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Illinois Tops Spartans in Big Ten Tournament Championship Game

Brandon Eckerle set the MSU single-season hits record with his 94th hit of the season in the Minnesota game. Eckerle closes out his career as MSU's all-time hits leader with 261.

May 28, 2011

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Left-hander Corey Kimes allowed one run and scattered seven hits over nine innings while recording a career-best seven strikeouts as Illinois won the 2011 Big Ten Tournament Championship with a 9-1 victory over Michigan State Saturday night at Huntington Park. Kimes (4-4), who retired 11 batters in a row during one stretch, earned a spot on the Big Ten Baseball All-Tournament Team.

"Obviously, the game was disappointing, but I want our guys to walk out of here with their heads held high and with a sense of pride for accomplishing something that hasn't happened at Michigan State in 32 years," said MSU head coach Jake Boss regarding the Spartans winning their first Big Ten regular-season title since 1979. "I'm happy for our guys. It's a year they will remember for the rest of their lives. It's a special group of kids and I'm proud of them."

Tournament MVP Adam Davis gave the Illini a 1-0 with his RBI single with one out in the first.

Illinois (28-25) broke the game open in the third. With two outs, Davis doubled to left center. Michigan State starter Chase Rihtarchik then issued back-to-back walks to Brandon Hohl and Casey McMurray to load the bases. Matt Dittman welcomed reliever Tim Simpson with a grand slam to right field as the Illini took a 5-0 lead.

Rihtarchik (1-4) allowed four runs on three hits over 2 2/3 innings.

Trailing 8-0, Tony Wieber led off the fifth with a double to left center and scored on Joel Fisher's RBI single to right with one out.

The Spartans didn't have another base runner until Jeff Holm singled to center to open the bottom of the ninth. Holm and Brandon Eckerle each collected two hits.



Michigan State (36-21), which shared with Big Ten regular-season title with Illinois, has an outside shot at earning an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. The 36 wins are tied for the third-most in program history.

"This program has come a long ways in my four years here," said Brandon Eckerle, MSU's all-time hits leader. "I'm honored to play here and play with this group of guys. It's a great team."

"It's tough not getting an automatic bid, but there's so many positives that we can take away from this year," said Big Ten Player of the Year Jeff Holm. "I'll always remember this entire year. When I'll look down on my hand and see that (Big Ten Championship) ring, it's going to make it all worthwhile."

Right-hander Kurt Wunderlich, who allowed one run and six hits over eight innings in MSU's 7-1 victory over Purdue Thursday, and third baseman Torsten Boss, who went 6-for-16 and two RBI over four games, were named to the Big Ten Baseball All-Tournament Team.

The Spartans gained a rematch against Illinois, thanks to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Minnesota, 6-3, Saturday afternoon.

Trailing 3-0, Michigan State pushed across a run in the bottom of the fourth as Ryan Jones, who reached with a lead-off single to center, scored three batters later on Jared Hook's RBI single to left.

With the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the sixth, Justin Scanlon lifted a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Holm, and Wieber followed with an RBI single as Boss scored on the suicide squeeze to tie the game at 3-3. Two batters later, Fisher gave MSU the lead for good at 5-3 with a two-run single to left scored Hook and Wieber.

The Spartans added an insurance run in the seventh as Jones scored on a bases-loaded walk to Wieber.

David Garner (5-4) picked up the win, pitching 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief. Garner surrendered four hits and a walk while posting three strikeouts. Wieber retired the Golden Gophers in order in the ninth to record his eighth save.

"David threw outstanding - maybe the outing of the year for him," said Boss. "He was lights out today. We needed him in that big situation, and then Tony Wieber came in and was as electric as I've ever seen him."

Minnesota starter DJ Snelten (1-3) allowed four runs and six hits over five innings.

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