CHAMPAIGN – For Illinois, a rainout was as good as a victory.
At least when it came to clinching the third seed for the Big Ten baseball tournament.
LAUDERDALE, Minn. – Sophomore Larry Nuger became the first Big Ten men's golf medalist from Illinois in six years, sharing the honors Sunday with Michigan's Michael Harris and helping the Illini move on in the postseason.
Nuger, who trailed Harris by 1 stroke heading into the fourth round, shot a 1-under-par 70 to draw even at 6-under 278 on the Les Bolstad Golf Course.
CHAMPAIGN – They still don't know who they'll play in the Big Ten baseball tournament. Or when.
What defending champion Illinois knows entering tonight's conference finale against Purdue is that it is headed to the league's four-team playoffs. And that's good enough for a defending champion that, as recently as mid-April, was in eighth place.
URBANA – No celebratory dogpile in the middle of the court.
No cutting down the nets.
No bucket of Gatorade dumped on coach Craig Tiley.
The Illinois men's tennis players shook a few hands. They took a couple of pictures. That was it.
Dan O'Neill's a nervous type today.
Not about walking onto Illinois Field for Senior Day ceremonies with a rowful of family on hand. Or fighting to keep his team in the Big Ten playoff race and his college baseball career afloat. Or even trying to keep his average above .300.
That stuff doesn't merit a bead of sweat.
CHAMPAIGN – His teammates weren't sure what to expect, and his coach was worried about sticking him back in the lineup. But senior Gavin Sontag wasn't nervous.
Sidelined for more than a month with a hip injury, Sontag made his return at Saturday's NCAA regional opener with postseason nemesis Northwestern at Atkins Tennis Center. Coach Craig Tiley was concerned about his comeback, but this was an All-American.
The opportunity to play in the NCAA baseball tournament never has been greater. When the light on the road to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., turns green later this month, 16 more teams will be embarking than a year ago.
If Illinois is to be among the chosen 64, however, it first must qualify for another select group.
With his Illinois women's tennis program ahead of schedule, you would think Sujay Lama might be happy with getting to the NCAA tournament. He wasn't.
Lama's Illini lost to Northwestern 5-3 in Saturday's first-round match at Tempe, Ariz. The teams had split two earlier matches, Illinois winning 4-3 in the regular season and the Wildcats knocking the Illini out of the Big Ten tournament.
CHAMPAIGN – Ohio State isn't playing favorites and Illinois isn't playing around.
The combination has the Illini up to fourth place in the Big Ten baseball race and in control of their postseason destiny.
CHAMPAIGN – Who can forget Todd Murphy?
Not the alumni of his infamous 5 A.M. Club.
"I think (first baseman) Kevin (Rudden) and I must have led the 5 A.M. Club," Illinois senior second baseman D.J. Svihlik said. "I can vividly remember him screaming down my throat. It was almost like he enjoyed doing it.