David Kerian homered and drove in two runs in Illinois’ loss
The Illini gave a great effort at the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis but their chance for a tourney championship came to an end at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines.
After a lights out performance on Friday night by John Kravetz shutting out the Michigan State Spartans, Illinois advanced to the semi finals. On Saturday though, errors hurt the Illini again as all five Michigan runs were unearned. Big Ten Player of the Year David Kerian drove in a run early in the game and in the sixth homered to put them ahead. An error-laden sixth inning put Michigan up for good and Illinois lost 5-3.
Winner Michigan will advance to take on Maryland in the Championship game on Sunday.
On Friday, Illinois rebounded from their loss against Maryland with a stifling shutout win versus the Michigan State Spartans. The ball was handed to senior starter John Kravetz for his most important assignment to date and he exceeded expectations.
Kravetz who had never pitched past the eighth inning all year, went the distance against the Spartan offense for his first career complete game. The numbers on Kravetz: 9 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2
John Kravetz didn’t strike out many batters on Friday but instead was incredibly efficient all night. He induced a lot of early outs and didn’t go deep into the count very often. In fact, when the night was done, he had only thrown 92 pitches.
Illinois’ two runs came in the third inning. With two outs, a costly Spartan errors and two walks Adam Walton and Ryan Nagle on the in scoring position for Jason Goldstein. Goldy’s single drove home both runners to put the Illini up 2-0 and that’s exactly where the score stayed for the rest of the game.
John Kravetz’ win gives him a 5-0 record for the year and lowers his ERA to 3.32.
No doubt, it was a solid effort by starter Rob McDonnell. However much like the first game of the tournament, Illinois was a victim of their fielding. A two-out error in the second inning led to two runs. In the sixth, two more errors contributed to three runs by Michigan. The line on McDonnell is good 5 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. The one stat he would love to take back is the ‘L’.
Big Ten Player of the Year David Kerian gave a performance worthy of the title. He drove in a run in the fourth with a double to bring Illinois within one, 2-1. Later in the sixth, he solo homered to put Illinois ahead 3-2.
Ryan Nagle (right) who continues to be productive, got two hits and drove in a run.
All in all, still a very solid performance by the Illinois baseball team. By this time, Illinois fans have higher expectations so when we see our team lose two games in three days, we wonder. That’s just the nature of late season tournaments. It would have been nice to see the Illini roll on through without missing a beat and still on their streak. That’s in the past though and they have bigger things to be concerned about.
Regardless, winning two games and lasting into the semis in the Big Ten Tournament is a great accomplishment. I’ve gone to my share of Tourneys and seen some teams (Illinois included) go home on the second day. The fact that Illinois did this on eight runs in four games makes it that much more amazing. Kudos to the pitching staff.
Here is the updated tournament bracket sadly with no Illinois in the Championship rung. Note the change in time for Sunday’s Championship game between Michigan and Maryland. Check out more info at the Big Ten Baseball Tournament Central.
So what’s next for the Illini?
Illinois are dropped from the Big Ten Tournament but the action doesn’t stop now. Because of their phenomenal season, they almost assuredly will be going on to the NCAA Regional. In fact, they are in the running to host the Regional here at Illinois Field. The official announcement of Regional hosts will be made on Sunday night at 7:30pm. Keep an eye on the NCAA’s Twitter and Facebook pages or tune in to ESPN around 8pm for all the details. Regional pairings will be announced on Monday at 11pm.
And don’t forget, Fighting Illini has their own NCAA Regional page… you know, just in case.
Great job, Illini!!