May 17, 2012
The University of Minnesota baseball team fell to 28-26 on the season and 10-12 in Big Ten play in a heart-breaking 7-5 loss to Illinois, tonight in Champaign, Ill. For the fourth-straight game, the Gophers battled back from a deficit, only to fall in the late innings. Minnesota trailed 4-0, battled back and took a 5-4 lead, but allowed two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning for the loss.
The Big Ten standings got a little tighter as Minnesota and Illinois are tied for the seventh spot. Purdue won the Big Ten regular season outright with an 11-8 win and are 17-5 in the conference. Indiana and Penn State both improved to 14-8 and are second, while Nebraska is fourth at 13-9. Michigan State (12-10) and Ohio State (11-11) currently round out the top six.
Illinois jumped out to a 4-0 lead by the fourth inning, as the Illini scored two runs in the first and another two in the fourth. Illinois had four hits and scored two in the first. With two outs in the fourth, Justin Parr tripled and scored Alex Lincoln, while Parr came in on a Thomas Shelton single for the 4-0 lead.
Minnesota, however, rallied and would put up five in the top of the fifth to take the lead. The Gophers sent 11 batters to the plate and have five bat before it recorded its first out. Matt Halloran drove home Troy Larson, who led off the inning with an infield single and a stolen base. Olinger would walk in Henkemeyer, as Kurt Schlangen would make it 4-3 on a sacrifice RBI, scoring Kyle Geason. Juan would singled to load the bases, followed by a Michael Handel walk to push across Halloran on the game-tying run. Matt Puhl would score the go-head run when he singled in Olinger for the 5-4 lead.
The Illini would respond and tie the game in the bottom of the frame when Davis Hendrickson singled and move over to second on a sacrifice bunt. Thomas Lindauer would double down the left field line to knot the game at 5-5, where the game stood until the bottom of the eighth.
After the fifth inning, both starters would be out of the game and left with no decisions. TJ Oakes would pitch 4.2 innings, allow 13 hits and struck out four. Illinois' Kevin Johnson went 4.1 innings, allowed seven hits, walked three and struck out one.
Illinois would regain the lead when it scored the deciding two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. After a leadoff single by Lindauer and a walk to Argo, both moved up a base because of a sacrifice bunt. As the Gophers attempted a intentional walk, a wild pitch was thrown, scoring the go-ahead run. The Illini would use a squeeze play to get the last run as Jordan Parr scored Argo from third.
Tom Windle would be the losing pitcher. He struck out five in 3.1 innings pitched and allowed just two hits and would drop to 3-5 on the season. Ronnie Muck would collect the win as he went 3.2 innings, had just one hit and struck out three. Reid Roper would move from second to come in and collect his second save of the season, sending the Gophers down in order in the ninth.
Minnesota will look to finish the 2012 regular season strong with a game at 6:05 p.m. tomorrow and another on Saturday at 12:05 p.m.
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