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Hoosiers set to open Big Ten Tournament against Illinois

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Fifth-seeded Indiana aims to send a message to the selection committee with a Big Ten title.

(From L to R) Matt Gorski, Chris Lemonis, Drew Ashley, and Ryan Fineman have a discussion during game one of a doubleheader against Northwestern on April 13, 2018 at Bart Kaufman Field. The Hoosiers won the game 12-0 on their way to a weekend sweep of the Wildcats
Auston Matricardi

Who

No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers (37-15, 14-9) at No. 4 Illinois Fighting Illini (31-18, 15-9)

Where

TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Nebraska

When

Wednesday, May 23, 10:00 p.m. — BTN

Probable Starters

RHP Jonathan Stiever (5-4, 3.08 ERA) at RHP Quinn Snarskis (6-1, 3.06 ERA)

Preview

Just 12 days ago, Chris Lemonis’s club found itself in the midst of a dreadful stretch of baseball, where in the span of 20 days, the Indiana Hoosiers had dropped nine of 11 games, taking them from contention for a national seed to an afterthought in both the Big Ten and NCAA pictures. But six consecutive wins later, Indiana looks primed for a run at the Big Ten championship and, if things fall the right way over the next few days, perhaps even a regional to host in Bloomington.

It all starts tonight against an Illinois team that marked the only two wins in that 20-day stretch for Indiana, as the Hoosiers were able to salvage an April home series after dropping the opener. Since then, the Illini have gone 6-4 and were able to finish one-half game ahead of the Hoosiers thanks to a snowed-out ballgame on the first weekend of conference play when Indiana visited Iowa.

For the Hoosiers, first-team All-Big Ten selection Jonathan Stiever will take the bump. Steiver was credited with the loss when these teams played the series opener in April, allowing three runs in 6.2 IP. That evening, the Hoosier offense was stymied, scoring just two runs, continuing an alarming trend of failing to provide run support for their ace. In Stiever’s four starts since a 4-0 win at Ohio State, Indiana has scored just 11 runs, and four of those came in the Bottom of the 8th last weekend against Maryland well after Stiever had exited the ballgame. The result? Indiana is 1-3 in those four games, and Stiever has been credited with three losses.

Indiana will need to be much better offensively to give themselves a shot against the Illini tonight, but it will be no easy task. Illinois will start Quinn Snarskis, who in the second game of the April battle between the two teams, gave up just one run in 7.0 IP. Snarskis hasn’t dropped a decision since Iowa shellacked him for for six runs in March.

Snarskis can expect plenty of support from the Illini offense that is scoring 8.0 runs per game over its last 10 games. Led by Bren Spillane, who is hitting .411 with a league-leading 21 HR and 56 RBIs (all culminating in a whopping .943 SLG%!!), the middle of the Illinois lineup is the most treacherous in the conference.

The winner of tonight’s contest will face the winner of the Minnesota-Michigan State game tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. ET.

Tournament Central

It’s time for your yearly reminder that the tournament bracket is a little funky come Saturday. Here are the scheduling scenarios:

If Indiana wins the first two games: the Hoosiers won’t play on Friday. On Saturday, they would play the only team remaining from the other side of the bracket (Purdue, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio State) with a loss (the other remaining team, like Indiana, would be 2-0). Indiana would only need to take one out of two on Saturday against that opponent to advance to the tournament final on Sunday.

If Indiana wins only one of its first two games: the Hoosiers would play on Friday in an attempt to advance to Saturday and switch sides of the bracket. Regardless of whether Indiana’s loss comes against Illinois or the Minnesota-Michigan State winner, the Hoosiers would play on Friday against whichever team from its own side of the bracket is also 1-1 (one team would be 2-0 and another would have already been eliminated). If Indiana was to win that game on Friday, they would switch sides of the bracket and play whichever team out of Purdue, Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio State was 2-0. The Hoosiers would have to beat that team twice to advance to the tournament final on Sunday.

If Indiana advances to the tournament final: One game, winner take all, regardless of whether either team in the final has a loss.

Wednesday

Game 1 - No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 6 Iowa

Game 2 - No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 7 Ohio State

Game 3 - No. 1 Minnesota vs. No. 8 Michigan State

Game 4 - No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 5 Indiana

Thursday

Game 5* - Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser

Game 6* - Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser

Game 7 - Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner

Game 8 - Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner

Friday

Game 9* - Game 5 Winner vs. Game 7 Loser

Game 10* - Game 6 Winner vs. Game 8 Loser

Saturday

Game 11* - Game 8 Winner vs. Game 9 Winner

Game 12* - Game 7 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner

Game 13* (only necessary if the Game 9 winner wins Game 11) - Game 11 Winner vs. Game 11 Loser

Game 14* (only necessary if the game 10 winner wins Game 12) - Game 12 Winner vs. Game 12 Loser

Sunday

Game 15 (Big Ten Championship Game) - Game 12/14 Winner vs. Game 11/13 Winner

* Denotes an elimination game