Winning It All
(Yes I chose the cheesey title of a song by The Outfield)
Never mess with a streak. That's the clean version of course. I always preferred the Bull Durham version.
The post-game notes from the Illini's 3-1 win over Indiana to clinch the series pointed out that the Illini were 6-0 since the beer taps started flowing at Illinois Field. And then we promptly got beat 9-2 on Sunday. Cue sad trumpet sound
Of course, the good news is we clinched we won the series against the No. 19-ranked Hoosiers. And, even better, we moved back into the D1baseball.com Top 25 at No. 25 and our RPI jumped to No. 18.
Win the next two series, throw in a couple wins at the Big Ten Tourney and it's time to get out those white bucks and gators -- your choice, of course -- and go dancing.
Friday and Saturday were so...drama free?!?!?! The starting pitching tandem of Andy Fisher and Ty Weber was so dominant on Friday and Saturday that the Hoosiers managed just six total hits through the first 18 innings of this series. Think about that. What's the football or basketball equivalent? Holding tOSU to 200 total yards in a game? Holding Michigan St. to 20 first-half points? It's crazy.
The only concern was junior shortstop Ben Troike wearing a pitch off the leg and having to sit out Sunday's finale.
So where does this leave our Illini? They are 5-1 against Top 25 teams and 12-5 against teams ranked in the Top 50. Those wins, combined with a schedule that ranks 13th in the Strength of Schedule, equals a No. 18 ranking in the RPI
In fact, Dan Hartleb's squad boasts more RPI Top 50 wins than No. 5 East Carolina (7-6), No. 10 Tennessee (11-13), No. 11 Miami (10-11), No. 12 Oklahoma St. (7-7), No. 13 North Carolina (8-7), No. 14 UC-Santa Barbara (3-0) and No. 15 Auburn (10-14).
But at this point, all you can do is just keep winning series. Purdue (18-28, 7-10) comes town first for senior weekend festivities. If you haven't yet made it out to Illinois Field, there's no better weekend than this one because it's FREE ADMISSION!!!
Now, here's the downside. That awful 1-5 start to B1G play hurts...a lot. Despite recent improvements, we are still only in 6th place in the Big 10. Only eight teams make the tourney, hence my source of worry. With six games left, we've got 1.5 games on Rutgers and 2 full games on Maryland and Northwestern. And obviously, if you can't make your conference tournament, you're probably not making the NCAA tournament.
So, as Al Davis said, "just win baby!"