Coach John Anderson took a gamble in game 1 of the Big Ten Tournament. Rather than starting game 1 with one of his two aces, he went with the committee approach. Jake Stevenson started, pitched 3 2⁄3 innings before giving way to Brett Schultz who went 3 2⁄3, followed by Max Meyer who closed things out. This is rather typical of what Minnesota does for their Sunday games, but Anderson went with this Sunday strategy for game 1. Couple good reasons to do this.
First of all, Stevenson pitched a great game against Michigan State when the Gophers played them in the regular season.
Secondly, Michigan State is the lowest seeded team in the tournament. Being the 1-seed allows you to play the bottom seed to open the tournament. So why not kick off the tournament by saving your top 2 pitchers. Certainly a gamble, but if you lose you still have your top pitchers to get you back out of the losers bracket. If you win, you have your best pitchers at your disposal to get you to the title game.
Thirdly, Reggie Meyer lost to Michigan State in the regular season.
Regardless, Minnesota won yesterday 3-2 and are in great position for the rest of the tournament. Eli Wilson’s RBI single in the 5th was the difference.
Illinois mashed out 7 runs to beat Indiana 7-1 to earn a matchup with Minnesota. They get the late game tonight at 9:00 CST.
What you should about Illinois
- Bren Spillane is the Big Ten Player of the Year. The first baseman was dominant at the plate and is in the conversation for national player of the year. A .407 batting average, 22 HRs and 57 RBI season not only led the Big Ten, but ranked in the top 10 nationally in all three categories.
- These two teams did not face each other in the regular season.
- Illinois has the best defense in the Big Ten.
- Andy Fisher is likely to be the starter tonight for the Illini. The junior lefty is a transfer from Eastern Illinois. He finished the regular season with a 6-2 record, 3.97 ERA and led the Illini in strikeouts with 52.
Regional and Super Regional Outlook
Winning helps. Other teams losing also helps. Michigan State’s RPI isn’t real strong so a win doesn’t exactly help much, but a loss would have been bad.
For the regional hosting hopes, Minnesota was helped by Texas losing to TCU yesterday. Kentucky and Mississippi State losing on Tuesday certainly helps as well. Those three teams were close behind Minnesota in RPI and these losses helps to prevent them from leapfrogging us.
On the slim chances of getting to be a top 8 seed...North Carolina and Texas Tech were ranked as #6 and #5 for RPI respectively, both lost their opening games. Both of those losses are bad losses and if Minnesota happens to run through the Big Ten Tourney, they could move those two teams. The Gophers would want teams with much lower RPIs to win each of those conference tournaments.
Today we would like to see Duke and NC State lose in the ACC Tourney. Texas A&M faces Auburn today, I think we’d prefer the Tigers winning this one. And Oklahoma State over Texas Tech would be awesome in the Big 12.