An Illini Comeback: Big Ten Baseball doesn’t get any better than this

First of all, let me get this out of the way:

Yessss! All Right!! WOW! Way to go, Illini! Woo hoo! I-L-L, I-N-I!!


Sunday’s scoreboard shows the incredible comeback by the Illini

Yes, the Illini won today. In a must-win game in order to go on to the Big Ten tournament, the University of Illinois baseball team did not give up despite being down by seven runs in the bottom of the fifth. They kept pecking away at the lead until finally the game was theirs. Kudos to all of the team members for a job well done against a very tough Michigan State team.

With the Illini down 7-0 in the bottom of the fifth, it was Nick Stockwell who gave us some hope. With two out, two runners on and a two strike count, Stockwell cranked a ball over the left field fence that hit the scoreboard. That made it 7-3 MSU.

Lars Davis was key to the comeback with 2 homeruns and 3 rbis

A homerun by Lars Davis and a rbi single by Shawn Roof scoring Mike Rohde in the bottom of the sixth made it 7-5. In the seventh, a base hit by Kyle Hudson, a triple by Brandon Wikoff and yes, another home run by Lars Davis made it 8-7 which end up the final score.

Reliever Jake Toohey allowed no runs in 4 1/3 IP

But, wait a minute, what were the Spartans doing all this time? Well, I’m not going any further in this article without talking about Jake Toohey, Illinois’ stopper in the bullpen, and his role in this game. Sunday, Toohey redefined the definition of a closer as he came in with two outs in the fifth… and closed the game out for the Illini. For the record, he scattered 5 hits and 3 walks over 4 1/3 innings and allowed NO runs for the win. Ice that arm, Jake. We’re going to need it in the tournament.

Yes, the tournament. That sounds so sweet.

The Big Ten tournament starts in three days. The boys have a practice day in Ann Arbor on Tuesday.

And I already have my train ticket reserved.

Go Illini!!

By the way, here are the photos I took at Sunday’s game.

8 Responses to “An Illini Comeback: Big Ten Baseball doesn’t get any better than this”

  1. Great news for ILL-INI.

    Makes me want to resurrect The Chief and take him to Ann Arbor. What an inspiration that would be for the baseball team!

    Right, Chicago Bob?

  2. DonS, I’ll keep this apolitical.

    But I will add this much: among all things that should be inspirational, I would also mention the BigTen . com website. Go there and you’ll see that this is “Michigan’s xxth conference championship, blah, blah, blah.” There’s no reason why Illinois (or any other school) should be that far behind in terms of competition. And those trophys aren’t going to play this weekend either, despite what the conference office writes.

    One other thing to think of: in many other Big Ten sports, the conference tourney takes place at a neutral site-why not baseball? Minor league parks in Chicago, Indy, Columbus (or perhaps Cincy or Cleveland) could be used on a rotating basis.

  3. Chicago Bob,

    this is a fantastic moment (for me at least). Let’s not bring that issue into it, Don ;-)

    As for the neutral site issue, it would cut down on logistical problems.

    I was talking to the Sports information director and he said since they didn’t know who was hosting the tourney till just last Saturday, they basically made travel arrangements (hotels, transportation) for all possible sites then canceled the others when they knew for sure.

    I’m sure all other teams had to do the same (except Northwestern and Indiana :))

    Tomorrow i spend traveling to Ann Arbor. Get in around 11:30..


  4. Zealot, I know you and I aren’t the first people to think about this. And I hope we don’t hear that its a money problem. I’m sure everyone would acknowledge that baseball has scheduling inequities, and weather can play a role in skewing the regular season. Why reward the 1st place team even more? Sports like track, golf, etc. have tourneys that welcome all teams: they rotate sites. Basketball also has inequities, but automatically goes to a neutral site. Why not baseball? Somebody must have a reason-good or not.

    And for a real dream, we could follow the example of the SEC. A few years back they held a number of conference tourneys at Disney World. Perfect site, great transportation, hotels galore. And I’ll bet the coaches loved the recruiting publicity.

  5. I’ve whined on about a neutral site for baseball for a while and posed the question to a few in-the-know this week. Here’s what I was told.

    There are two over-lapping reasons why they don’t use a neutral site. First is an equity issue. If baseball gets a neutral site tournament championship all other non-revenue sports are going to demand the same.

    They can’t tell baseball, yes, but soccer, lacrosse and swimming no.

    Second, neither the individual institutions or the conference want to shell out the capital to host every single sport’s tournament at a neutral site.

    I would also speculate that the Big Ten itself would have to “run” more of the show. I don’t think anyone in the Chicago office is too enamored with spending anymore time than necessary on non-revenue events.

    The way it is now, the conference can just show up dictate a few things and not have to organize every aspect of the event. The host school gets that burden.

    Unfortunately, baseball is probably going to have to become something close to a financial success before the conference can justify giving it “special” treatment.

  6. Here’s my thoughts on the post from Brian above. And Brian, I realize you didn’t come up with those reasons; nothing personal, not trying to get into a big war of words here. I’ll respond to those in-the-know people you quoted. I certainly hope they weren’t baseball head coaches: those are the only opinions I would have to accept with the idea that “hey, if that’s the way they think its their own professional futures they’ve got on the line”.

