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Illini Baseball heads to the postseason Regionals

It’s been a topsy-turvy, roller coaster week for the Illinois baseball team. Last Wednesday, they entered the long-awaited Big Ten Tournament. Two days later, they were already out of it, winning just one game and suffering two losses, both at the hands of Minnesota Golden Gophers. But the best part was yet to come. On Monday, Illinois was selected by the NCAA committee to proceed on to the postseason Regionals.  

Big Ten Tournament Wrapup

Illinois started out the Tournament with Minnesota — the same team they finished the regular season with. Facing tough starter Tom Windle whom they defeated previously, the Illini didn’t have as much luck the second time around. Kevin Duchene pitched a fine game, allowing just two runs and striking out five in 6 1/3 innings, but the offense couldn’t get anything going. It was heartbreaking loss for the Illini, as the Gophers won it walk-off fashion in the ninth inning with a score of 32

Entering the loser’s bracket after the first game is never a good thing, but Illinois showed they weren’t giving up. The next day, they took on the Michigan Wolverines, who were victims of the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Monday. Once again, it was a 32 ballgame, but this time the win came at the hands of Illinois’ John Kravetz. Sophomore Kravetz spread out eight hits over 7 1/3 innings and allowed only two runs for his fifth win of 2013. Bryan Roberts pitched a scoreless ninth to finish out the game for his seventh save of the year. Again, the Illini scored early, plating two runs in the first two innings and added one more in the fifth. They took advantage of Michigan’s spotty fielding that gave up three errors in the game. Thomas Lindauer, Davis Hendrickson, and Michael Hurwitz all had two hits for the game. 

As the Big Ten Tournament bracket drama unfolded, it was Minnesota again that Illinois would have to face for the third game. A recurring theme, Illinois scored first thanks to a Gopher error. Hendrickson drove home David Kerian who reached on a throwing error by the Minnesota shortstop. The Gophers only scored in the fourth inning, but it was for three runs and that would prove to be enough as they defeated Illinois 31 and knocked them out of the Tournament. 

Congrats to the Indiana Hoosiers, who took the Big Ten Tournament title. Give Minnesota some credit too. They defeated the Hoosiers on Saturday and forced a Sunday rematch. The Hoosiers won the final game 43 in a quite exciting fashion with a walk-off hit in the ninth inning.

For all the scores and game wraps, check out Big Ten Tournament Central where you can find the Big Ten Tournament bracket. Congrats also to Illinois shortstop Thomas Lindauer who made the All-Big Ten Tournament team. Lindy was four for eleven with two runs and rbi, plus a stolen base.

NCAA Regionals on the way!

With their somewhat early exit in the tournament, the Illinois baseball players had to wait till Monday’s NCAA Regionals Selection announcement date before they would know what the future for the 2013 season had in store for them. I have to give Coach Hartleb credit for his positive attitude in his public statement after being dropped from the Tournament: “It’s disappointing, but we hope to live another day. I feel we truly deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament.”

As it turns out, he was right. On Monday, the powers that be at the NCAA deemed that Illinois would join Indiana as the two Big Ten teams to go on to the NCAA Regionals. In my opinion, two major factors played a part in Illinois’ selection. One, Illinois had the second-best overall record among Big Ten competitors with a 34–18 record. Indiana, of course, dwarfs all other conference teams with their 43–14 mark. Ironically, Michigan State (33–17) had a better record than Illinois, but didn’t make it to the Tournament due to their conference record (12–9).

Second, Illinois is ranked #39 in the nation among Division I teams in RPI, and were ranked as high as #30 last week. My guess is that had a lot to do with their selection as well. It is worth mentioning that Nebraska jumped from #42 to #28 in the past week. 

You can find the official NCAA Regionals bracket here. Illinois has been named as the #3 seed in the Nashville Regional. They will be joined by #1 seed Vanderbilt, #2 seed Georgia Tech, and #4 seed East Tennessee State. 

Illinois will face Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (34–25) on Friday at 1:00 p.m. GT was ranked nationally as recently as last week when they were #26. The Yellow Jackets already have Friday’s game preview up if you want to take a look. 

More recognition for Justin Parr

Finally, I mentioned last week that Justin Parr was named Big Ten Player of the Year. Since then, he’s been honored a few more times. Last Monday, he was listed as a semifinalist for the initial Gregg Olson Award for “Breakout Player of the Year.” This week, he has been placed on the semifinalist list for the Golden Spikes Award for the top amateur baseball player. The best part? You can vote for Justin by going to the Golden Spikes ballot page. Go ahead and vote! From what I can tell, he needs the votes. 

Good luck Justin and Good luck Illinois! 

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