Illinois sends Indiana home with walk-off win


Photo courtesy of Cary Frye

Ben Troike gets a shower from the team’s water cooler after hitting a walk-off shot in Illinois’ Friday night match-up against Indiana. The Illini won 5-4.

By Eli Schuster, Sports Editor

The Illinois baseball team knocked Indiana out of the Big Ten Tournament late Friday night in walk-off fashion.

Facing elimination, Illinois grabbed the 5-4 victory and will move on to face the No. 2 Purdue at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Early on, Illinois’ offensive woes continued from the game prior, where the team dropped to the elimination bracket with a 3-0 loss to Minnesota.

Quickly down 3-1 to the Hoosiers, Big Ten Player of the Year Bren Spillane gave the Illini the lead with a three-run blast into left-center.

The home run marked Spillane’s 23rd of the season and has him sitting with the second most in Illinois history behind Josh Klimek, who currently holds the record with 26 home runs.

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    The Illini only held onto the lead for another two-innings when Indiana’s centerfielder, Logan Kaletha, sent a home run over the right-field wall.

    Starting pitcher Ty Weber was removed for reliever Ryan Thompson in the third inning after suffering an injury. It was a career-long day then for Thompson, who pitched 4 2/3 innings, only allowing one run on three hits.

    Quinton Sefcik relieved Thompson in the eighth before head coach Dan Hartleb opted for Joey Gerber to get the final out of the inning and pitch through the top of the next inning.

    With the game tied heading into the bottom of the ninth, right fielder Jack Yalowitz lined a single to second base, landing on first thanks to an off-throw that drew Hoosier first baseman Bradley Scotty off the bag.

    A sacrifice bunt by Illini centerfielder Zac Taylor moved Yalowitz to second.

    Ben Troike then stepped up to the plate and hit a high flying ball to deep left-centerfield. With the outfield playing in, Kaletha had to head back toward the warning track. The attempted falling catch rolled out of his glove and allowed Yalowitz to score from second to end the ball game.

    The game was Illinois’ second matchup with Indiana in three days, first beating Indiana 7-1 in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday night. The victory also gave the Illini a 3-2 season series win over its Big Ten rival.

    The two victories were much needed for an Illini team that sits on the brink of the NCAA tournament.

    Illinois must now face Purdue and pick up two straight victories on Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals to advance to the championship game.


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