Illinois Baseball lives to see another day in the Big Ten Tournament after an impressive 7-1 win over the Indiana Hoosiers, on Wednesday, May 23, in Omaha, Nebraska.
Despite the final score, it took awhile for the scoring in this game to get going, thanks to terrific starting pitching from both teams.
It’s funny how as soon as postseason baseball is underway, the level of pitching is instantly elevated. Illini pitcher Quinn Snarskis and Hoosiers starter Jonathon Stiever played to the beat of this drum, both with dominant performances on the mound during their outings.
Snarskis had Indiana’s number the first time through its lineup, working a perfect game after four innings. This was broken up the following frame by Luke Miller, and Snarskis then worked himself into a jam by loading the bases with one out after consecutive walks.
But great defense out of Illinois’ infield kept Indiana off the board. Snarskis’ outing ended the following inning, going 5.1 innings, allowing one hit while walking three and striking out two at the plate.
Stiever had the Illini’s number during his outing as well. Stiever stat line included going six innings, allowing no earned runs on three hits, striking out two and walking one.
The difference between the two pitchers, however, was that while the Illinois defense showed up for Snarskis, the Indiana defense crumbled in the sixth inning.
Outfielder Zac Taylor doubled down left field line to start off the inning. After a sacrifice bunt and a walk from second baseman Michael Massey with two outs, runners were on first and second with designated hitter Michael Michalak up to the plate.
Michalak grounded to short in what looked like was going to be a routine groundout, but the throw was wide of the Hoosiers’ first baseman and both runners made it home on the error.
Michalak reached home the following at-bat after the Indiana outfielder botched a routine fly ball, giving Illinois a 3-0 lead after sixth innings. The Illini weren’t done there, though.
The Illini broke the game wide open in the seventh inning.
With runners on first and second and one out, shortstop Ben Troike kept his on-base streak alive when an RBI single to left field made it 55 straight games that Troike has reached base safely.
And Massey put the nail in the coffin a batter later, hitting a clutch, two-out bomb to right field, throwing up three more runs on the board and putting his team up 7-0 after seven innings.
The Illinois bullpen did its job once Snarskis’ night was over with reliever Ryan Thompson going 2.2 innings, allowing only one run on on one hit while striking out two and walking one at the plate.
Reliever Ryan Kutt was given the task of the wrapping this game up in the ninth and got the job done, striking out one Hoosier in the process.
The Illini got strong performances out of all aspects of the game; starting pitching, defense, offense and the bullpen.
Illinois will need a similar performance when it faces No. 1 seed Minnesota on Thursday night in the double-elimination tournament.