    The first thing I would say is let’s stop talking about revenue vs. non-revenue sports. The Big Ten has precisely two revenue sports: and only one of those two has a neutral site tournament. And at least one neutral site Big Ten Tournament is already held in a decidedly non-revenue sport. Big East baseball certainly is not a revenue sport, and it’s probably break-even at best in the ACC. Those conferences aren’t waiting to call it a financial success AFAIK. IMHO, that’s a non-starter.

    Next, if the conference office potentially isn’t ashamed to admit that they want nothing to do with running a tournament then I won’t hesitate to criticize them for taking such an obstinate stance. Why should we lag behind the Big Twelve (baseball tournament in Oklahoma City at a what is AFAIK a Triple A park), the ACC (Jacksonville), the SEC (suburban Birmingham) and the Big East (Brooklyn)? Because the conference office has no expertise in running a independent tournament? I don’t buy that as a valid argument at all. If a longshot had come in and Indiana had been this year’s host, how much expertise would they bring to the table? About the only thing that anyone at the conference office could say was “if it was screwed up it was IU’s fault, not ours”. That’s not helpful at all. Our high school baseball tournament in Illinois is held at a minor league park, they manage to work out the logistics. It can be done, it’s a matter of desire.

    Third, sports like cross-country, golf and swimming shouldn’t be considered in this conversation. They don’t have a conference season (with something close to a round-robin schedule) in which to crown a regular season champ, and let that team host the tournament. Those teams may only see the other conference squads at their Big Ten Tournaments. An “everyone welcome” sport like track can have a rotating, random school site schedule for its tournament. Baseball uses the regular season to eliminate some teams from the tournament. Rotating schools wouldn’t work here without significantly changing the schedule: but with many individual skill sports it’s just fine.

    Anticipating one other equity issue: The ACC and SEC both have their softball tournaments on campus: the Big East has a neutral site AFAIK (but it’s in the city of South Bend) and the Big 12 uses the national softball center in Oklahoma City. And also, let’s accept reality-in the year 2007, there are far more neutral baseball sites than neutral softball sites. Softball should be just as much of a neutral-site sport as baseball, but the facilities aren’t as numerous and IMHO we shouldn’t make one sport wait on the other.

    BTW, to complete the survey of the BCS conferences, the Pac 10 has campus sites for their baseball and softball tournaments, just as the Big Ten does. So we’re no better or worse than that conference: and accepting reality here also, Pac 10 baseball overall is on a different level from Big Ten baseball overall.

    All in all, unless the in-the-know group is the conference baseball coaches themselves then I can’t agree with most of the reasoning you’ve relayed here Brian. Please don’t misunderstand and take this as personal criticism: it’s not meant that way and I do thank you for taking the time to post. Always enjoyable to talk Big Ten athletics.

  7. Chicago Bob, I can’t take much offense as you and I completely agree. (I love the point about the Big East tournament.) As you stated, I’m not the one objecting the concept, I want a neutral site.

    I don’t know if I’m at liberty to share my source, but I would qualify it as a level above the coaches.

    As to the revenue and equity issues, I was told that another team sport recently made a proposal to host an off-campus conference tournament and to stay consistent with their policy that event was shot down, as well.

    The conference (and the schools, apparently) view the basketball tournament as separate for one major reason : $. It creates revenue.

    I think if the Big Ten saw dollar signs with baseball ( the host school doesn’t make money on the baseball tournament), all this would change tomorrow.

    Please keep in mind the part about running the tournament was my speculation, not what I was told. Sometimes, my opinion and the information get lost amongst each other. Mostly because I’m passionate about this issue and a bit critical of the conference. However, I hope I made that clear in the original post.

    Bob, where you’ve hit the nail right on the head is with the use of the word “desire”. Honestly, for baseball, there is little desire in the Big Ten.

    Oh, there are pockets of both schools and Big Ten officials that do care and want to see the league’s baseball grow, but for most the non-revenue sports are both cute and an annoyance.

    We are getting more schools on board, especially with new coaches and with a number of programs upgrading facilities. However, getting baseball to the next level remains an uphill battle.

    Chicago Bob, I’m hoping we can find enough people like you to help promote the neutral site concept. I may need you the next time I’m in a discussion about this. Probably 365 days from now.

    Thanks for your insight and feel free to question my thought process at any time.

  8. Brian, that’s very sad. I’m going to infer that the hesitant person you spoke of is at least an assistant AD, if not a full AD: and those people should be pushing the other way, to catch up to the other power conferences. Keep it as is and I would say that AD’s will have a more difficult time attracting and retaining coaches. IMHO, its almost surreal that a responsible AD would not be all in favor of attaining the level achieved by the ACC and Big East-and moving on from there.

    Personally, I can’t think that the Big East or ACC are making money-and the SEC and Big 12 aren’t making much. And I can’t believe that ANY conference went into a neutral site tourney with the expectation that it would start off making money from Day One.

    And I’m also trying to imagine which sport had a good proposal for a off-campus tourney and had that turned down by the AD’s. To me, you’d be sending the same message to those coaches that you are sending to the baseball coaches: we’re satisfied at a lower level. Grrr.

    Changing subjects: The last day of summer 2007 in Chicago was today, May 30. :-((((((((

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