Both Illinois and Indiana posted wins this afternoon and kept the pressure on Minnesota. Illinois beat Purdue, 6-3. Freshman Willie Argo's three hits and four RBI led Illinois.
Indiana kept pace by dropping Michigan State, 6-1. The star in Bloomington is Matt Bashore. The IU lefty tossed eight shutout innings allowing just three hits and one walk. Bashore also struck out 10 Spartans.
The game between Michigan and Northwestern has been postponed. That means a doubleheader for the two teams tomorrow. The twinbill in Evanston starts at 11 am. (That's CST. It's noon for those of us on Eastern Standard Time.)
Iowa and Ohio State begin at 6:35 as does the game between Minnesota and Penn State. The Gophers visit to Happy Valley will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
I'll be back with another update later.
Update (8:55pm EST)
Minnesota holds off Penn State, 4-2. I believe this win does more than just keep the Gophers half-game lead alive. Combined with Illinois' loss yesterday, this Minnesota victory eliminates the Illini from the regular season title chase. By my math, Minnesota will finish with no worse than a .739 winning percentage. Illinois can do no better than .708.
The win also means Indiana can do no better than tie for the conference crown. If the Hoosiers sweep MSU tomorrow, OSU loses and Penn State beats Minnesota, both IU and Minnesota will finish with .739 winning percentages. I would presume that the first tie-breaker is head-to-head play which, unfortunately, also ended in a tie. IU and Minnesota each won a game and the third game was canceled due to weather.
Okay, Big Ten fans, what's the second tie-breaker? If we end up tied, someone's going to be the #1 seed in Columbus.
Speaking of C-bus, Ohio State's in a nail-biter with Iowa, 5-4, in the eighth.
Again, a bit more later when the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes have concluded.
Update (9:20pm EST)
Well, that didn't take too long. The Hawks gave Jake Hale and the Bucks a ninth inning scare, but OSU hangs on to a 5-4 triumph. Let's jump to the standings.
1. Minnesota 17-5
2. Ohio State 17-6
3. Indiana 16-6
4. Illinois 16-7
5. Michigan State 12-11
6. Purdue 10-12
7. Michigan 9-13
8. Penn State 7-16
9. Iowa 4-18
10. Northwestern 3-17
Here are some other things to keep in mind. Michigan State, in spite of falling in Bloomington today, locked up the fifth seed with Purdue's loss to Illinois. The Boilermakers' loss has also left the door open for Michigan to claim the sixth spot.
A Purdue win Saturday, or a Michigan loss, still bounces the Wolverines. However, should Illinois down the Boilers and Michigan takes both games from Northwestern, the Wolverines would sneak into the conference tournament field ahead of Purdue.
The forecast is dicey for both Columbus (70% chance of rain) and State College (70% chance of rain). Thunderstorms are predicted in both locales. Evanston, Bloomington and West Lafayette still run the risk of precipitation through about midday. It should start clearing out by afternoon. (And head straight for C-bus and Happy Valley.)
I wonder if the rain interferes, if the schools (or the conference) will opt for a long-delay in hopes of starting late or if they will cancel and just hold out for a Sunday finale?
The schedule calls for all day games across the board on Saturday.
Enjoy the remainder of your Friday evening.
Update (11:00pm EST)
Yes, I know. I called it a night a while back. Well, I received the answer to my earlier question and decided to run with it now. I was dropped a note that states who wins the tiebreakers between Minnesota and Indiana. (This, of course, presumes Ohio State doesn't step in and win, which no one should presume.) If IU and Minnesota finish in a tie for first and Michigan grabs sixth place, IU takes the tiebreaker.
If those two tie for the top spot and Purdue is the sixth seed, the Gophers win the tiebreaker. Minnesota would also win a tiebreaker with IU for the top seed, if the Boilers and Wolverines were to tie for sixth. (Which can't happen, can it?)
So, not only does the battle for the first place come down to the three teams on top of the standings, but it could come down to the battle for sixth place as well. That seems oddly appropriate. Really what we need with just one day and six games left in the regular season is a few more potential post-season scenarios to keep an eye on.
I'm fairly confident that this will be the final update of the evening. Unless, I get something noteworthy in my email before I turn off the PC.