Apr 23, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; General view a baseball during batting practice prior to the San Diego Padres game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Baseball: Minnesota Big Ten Tournament Preview

The Illinois Fighting Illini will play their first game of the Big Ten Tournament today against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The 2013 Big Ten Tournament is being hosted at Target Field in Minnesota (the home of the Minnesota Twins).

The Illini come into their first round game after ending the regular season on a very positive note. They finished the season with a 7-3 record in their last ten games and beat Minnesota twice in a three game series to end the regular season.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers come into the Big Ten Tournament with an overall record of 30-20 and a Big Ten Conference record of 13-8. The Golden Gophers are the 4th-seed in the tournament, but finished the season in a sour note. They only won four of their last ten games, but avoided a sweep in their season finale against the Fighting Illini.

Offensively, Minnesota has one of the lowest batting averages in the Big Ten (.258). Although, they have two players hitting over .300. These players are Kurt Schlangen and Andy Henkemeyer.

Both Schlangen and Henkemeyer are batting over .300 this season. Henkemeyer is arguably the best hitter on the team as he leads the team in hits (57), triples (tied with 3), RBIs (25), and slugging percentage (.419).

Here’s the pitching matching for Wednesday’s first round game:

  • Illinois: Kevin Duchene (LHP, Fr., 8-1, 2.67 ERA)
  • Minnesota: Tom Windle (LHP, Jr., 6-4, 2.05 ERA)

There is absolutely no reason why the Fighting Illini shouldn’t be able to beat Minnesota in the conference tournament.

Yes, the tournament is in Minnesota at Target Field, but Illinois just took two of three games from the Golden Gophers in Minnesota last weekend.

The two biggest players for the Fighting Illini will be Kevin Duchene and Justin Parr.

Duchene will start for Illinois and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year (first Illini since 1989). His eight wins ties him for the most wins in the Big Ten this season and is the most wins by an Illini freshman. Expect a big game from Duchene. He threw six innings in the game one win over Minnesota last weekend.

The other big player for the Illini will be Justin Parr. Not only does he own the nation’s second-longest hitting streak this season, but he is also the 2013 Big Ten Player of the Year (eighth Illini ever to win the award and first since 2007). Parr has had such a successful season that he is trying to become the 23rd Illinois player to hit .400 for a season.

The winner of this game will play the top seeded Indiana Hoosiers and the loser will play the loser between Nebraska/Michigan.

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Tags: Andy Henkemeyer Baseball Illinois Fighting Illini Justin Parr Kevin Duchene Kurt Schlangen Minnesota Golden Gophers Tom Windle

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