Illini win the first against MSU: one more win to go for tourney berth

Tonight’s game against the Spartans of Michigan State had it all. You name it… an injury, questionable umpiring, sibling rivalry, a comeback by the Illini. What a game!

Coach Hartleb passed by where I was twenty minutes before the game. I asked him, “Are you ready?”

“I’m ready but that doesn’t matter.”

Well, it looked like the players were too.

Eric Roof

The Roof family were all decked out in these cool T-shirts

Eric Roof got the start tonight at third base for MSU. He is the younger brother of Shawn Roof. Of the 812 in attendance tonight, half must have been related to the Roofs. A lot of them were wearing this neat T-shirt made this occasion. I introduced myself to one of the Roof clan and asked permission to take a photo of the shirt. I asked who he was rooting for. Both of them.

Good answer.

Tanner Roark got the start tonight. Roark has had really good luck opening up against Big Ten weekends but when he allowed 6 hits and 4 runs in two innings, I started to wonder whether Hartleb would pull him. Well, there’s a reason Hartleb is the manager and I’m just a two-bit blogger. Roark settled down and didn’t allow a run after that.

Mike Rohde’s homerun made it a whole new ballgame

Meanwhile, the offense had some trouble getting it going until they got their first hit in the 3rd inning. And what a hit it was! With two on, Mike Rohde toasted a ball over the centerfield wall and with one swing got the team within one run. Suddenly, it was a new ballgame.

The Illini scored an unearned run in the fifth and another one in the sixth on a Kyle Hudson triple putting the them ahead.

MSU pitcher Chris Cullen is in pain after taking a line drive off the foot

In the eighth, up by a run with Joe Bonadonna on third, Hudson hit a go-backer that hit MSU pitcher Chris Cullen on the foot. Hudson was safe and Bonadonna scored the insurance run. More importantly, the ball to Cullen’s foot was enough to take him out. Someone next to me said they heard the ball hit the foot and it was rather loud. Cullen was on the ground for several minutes before being helped to the training room. Here’s hoping it’s not serious.

That insurance run was pretty valuable. Turns out the Illini needed to cash it in. Jake Toohey, who struck out the batter to get out of a jam in the top of the eighth, gave up a double and a hit bringing MSU within one run. He then forced a groundout for the save.

Illini win 6-5!!

After the game, Shawn Roof ran past me and I extended my forefinger and yelled “One more!” in reference to the one win they need to clinch a berth in the Big Ten tournament. As expected, Roof wasn’t going to have any of that. “Uh-uh.” He put up three fingers. “Three more.”

As always, more of my photos are at The Baseball Zealot Photo Gallery.

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