The Minnesota Gophers defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini Wednesday, 5-4, following a single by senior Andy Henkemeyer to score the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Henkemeyer finished the game 3-of-4 with two RBIs and led the Gophers to a victory in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament that is being hosted at Target Field until Saturday.
The victory gives Minnesota two consecutive wins over Illinois, following a 2-0 shutout of the Big Ten rival last weekend at Siebert Field. The four-seeded Gophers will face No. 1 Indiana Thursday evening with a chance to play either No. 2 Ohio State or No. 3 Nebraska on Friday.
Nebraska routed Michigan in its opening round game, 11-2 while Ohio State and Indiana had first-round byes.
On a gloomy and wet afternoon, the Illini drew first blood with an RBI single to score the game’s first run, set up by a wild pitch in the previous at-bat. But starter Tom Windle’s walk with the bases loaded made it two runs to nothing.
The Gophers would strike back with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning and another run in the fifth inning to tie the game.
Windle would finish the game with five strikeouts and six walks in five innings of work. Sophomore reliever Ben Meyer pitched the remaining four innings, effectively shutting down the Illini while recording six strikeouts and allowing only two hits to get his fifth win of the year.
“I felt really good, I threw a bullpen session this week too and I’ve been getting my running done. My arm has been feeling great all year,” said Meyer post-game.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Matt Halloran opened with a double and the Gophers followed by loading the bases after Tony Larson got on base with a single and Connor Schaefbauer was intentionally walked. Henkemeyer’s single through the gap into right field drove home the game-winning run — the first walk-off win for Minnesota since April 14, 2012 against Northwestern.