Saturday's Roundup | Parker takes third place at NCAA wrestling championships

Saturday's Roundup | Parker takes third place at NCAA wrestling championships

CLEVELAND — Emery Parker felt that his nerves got the better of him in a first-round defeat to an unseeded wrestler.

His national championship hopes were dashed following a 4-3 preliminary loss to North Carolina's Chip Ness.

But, then, Parker said the pressure was off his shoulders.

Maybe it was.

Whatever the case, Parker, a redshirt junior at Illinois, didn't lose another match — reeling off seven straight wins, including four versus higher seeds — en route to a third-place finish at 184 pounds during the NCAA wrestling championships at Quicken Loans Arena.

Parker, who was seeded 10th, completed his comeback with an 8-1 victory over Nebraska's Taylor Venz — the No. 7 seed — in Saturday's consolation final.

"You never really know what's going to go right and what's going to go wrong," Parker said. "That first match didn't go how I wanted it to. The nerves got to me a little more than I would have liked. I had the pressure of having to win over an unseeded guy. But, after that, I got into wrestlebacks and it was just another match. The pressure was off, just time to wrestle."

In a rubber match between Parker and Venz — the former won the regular-season meeting in Champaign before dropping the rematch at the Big Ten championships — the Illini grappler scored a takedown and two points for a near fall in the first period to spur the victory.

In softball

Perry reaches milestone. Make it 500 wins for Tyra Perry.

Perry's Illinois softball team helped its coach reach a milestone number on Saturday, as the Illini collected a 5-3 victory over Cal Poly in a doubleheader split in Fresno, Calif.

After Hailey Martin's walk-off single for the Mustangs sunk the Illini in the first game — a 4-3 defeat in eight innings — Illinois (16-9) shook off that loss quickly in the nightcap.

Alexis Carrillo and Veronica Ruelius had RBI doubles, Kiana Sherlund homered and the Illini amassed nine hits against Cal Poly (14-10) to hand Perry her 500th win as a coach.

In baseball

Spillane rakes. Bren Spillane punished Southern Illinois pitching in the Illinois baseball team's doubleheader split on Saturday afternoon in Carbondale.

Spillane crushed three homers across the two games as part of an eight-hit day that included six RBI. Six of his knocks had exit velocities of at least 107 mph, as the Illini won the first game 16-6 before dropping the nightcap 5-4 to the Sallukis.

Illinois (10-5) and SIU (9-10) play the rubber game at 1 p.m. today.

In women's gymnastics

Balthazor keys win. An important prize was on the line for Illinois at Saturday's B1G Five Meet.

The top three finishers among Michigan State, Maryland, Nebraska and Ohio State and the Illini would clinch a spot in the evening session of this week's Big Ten Championships held at the State Farm Center.

Mission accomplished — and then some.

The Illini hit a season-high score of 196.850 during the meet at the Jenison Field House in East Lansing, Mich., to collect first place — their third straight triumph. Illinois finished ahead of Maryland (195.700), Ohio State (195.150), Nebraska (194.900) and Michigan State (192.825).

"We did an outstanding job this week at attacking every detail," UI coach Nadalie Walsh said. "We transferred everything out onto the competition floor."

Rae Balthazor won the all-around competition with a career-high 39.525 score. The sophomore also won on bars (9.925) and beam (9.900).

In men's gymnastics

Illini stumble. The third-ranked Illinois men's gymnastics team couldn't overcome a pre-meet injury to top tumbler Bobby Baker, falling to No. 1 Oklahoma 412.700-399.700 at Huff Hall on Saturday. Chandler Eggleston, however, posted a season-best 14.450 on high bar for the Illini's lone event victory.

In recruiting

Liddell, Dosunmu claim state titles. Top Illinois recruiting target EJ Liddell won himself a state title.

It wasn't easy.

The Belleville West junior scored 17 points and added 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots as the Maroons knocked off Whitney Young 60-56 in overtime on Saturday.

In Class 3A, Chicago Morgan Park point guard and Illinois signee Ayo Donsunmu also wowed with a game-high 28 points that helped guide the Mustangs to a 71-56 victory over Springfield Southeast in the Class 3A state championship game on Saturday.