Michigan State beats Illinois 11-2, advances to play Indiana

After falling behind 2-0, Michigan State scored 11 unanswered runs to defeat Illinois 11-2, advancing to play No. 1 seed Indiana on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Big Ten Tournament.

The Illini scored runs in the second and third, but Michigan State scored a run in the fifth when shortstop Ryan Richardson scored on a double, stolen base and throwing error, then tied it in the seventh on a bloop RBI single by second baseman Johnny Nate. That chased Illinois starter John Kravetz, who scattered six hits and struck out six batters in 6 2/3 innings.

In the eighth, the Spartans jumped all over Illinois reliever Ronnie Muck. Left fielder Cam Gibson led off with a single and went to second when center fielder Anthony Cheky laid down a bunt and Muck failed to field it. Designated hitter Blaise Salter then crushed a double to center field that scored Gibson, who had to hold to wait for the ball to come down but made an outstanding slide to get the game-tying run. Illinois then walked right fielder Jimmy Pickens to load the bases, but catcher Joel Fisher hit a double off the wall to clear the bases for 3 RBI. Richardson later added an RBI single to make it 7-2. 

In the ninth, the Spartans batted around for a second straight inning. Fisher had another RBI double to finish 3-for-5 with three runs scored and four RBI. Richardson drove in a run with an RBI groundout as did Nate. Gibson drove in a run with a single for the final tally.

Michigan State stater Jake Lowery only made it 2 2/3 innings, but closer Jeff Kinley came in in the third and gave a masterful performance in a rare circumstance, he allowed just two hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out two batters and walking just one to get the win.