Illinois baseball falls to Michigan in final game of season


By Adam Rosen, Summer Editor

Illinois entered its double elimination game looking to avoid the same fate as a year prior, when the Indiana Hoosiers knocked the Illini out of the conference tournament. Ironically, it is the same Hoosiers who sent the Illini to an elimination game this season. Their opponent, the Michigan Wolverines, forced the Illini to play in this game last season.

That game was one of the latest games in the history of the tournament, if not the longest. The game ended around 2:15 a.m. local time, but due to new rules, this game would not set up the need for energy drinks at midnight. The Wolverines are in the elimination bracket due to their loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes a few hours before the Illini loss to the Hoosiers.

The first pitch was thrown just after 7 p.m., and the Illini sent out junior right-hander Riley Gowens to the mound with their season on the line. The Illini recorded a hit in the first inning but nothing more, and in the bottom of the first the Wolverine bats loaded the bases with just one out, a pair of walks and a hit. Gowens got out of the inning unscathed, as graduate third baseman Branden Comia fielded a grounder cleanly which saved the inning via a double play.

The Wolverines struck first with an RBI triple that was smoked well over the head of center fielder, graduate Cam McDonald, taking a 1-0 lead in the third inning. The Wolverines broke the game open later in the inning, with a three-run shot to right field and another pair of hits, taking a 5-0 lead over the Illini.

The Illini started a rally in the sixth inning, scoring a pair of runs before Michigan changed pitchers, and immediately pounced on the new pitcher to cut the deficit to 5-3. Junior right-hander Jack Crowder entered the game for the Illini and pitched a pair of shutdown innings, showing a flareup in emotions after getting out of the innings to keep his team in the game.

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    However, the Wolverines added an insurance run to make it a 6-3 game heading into the ninth inning. The Illini’s final efforts to keep their season alive fell short, and thus, their season ended in Omaha, against the same teams that knocked them out last year.

    The Illini finish their season at 25-27 with a 12-14 record against Big Ten opponents. Their roster will also surely look different next year with plenty of veterans on the roster. Nonetheless, the Illini will have plenty of time to recoup and prepare for 2024.


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