They're good. They're confident. And they know it. Illinois busts another Pac 12 ego and looks for more on Sunday.

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DQ Classic: Illinois, UW Stay Unbeaten

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Late game rallies seems to be the undermining theme to this year’s Dairy Queen Classic in USBank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. For the second straight day it seemed no lead was safe as we saw yet another pair of late-game comebacks, just one day after we saw a Friday where all three winning teams overcame eighth inning deficits.

But huge kudos to Illinois and Washington who both staged big comebacks to win and improve to 2-and-0 in this Big 10-Pac 12 Challenge. Those two teams will meet in a Sunday matinee at the home of Super Bowl 52 and decide who will become the DQ Classic champion.

Oh sure, the Huskies keep walking around like they KNOW they are never out of any game… and you know what? It’s true.

For the record, the official tally is now showing three wins by the Big 10 and three wins by the Pac 12. So Sunday will be a Showdown Sunday in more ways than one.

As Flounder from Animal House would say, “Oh boy is this GREAT!”

Here’s how the Saturday action shook out in the land of the Norse Gods…

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GAME ONE
UCLA righted the ship after blowing a late lead vs. Illinois on day one. No need to worry about the bullpen collapsing this time as starting pitcher Jon Olsen put together an complete game five-hitter and the offense gave him enough support.

LINESCORE:
Mich St. – 000 100 000 – 1  5  1
U.C.L.A – 100 102 00x – 4  7  0

PITCHING
WP: Jon Olsen, 2-0
LP: Ethan Landon, 0-2
Save: None

Jon Olsen once again proves why he’s one of the most valuable aces in the country with today’s complete game win.

TOP HITTERS.
Spartans:
– Ryan King, 2-for-4
– Justin Antoncic, 2-for-4, HR

Bruins:
– Michael Toglia, 3-for-3, HR, double, SB
– Jake Hirabayashi, 2-for-4, HR, 3RBI

RECORDS:
UCLA, 8-2
Michigan State, 2-7

HOW IT WENT DOWN: 
Thankfully for the Bruins there would be no late-inning drama this time.

Staff ace Jon Olsen lived up to his billing by tossing a complete game and relenting just five hits and zero walks. The Spartans got a home run from Justin Antoncic in the fourth inning, but other than that it was mostly smooth sailing for the junior righty. Olsen did manage to also chalk up eight Ks along the way and was hitting 91 on his fastball.

Offensively, the only thing the Bruins needed was Jake Hirabayashi, who had a career day, going 2-for-4 with his first career home run and three RBI. The junior third baseman also had a beautifully laid down RBI bunt that left MSU pitcher and first basemen Ethan Landon and Zack McGuire in no man’s land, accounting for an infield single.

Typical Bruin, doing the little things. Here, Jake Hirabayashi executed the perfect bunt single, also scoring a run.

But we can’t get away from this summation without mentioning the one-man wrecking crew that Michael Toglia was for UCLA today. The sophomore three-hole hitter started the game with a sonic home run, then followed that up with a leadoff double in the fourth (where he scored) and then a single and a walk to round out his perfect day at the dish.

Oh, he also made this catch of a pop-up in foul ground.

PICS
A few additional images from today’s first game…

Justin Antoncic’s solo yard call gave the Spartans some early hope against Olsen and his evil offerings.

 

Big, strapping Ethan Landon will have better days. The junior righty went 6.0 innings against the Bruins and had flashes of brilliance. But ultimately he surrendered four runs on seven hits and took the L for the Big Green.

 

Look where his eyes are: Using textbook fundamentals of looking the ball into the glove, UCLA right fielder Garrett Mitchell makes a successful diving catch of a line drive.

 

Not known for his big bat, Jake Hirabayashi was able slam his first career home run today, helping the Bruins to put distance between themselves and MSU.

 

“Now that’s MUCH better guys” coach John Savage is probably telling his team here after taking down Michigan State in short order.

 

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GAME TWO
Arizona took the lead in the sixth inning, but the Illini were completely unfazed, scoring single runs in the seventh and eighth innings and getting some pinpoint relief pitching to take down the Desert Cats and move on to Sunday.

LINESCORE:
Illinois.. – 100 100 110 – 4  11 0
Arizona – 100 002 000 – 3  6  1

PITCHING
WP: Ryan Thompson, 3-0
LP: Gil Luna, 0-1
Save: Joey Gerber, 3

TOP HITTERS.
Illini:
– Bren Spillane, 2-for-4, double, 2RBI
– Michael Massey, 2-for-4, RBI

Wildcats:
– Alfonso Rivas, 2-for-4, triple, RBI
– Ryan Haug, 2-for-4, RBI

RECORDS:
– Illinois, 5-3
– Arizona, 5-5

HOW IT WENT DOWN: 
Man, this Illini team is like silly putty. It takes the pain, it leaves an imprint and yet it just keeps rebounding into a new shape. It adapts. It adjusts. It keeps coming back.

In today’s second game, the Arizona Wildcats took a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning thanks to a triple by Alfonso Rivas and an RBI single from Nick Quintana. But the Illini didn’t blush. The next half inning Ben Troike got a leadoff plunking, his second dose of the day. An RBI double from Bran Spillane then followed, scoring Troike and tying the score back up at three each.

But the real magic happened in the eighth inning where Spillane came to the dish with the bases loaded and had an 11-pitch at-bat before finally culling an RBI walk, giving the Illini the lead once again. It was also a lead the Orange Crush would not relinquish. In the eighth inning alone, the Illini forced Arizona to throw 41 pitches to six batters and included 12 foul offs. Here is the tweet that Illinois SID Brett Moore posted…

Back on the mound, two UI relievers combined to force the Wildcats to go three-and-out in each frame. Credit Ryan Thompson and Joey Gerber with shutting things down in order in the later innings. Combined with the six inning stint by starting pitcher Andy Fisher, the Illini arms gave up just the six hits and zero walks in the game.

