Michgan State outslugs Illini for Big Ten title
May 15, 2004
Ann Arbor, Mich. - Illinois batters banged out two home runs off Michigan State starting pitcher Jessica Beech, but the Spartans won a slugfest 7-5 in the championship game of the Big Ten Softball Tournament.
The Spartans, who came into the tournament as the eighth seed, defeated four of the top five seeds to claim their first Big Ten title and earn the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Illini, who were competing in their first Big Ten title game, will likely also receive an invitation to the tournament when the bids are announced Sunday evening.
Michigan State's Brittney Green hit two home runs, including a three-run blast to tie the score in the fourth. The teams combined for 22 hits and the Illini made a pair of errors.
Sarah Baumgartner, now 5-for-8 with six RBI in her last four starts, was 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI for the game.
Illinois took two leads in the title game only to see the Spartans come back each time. Lindsey Hamma drove home LeeAnn Butcher with the first run of the game for Illinois in the first inning. Green's solo home run tied the game in the second inning.
Illinois scored three runs in the fourth inning, thanks to a solo home run from Baumgartner and a two-run shot from Lindsey Hamma. The Illini came into the game 18-0 when scoring four or more runs and 37-3 when scoring at least two. Amanda Fortune had just posted her 15th shutout earlier in the day in a 5-0 win over Ohio State, so the Illini had every reason to feel confident in victory. Fortune and Michigan State starter Jessica Beech, though, had pitched every inning of the tournament.
Michigan State tied the score with Green's three-run shot to right field in the fourth inning. Sherri Taylor came in relief in the fourth and retired the first four batters she faced. Michigan State took the lead for good with two runs in the fifth on two hits, two walks and an error. Natalie Furrow's double in the sixth provided an insurance run for Michigan State
Sarah Baumgartner's RBI single in the sixth scored Elene Planinsek and made the score 7-5. Illinois threatened in the seventh inning, putting two runners on base Erin Jones led off with a single and Lindsey stroked a hit to right field, but Beech retired the Illini from there.