MINNEAPOLIS — The No. 11 Illinois women’s gymnastics team earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships on Saturday night by placing second at the Minneapolis Regional.
With a score of 196.600, the Illini edged No. 14 Minnesota by 0.25 point for the runner-up spot. No. 2 Oklahoma won with a 197.725.
Illinois will compete in the NCAA Championships — April 18-20 at Birmingham, Ala. — for the fourth time in six years.
Illini junior Sunny Kato finished in a two-way tie for the uneven parallel bars title with a career-best 9.925 score. Illinois had three of the top-five scorers in the event.
UI senior Sarah Fiedler scored a 9.900 in the balance beam to share the crown with three others.
UI sophomore Giana O’Connor placed second in the all-around with a 39.275.
Illini still streaking. The Illini scored four runs in the top of the 10th inning Saturday to defeat Northwestern 6-2 at Evanston, extending their winning streak to four games.
Illinois played without head coach Dan Hartleb, whose 86-year-old father died Saturday. Hartleb returned to his hometown of Hamilton, Ohio, shortly before the start of Friday’s series opener against the Wildcats after receiving word that his hospitalized father’s condition had worsened.
Illinois (16-11, 4-1 Big Ten) broke open the tight game after the Wildcats (4-21, 1-6) committed a one-out error in the 10th. Following a walk, Will Krug drove in the go-ahead run with a single. Later in the inning, David Kerian delivered a two-run double, and the Illini capped their rally with an RBI ground-out by Reid Roper.
“We kept on grinding and found a way to win in the end,” UI associate head coach Eric Snider said. “Will and David each put good swings on a pitch they could handle.”
Tyler Jay (2-0) earned the win with two hitless innings in relief of starter Ryan Castellanos.
Castellanos went seven innings, holding Northwestern to six hits and two runs while striking out a career-high-tying five. The sophomore right-hander also extended his seasonlong streak of innings pitched without a walk to 34.
Kerian and Casey Fletcher each had two hits for streaking Illinois, which won for the eighth time in nine games.
In men’s golf:
Illini in hunt. No. 8 Illinois shot a 7-under-par 281 in Saturday’s second round to climb to fourth place with one round remaining at the 15-team Augusta (Ga.) Invitational.
The Illini were 5 strokes behind co-leaders Central Florida and Texas. UI sophomore Thomas Detry (71-68-139) was 2 shots off the lead in a tie for fourth place.
In men’s track & field:
Toepfer repeats. Illinois graduate student Jannis Toepfer earned his second win in as many days Saturday, and the Illini finished first in three other events as the Tiger Track Classic wrapped up at Auburn, Ala.
Toepfer, who captured the 5,000 meters Friday, won the 3,000 steeplechase in 8 minutes, 59.99 seconds.
Other Illini winners included Vanier Joseph in the 110 hurdles (13.84 seconds); Cam Viney in the 400 hurdles (50.93) and the 1,600 relay team of DJ Zahn, Joe McAsey, Kenneth Allen and Stephon Pamilton (3:07.07).
In the two-day meet, Illinois also had seven runner-up finishes and 18 top-five performances.
“We performed at a very high level across the board with outstanding early-season marks,” UI coach Mike Turk said. “I think we accomplished a lot and are well ahead of where we were at this time last year. It’s satisfying to come down into SEC country and come home with a bunch of top finishes.”
In women’s track & field:
Duo delivers. The Illini won two events and produced 17 top-10 finishes in the two-day Tiger Track Classic at Auburn, Ala.
Alyssa Schneider placed first in the 3,000 meters (9:29.45) and Britten Petrey captured the 3,000 steeplechase (10:54.98).
Chloe Schmidt (800) and Stephanie Morgan (1,500) each finished second for Illinois.
In women’s tennis:
Doubles at fault. The doubles point was the difference as the Illini fell 4-3 to Michigan State at East Lansing, Mich. Alexis Casati, Louise Kwong and Misia Kedzierski won in singles for Illinois.