“We didn’t play all that good in the first week of the season,” coach Dan Hartleb said afterward. “We gave up way too many walks. And I’ve been a little rough on them since then. I’ve challenged them, especially the pitching staff, and they’ve responded.”

Man, you gotta like these plucky Illini. They are afraid of nothing.

PICS
A few additional images from today’s second game…

Andy Fisher didn’t factor in today’s decision but he pitched well enough to keep his team in the game.

 

Pete Rose would be proud.Arizona’s Alfonso Rivas slides Charlie Hustle-style into third base on a triple.

But some of Arizona’s gambles didn’t pay off, like here when Blake Paugh attempts a steal of second.

 

Illinois was mostly spot-on today but there was this pop-up into the Bermuda Triangle in short-center field that eluded three Illini gloves and took a huge bounce out of the parameters of my camera shot.

 

You can’t spell his name but you can high-five his batting gloves. Mark Skonieczny (#25) gets a heroes welcome by his dugout mates.

 

With two innings of spotless ball, Illinois reliever Ryan Thompson earned the hard-fought win.

 

It’s hard to fault Arizona for playing to the very end. This is left fielder Cal Stevenson absolutely laying out for what ended up being the final out of the Illinois offense today.

 

Joey Gerber picked up his second save in as many days for the Illini.

 

 

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GAME THREE
For the second day in a row Washington rallies from behind to take a 10-inning victory here in the land of 10,000 lakes. Tonight, it was the host Gophers who were the victim of Udub’s late-inning magic.

LINESCORE:
Washington – 010 002 010 2 – 6  9  0
Minnesota. – 013 000 000 0 –  4  9  1

PITCHING
WP: Stevie Emanuels, 2-1
LP: Joshua Culliver, 1-1
Save: None

TOP HITTERS.
Huskies:
– Nick Kahle, 2-for-4, RBI, scored game-winning run
– Levi Jordan, 2-for-5 RBI
– Joe Wainhouse, 2-for-5, double, RBI

Gophers:
– Terrin Vavra, HR, RBI
– Toby Hanson, 2-for-5, double, RBI
– Micah Coffey, 2-for-4, triple, RBI

RECORDS:
– Washington, 6-3
– Minnesota, 8-3

Hey Udub, give yourselves a pat on the back. Good baseball playin’ the last two days, boys.

HOW IT WENT DOWN: 
For the second night in a row the Huskies come up aces once again as the game reaches extra innings. They rallied from an early 4-1 deficit and scored two runs in the sixth inning and a single run in the eighth to knot the game at 4-4.

But before we get to describing how they won this thing in extra innings, first we’ve got to give a shout-out to their bullpen. Starting pitcher Chris Micheles didn’t have his best stuff tonight, leaving a lot of pitches fat right over the plate. And a good-hitting team like Minnesota is going to capitalize on that, which they did.

But Lucas Knowles, Leo Bierenberg and Stevie Emanuels combined for 7.2 innings of scoreless work, giving up just four hits and one walk in all. Because of their effort, the Gophers (one of the top batting orders in the country) got quelled for the remainder of the game.

So the 10th inning… here’s how it went down.

Nick Kahle got the ball rolling with a one-out single. Levi Jordan, a hero in Friday night’s 4-3 win over Michigan State, slapped a double off the wall in left-center which scored a rumbling, stumbling, bumbling Kahle all the way from first to put the Dawgs up 5-4.

This is Nick Kahle “sliding” into home plate… or to be accurate, giving it an atomic drop with his elbow.

 

Then, lumberjacking DH Joe Wainhouse bounced a ground rule double just out of the reach of Minnesota left-fielderJordan Kozicky, scoring Jordan from second. That made it 6-4.

Minnesota’s Jordan Kozicky barely misses this shot down the line by UW’s Joe Wainhouse. So close, but yet so far. The ball ended up bouncing into the stands and gave Wainhouse a ground rule RBI double.

From there it was all about big Stevie. Mr. Emanuels tossed the final 1.1 innings and didn’t give up jack-squat. After giving up a hit and a walk in the 10th inning vs. Michigan State on Friday night, Emanuels was much more in clamp-down mode here, giving no hope to the homestanding Gophers and no sign of an 11th inning ahead.

As mentioned above, the Huskies now take their 2-0 mark at the Dairy Queen Classic up against fellow unbeaten Illinois to decide the champion for 2018.

PICS
A few additional images from today’s final game…

Early on it looked like this was going to be Minnesota’s game to lose with Terrin Vavra getting the sledgehammer of acceptance after parking a solo home run to put the Gophers up early.

 

Goldy was nice enough to return this hat to the little boy who dropped it while leaning over the stands. Now don’t ever let that happen again Junior.

 

Udub’s A.J. Graffagnino, one of the better shortstops in D1 baseball, makes a routine catch of an infield fly.

 

Gophers left fielder Jordan Kozicky had a tough ball to follow after Levi Jordan nearly sent this salvo over the left field wall in the 10th inning.

 

Levi Jordan gets the heroes welcome after knocking in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning and scoring himself to account for the two-run lead.

 

It won’t make ESPN’s Top 10 though it probably should. Kaiser Weiss makes an acrobatic catch out in the meadow that saved a run or two for the Huskies.

 

It did not end up deciding the game but Ben Mezzenga’s slide into first to avoid the tag was one of the better plays of the day.

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