The University of Michigan captured their second straight regular season Big Ten title by splitting a doubleheader with Iowa and having Indiana drop second place Minnesota in the finale of their twinbill.
Michigan beat the Hawkeyes in game one, 11-5. The Wolverines went yard four times -- Kevin Cislo (1), Nate Recknagel (10), Zach Putnam (7) and Jason Christian (7). Recknagel had three hits, three RBI and scored three times. Cislo and Eric Rose each had two hits, two RBI and scored twice. Iowa's Travis Sweet countered with a perfect 4 for 4 game. The Hawkeyes' CF also scored twice and drove in one. 3B Kevin Hoef collected two hits and two RBI. Michael Powers came out of the Wolverines' bullpen to post his second triumph of 2007.
Game two saw the Hawkeyes prevail, 8-6. Nick Erdman improved to 7-2 by going 6.1 innings and allowing four earned runs. Mike Jacobs recorded the final two out to post the save. Caleb Curry had two hits, scored once and drove in one. Dusty Napoleon scored three times. Jason White scored twice and swiped three bases. Matt Wooldrik drove in two runs. Michigan's Recknagel had three hits, scored once and drove in one, while Putnam had two hits, two RBI and scored twice for the Wolverines.
Even though Michigan lost the second game, they claimed the Big Ten regular season crown as Indiana beat Minnesota in their second game of the day, 10-7. Hoosiers OF Andrew Means had two hits (a double and a triple) and four RBI to lead IU. 1B Michael Nilles had two RBI as did 2B Evan Crawford. SS Keith Haas scored three times. The win went to Chris Squires in relief. Derek McCallum had two hits and two RBI for the Gophers. Dan Lyons scored three times, but the loss eliminated any chance the Gophers had of catching Michigan.
The Minnesota loss hands Michigan not only the regular season championship, but the right to host the Big Ten Conference Tournament. I believe the action will start on Wednesday in Ann Arbor. (Yes, I hope to be there.) More on that as the week progresses.
As for the last two tournament spots, they remain up in the air. Michigan State swept today's doubleheader from Illinois by scores of 7-3 and 16-4. In game one, John Dwan pitched a seven inning complete game to earn his fourth win of the year. The Spartans lefty allowed eight hits, three earned runs and no walks. He also struck out five. MSU catcher Kyle Day had a four RBI game. Day, Sean Walker and Eric Roof all homered for the Spartans. (Eric is Illini SS Shawn Roof's brother.) Illinois played some long ball, too, as Lars Davis and Mike Rohde went yard, but it wasn't enough.
In the nightcap, the Spartans put three on the board in the first inning, three more in the second and had a six run third inning that all but finished the Illini chances for the game. A number of MSU players posted crooked numbers in the boxscore. SS Brandon Doherty was 4 for 4 including his first homer of the season with four runs scored and three RBI. Sean Walker had a 4 for 5 game -- including two homers -- with four RBI and two runs scored. 2B Steve Gerstenberger had three hits (and, yes a homer), three runs and three RBI. Kyle Corcoran gave up seven hits and four earned runs over five innings to get his second win. Illini DH Daniel Webb had two hits and two RBI.
In the last series with a bearing on the post-season, Penn State swept Ohio State Saturday. Game one went to the Nittany Lions, 4-2. Craig Clark allowed only two earned runs over six innings to get the win. Drew O'Neil came in and shut the door in the seventh to post his ninth save. Scott Gaffney and Cory Wine both went yard and Brian Ernst had two hits. All three -- Gaffney, Wine and Ernst -- scored once and drove in one. OSU starter J.B. Shuck lost a pitchers duel with Clark, although he went the full six innings giving up eight hits, four earned runs and no walks while striking out five.
PSU took game two, 3-2. Paul Hawkins improved to 4-0 and combined with Michael Lorenston and O'Neil to hold the Bucks to seven hits, three walks and one earned run. O'Neil claimed his tenth save. Penn State SS Gaffney homered for the second straight game and tripled to pace the offense. Like Shuck in the opener, Jake Hale was the hard luck loser for OSU in the nightcap. Hale pitched all six innings allowing just four hits and three earned runs, but couldn't claim a victory. (I'll get to all of the post-season possibilities in a moment.)
Finally, Northwestern swept their last doubleheader of the year taking Purdue by scores of 9-6 and 11-6. Jake Goebbert and Jake Owens each had three hits for NU in game one. Goebbert scored twice and drove in one, Owens scored and had one RBI. Max Mann had two RBI. Joe Muraski improved to 4-4 and Bo Schultz earned his first save. Purdue 3B Dan Black went 3 for 4 with a homer, four RBI and scored a run.
Owens, Goebbert, Mann, Mike Kalina and Antonio Mule each had two hits to lead NU. Owens, Mule and Kalina all had two RBI, as well. Randy Myers worked 6.2 innings to post his fourth win. Ryne White and Jeff Mojzik each had three hits for Purdue. Mojzik and Spencer Ingaldson both had two RBI.
Back to the post-season possibilities. It all begins and ends with Ohio State. If the Buckeyes win tomorrow, they are in the conference tournament. If they lose, they are out. It's that simple. (I think.) As for Illinois and MSU, well if OSU loses, they are off the hook -- they both get in. Now, if OSU wins, the winner of the MSU at Illinois game advances and the loser goes home.
Again, if I have this right (and that's questionable), Ohio State holds the tiebreakers over both schools. So, if OSU wins and MSU wins, Illinois is done for the year. If the Buckeyes win and Illinois beats the Spartans, then David Grewe's side goes home.
While Michigan has won the regular season crown, there is plenty of drama left, as Ohio State, Illinois and Michigan State play for the last two post-season berths. It should be a great final day of the regular season.