifth game in four days. Starting pitchers are going on little rest and you can expect to see the bullpen early.
However this turns out, I’m looking for Justin Parr to get All-Tournament honors. In just two games, he’s gone 5 for 9 with 2 rbis and 2 runs scored. But please, BTN announcers, no more Parr/par jokes. We’ve heard them.