Illinois Falters Late against Michigan State, 11-2
May 23, 2014
OMAHA, Neb. - No. 3 Illinois led 2-1 after six innings, but No. 6 Michigan State scored 10 runs over the final three innings to knock the Illini out of the Big Ten Tournament, 11-2. The Spartans tied it with a run in the seventh, broke the game open with a five-run eighth and added four runs in the ninth. The Orange and Blue finished the week 1-2 in the conference tournament at TD Ameritrade Park.
"It was a tough day," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "We struggled late on the mound and the game just got away from us. That is part of baseball, and obviously, it was disappointing. We had opportunities on offense, but didn't take advantage of them which let them hang around."
Both teams left runners in scoring position in the first, but the Illini were able to grab a 1-0 lead in the second. Junior Casey Fletcher legged out a double to left, advanced to third on an infield single by freshman Ryne Roper and scored on the sacrifice fly by sophomore Ryan Nagle.
Illinois took a 2-0 lead on a two-out RBI single by sophomore Jason Goldstein in the third. Reliever Jeff Kinley took over following the second run and shut down the Illini, who did not record a hit following a leadoff single in the fourth.
Starter John Kravetz received a no decision after striking out six and allowing two runs with only one earned over 6.2 innings. The Spartans made it 2-1 in the fifth when they scored on a throwing error while stealing third. MSU tied the game with a two-out RBI single, which forced the Illini to go to the bullpen.
Senior Ronnie Muck (1-4) left two runners on with the final out of the seventh, but struggled in the eighth, allowing the first eight runners to reach. After a single and an error to start the stanza, the Spartans posted five runs on an RBI double, a three-run double and an RBI single. Freshman Cody Sedlock recorded the final three outs in the inning.
Michigan State tacked on four runs in the ninth on an RBI double, two RBI groundouts and an RBI single. Illinois' nine-run loss was its largest margin of defeat this season.
Up Next: Illinois (32-21) will await its postseason fate with the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, May 26 at 11 a.m. on ESPNU.
"I'm really proud of this team," Hartleb said. "I do believe we are a team that can go into a regional and compete and even win a regional. If you look at our résumé with our record against Top 100 and Top 25 RPI teams, we may be the best bubble team, so hopefully those are things the committee looks at. I think we are worthy of a bid, but I also know that committee has a tough job because there are other teams that our worthy."