Spartans end Illini's tourney run

Spartans end Illini's tourney run

OMAHA, Neb. — Michigan State’s baseball team struggled against Illinois during the Big Ten’s regular season.

The Big Ten tournament was a different story, and now the third-seeded Illini must wait until Monday to see if their NCAA tournament bubble bursts.

The sixth-seeded Spartans scored 10 runs during the final three innings Friday to knock Illinois out of the Big Ten tourney, winning 11-2.

“It was a tough day,” UI coach Dan Hartleb said. “We struggled late on the mound, and the game just got away from us. That is part of baseball, and, obviously, it was disappointing. We had opportunities on offense but didn’t take advantage of them, which let them hang around.”

The Illini led 2-1 after six innings, but Michigan State broke the game open with five runs in the eighth and four in the ninth.

Illinois (32-21) is on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. The field will be announced at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU.

“I’m really proud of this team,” Hartleb said. “I do believe we are a team that can go into a regional and compete and even win a regional. If you look at our résumé with our record against Top 100 and Top 25 RPI teams, we may be the best bubble team, so hopefully those are things the committee looks at. I think we are worthy of a bid, but I also know that committee has a tough job because there are other teams that are worthy.”

The Illini took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Junior Casey Fletcher doubled, moved to third on an infield single by Ryne Roper and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Nagle.

Illinois led 2-0 after a two-out RBI single by Jason Goldstein in the third inning.

Spartans reliever Jeff Kinley took over after the second run and shut down the Illini, who did not record a hit following a leadoff single in the fourth.

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