Roark completely dominates Hawkeyes in Big Ten Tournament

By Steve Contorno

Sophomore starter Tanner Roark hasn’t thrown a complete game in his career.

Check that. Roark hadn’t thrown a complete game in his career – that was until Wednesday’s Big Ten Tournament game against No. 4-seeded Iowa.

The young hurler pitched all nine innings, allowing three runs on nine hits and only 115 pitches, while striking out two, en route to his eighth win against a Big Ten opponent this season.

“I did a real good job of locating my fastball and keeping them guessing with my change-up,” Roark said.

“It was nice and hot; I love hot weather. I didn’t have the usual week off, I was pitching on five days rest, so kind of like a major leaguer.”

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    The Illini offense wasn’t too shabby either, tallying 12 runs in the team’s first Big Ten Tournament win since 2001.

    “We play extremely hard all the time,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “The difference was we saw some pitches over the plate and we drove the ball into the gaps and got some extra-base hits.”

    The No. 5-seeded Illini jumped out to an early lead in Ann Arbor, Mich., scoring two runs in the first and then again in the second inning. Designated hitter Daniel Webber drove in the first two runs on a double to right center. Kyle Hudson’s triple scored Ryan Hastings in the second, and Hudson then scored on a Brandon Wikoff single.

    “We wanted to be aggressive at the plate,” said Hudson, who was 3-for-5 on the day with two runs and a RBI. “We got good pitches to hit and we laid off the stuff that was down and away.”

    Behind Roark, the defense was stellar, breaking the Big Ten Tournament for double plays with five. And not all of them were the standard 6-4-3 twin killings.

    “(Shawn) Roof made a great grab on a hard liner and was able to double up the guy at first,” Roark said. “The play happened faster than I could even react.”

    Hudson said he enjoyed the view from center on some of the defensive stops.

    “The infield was coming up with some great double plays. It definitely looked like the defense was doing a good job and then Tanner was doing a good job of getting ground balls,” Hudson said.

    After the 4-0 start, the Illini added another in the third after Webb again doubled in his second at bat. Roof drove him in on a single through the right side of the infield.

    Illinois would score one more run in the seventh before Iowa got on the board. The Hawkeyes put together a three-run eighth inning after a pair of singles and a triple, followed by an RBI groundout. But Roark said he wanted to stay in the game, despite the big inning.

    “I still felt confident in all of my pitches,” Roark said. “And I knew the defense was going to make great plays around me.”

    Hartleb had closer Jake Toohey warming up during the top of the ninth, but the right-hander’s services were not needed – the Illini put up another six runs to give Roark a bigger cushion. Illinois was able to capitalize on an error and three base hits and a double, the team’s seventh extra-base hit of the game.

    “It felt really good to go out there and beat them badly like we did,” Hudson said. “It was a good confidence builder for us.”

    Illinois will carry that confidence into tomorrow’s second-round match-up with No. 2-seeded Minnesota at 2:35. The Gophers received a bye in the opening round of the six-team tournament and will face Mike Stankiewicz.

    “For any team to be successful in the Big Ten Tournament, you really need to have all three aspects doing well – hitting, fielding and pitching. We certainly did that today,” Hartleb said. “If we can build on this and continue it tomorrow, we will be successful.”