In their second straight game against Michigan State, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini baseball team clinched their first Big Ten Tournament championship since 2000 by defeating the Spartans 9-1.
Starting pitcher Corey Kimes threw a career high 9 innings and seven strikeouts and seemed to have the Spartans fooled. Giving up no walks on the day, it was Kimes’ fourth win on the year and one of his strongest starts on the year no doubt fueled by the importance of the win.
Meanwhile, a very spent Spartan pitching staff had trouble catching up. Freshman starter Chase Rihtarchik lasted less than three innings when he gave up four runs. All told, MSU went through seven pitchers and it seemed Illinois batters found a way to get through to most of them.
All nine Illini starters got at least one hit, some more. Poor Matt Dittman. He only got one but he got the kind of hit that comes with four rbis. A grand slam in the 3rd inning which put the score at 5-0. It was Dittman’s second homerun in the Tournament and fourth in six games.
An inning later, Josh Parr and Pete Cappetta hit back-to-back doubles followed later by a triple by Brandon Hohl. As a matter of fact, six extra base hits were hit in the game. Adam Davis and Justin Parr also hit doubles.
All game, it appeared the Illini were playing loose and as result, things came easy or at least seemed to. More importantly, it looked like they were having fun. The look on Justin Parr’s face as he scored in the first inning was awesome.
Here’s Adam Davis, Matt Dittman and Corey Kimes getting interviewed by the Big Ten Network after tonight’s game (plus a few highlights).
This was Illinois’ eighth victory in a row and 16th of their last 20 games. So what’s next? The NCAA Regionals, of course. They get the automatic bid being the Big Ten Tournament Champion. It’s not known if there will be an at-large selection (if there were, it would be Michigan State) but pundits who know more than I are saying that the chances are slim. The NCAA Selection will be announced Monday.
Congratulations to the Illinois Fighting Illini Baseball team on a job well done!