Friday, May 25, 2007

Tournament Day Three: PSU Bounces Michigan & Illinois; OSU Beats Minnesota

I admit that's the longest post title ever. However, it was a day worthy of a protracted headline. Our Friday began with Penn State eliminating top seeded Michigan, 6-5, in ten innings. Penn State headed into the ninth inning leading 5-2 behind good outings from Paul Hawkins (5.0 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 2 ER) and Matt O'Grodnik (2.2 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 0 ER) and with closer Drew O'Neil on the hill. O'Neil, PSU's first team All-Big Ten closer, had been nothing short of dominant in recent showings. (Hey, he was first team all-conference for a reason.)

With the Wolverines staring elimination in the face, they mounted a three-run ninth inning comeback that forced extra innings. In the tenth, PSU's Cory Wine cleared the right field wall for his fifth homerun of the season and put the Nittany Lions up for good. It was a tension filled game, as both teams faced elimination.

Wine, who had hit a big two run triple earlier in the game, led PSU with three RBI. Wine, Matt Cavagnaro and Garrett Field each had two hits. O'Neil, who lost the save opportunity, did pick up the win.

Nate Recknagel and Derek VanBuskirk each had three hits a piece for Michigan who must now waiting for Monday to see if their 39 win season will result in a NCAA tournament invitation. (Hopefully, I'll have more on that in a bit.)

Penn State's win moved them into the second game of the day, a contest with Illinois. The Illini led 2-1 after seven innings. In the eighth, PSU put five on the board to secure a 6-2 triumph. Freshman John Karr worked 5.1 innings allowing six hits, two walks and two earned runs. Matt O'Grodnik (4-3) posted the win pitching the last 3.2 innings giving up just one hit.

Rob Yodice's three run double was the highlight of the Nittany Lions five run eighth. Joe Blackburn had two hits, scored twice and had a RBI. Mike Deese had three hits and two RBI.

Illinois' Shawn Roof had a pair of hits and stole his fortieth base of the year. Scott Shaw tossed a very strong 7.0 innings giving up three hits, a walk and three runs only two of which were earned. Shaw also struck out six, but took the loss.

Their second win of the day kept Penn State's season alive and eliminated Illinois from the tournament. The Nittany Lions have become the Kings of Elimination. So far, they've taken Iowa, Michigan and Illinois out of this tournament.

In the last game of the day, Ohio State rallied to beat Minnesota, 10-9, in 11 innings. Jacob Howell, who went 5 for 7, drove home Chris Macke with the game winner in the 11th. Eric Fryer, Justin Miller and Cory Rupert each had two RBI a piece to lead OSU. Rory Meister was the last Buckeye hurler standing and got the win. The veteran righthander worked 2.2 innings and gave up one hit and no runs.

Dan Lyons had three hits and three RBI for the Gophers. Mike Mee, who clearly appears ailing, also had three hits. Nate Hanson had two hits and three RBI.

I have to come clean and admit I bailed on this game early. I had some things to take care of back at the house, so with the Gophers up 9-5, it looked like a good time to sneak out early. Obviously, I made another poor decision.

As for your Saturday schedule, Minnesota, the second seed, will play in tomorrow's 3:35pm elimination game against Penn State, the third seed. Sixth seeded Ohio State moves onto the championship game tomorrow night at 7:05pm. The Buckeyes will await the winner of Minnesota/Penn State. Should OSU win that affair, they would be conference tournament champions. A Buckeye loss Saturday night forces a Sunday re-match for the Big Ten's post-season crown and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

In what is already a far too long a post, I'm going to pile on. Here are some random things I've chosen to share with you.

* In a story shared on-the-air by the voice of PSU baseball, Justin Weyman, Nittany Lions 2B Matt Cavagnaro didn't much care for a bat, so he hung it from a noose in the hallway behind the dugout.

* It was not a good day for closers.

* Pitchers for tomorrow's game will be decided by coin toss. Maybe the winner of the hot dog eating contest can pitch the next inning? Seriously, this tournament does become an endurance contest for your pitching staff. I wonder if all the remaining games will be like tonight's Minnesota/Ohio State game -- high scoring and, thus, slowly played? Of course if it's slow enough, next year's recruiting class might be eligible before the game concludes.

* I can't seem to recall if the playing surface at Ray Fisher Stadium is going to be changed during this renovation. I've seen a number of bad hops this season including a few more today. If it's not part of the renovation, maybe it should be.

* CSTV is going to broadcast the would-be championship game tomorrow at 7:05pm.

* Anybody else starting to get concerned about the chances of Minnesota and/or Michigan landing an at-large bid? I must admit that I haven't reviewed all of the other conference tournament action, but the more upsets around the country, the more difficult it becomes for Big Ten programs to grab an at-large bid.

It's not that the Gophers and Wolverines aren't deserving, but their conference tournament losses combined with some upsets beyond the Big Ten provide the NCAA tournament committee with ample opportunity to justify overlooking both programs. Yes, yes, I know -- all the projections have both schools in The Dance. Well, projections had Dewey over Truman, Custer over the Native Americans and thunderstorms today.

* Kudos to the Michigan administration for getting the conference tournament t-shirts on sale Wednesday. I called you out when they weren't ready last year, so I applaud your timely efforts this season.

* Thanks to Tom, The Baseball Zealot, for saying nice things about this weblog and me, for that matter. If you follow Illini baseball, I would encourage you to check out Tom's site.

* I also have to thank Brian at MGoBlog for referring his readers here. First, CSTV's Eric Sorenson. Now, MGoBlog. I may just have to retire. There is no where to go but down from here.

I welcome all the MGoBlog readers aboard. If you can get past the decline in quality from Brian's blog to here, you'll be fine.