After taking two out of three against Minnesota over the weekend, the Illinois Fighting Illini lost to the Golden Gophers, 3-2, in their opener of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Illini came into Wednesday’s game on a very positive note. Besides taking two out of three against the Golden Gophers, they were 7-3 in their last ten games.
The Fighting Illini struck first on the scoreboard, but it was the Golden Gophers who had the last laugh. Illinois scored their only runs in the top of the second inning.
Brandon Hohl scored their first run off of a Reid Roper single to center field. Their second run came when Michael Hurwitz forced a walk with the bases loaded.
Minnesota scored once in the bottom of the second when Matt Halloran ripped a single to right field. They would later tie the game off of an Andy Henkemeyer single up the middle in the bottom of the fifth.
The game would remain tied until the bottom of the ninth. Henkemeyer would come up to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. On the first pitch of the at-bat, he singled down the right field line to win the game.
The best phrase to sum up Wednesday’s loss to Minnesota would be “missed opportunities.” The Illini were just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
On top of that, Illinois’ Big Ten Player of the Year struggled on Wednesday. Justin Parr is looking to become the 23rd Illinois player to hit .400 for a season, but only went 1-of-5 against Minnesota.
The best hitter for Illinois was first baseman David Kerian. Kerian went 3-of-5 against the Golden Gophers and was left on base every time.
The winning pitcher for Minnesota was Ben Meyer. He came in relief for starter Tim Windle after the fifth inning. He pitched 4.0 innings and only gave up two hits while striking out four Illini.
The losing pitcher for Illinois was Ronnie Muck. Muck came in for Kevin Duchene in the seventh inning. He pitched 2.0 innings, gave up three hits, and let Minnesota score the winning run.
After the game, head coach Dan Hartleb said:
We have had our backs against the wall the whole second half of the season, but we have responded very well. This is the best the conference has ever been, and we are as good as any team in it, so we will respond.
The Illinois Fighting Illini will play their next game against the Michigan Wolverines on Thursday at Target Field. The loser of this game will be bounced from the conference tournament and the winner will face off against the lowest seed loser of Indiana/Minnesota and Ohio State/Nebraska on Friday.
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