Spartans Sweep Illinois, One Win Away from Big Ten Tournament Bid

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Michigan State baseball team hit eight homers and slugged 32 hits in a dominant doubleheader sweep over Illinois Saturday afternoon at Illinois Field. The Spartans won game one, 7-3, and hit five homers and collected a season-high 21 hits in the 16-4 game two victory. With the sweep, the Spartans (25-25, 15-15 Big Ten) are one win away from securing a Big Ten Tournament bid. Michigan State and Illinois (29-25, 15-14) will battle for a Big Ten Tournament spot in the regular-season finale Sunday at 2:05 p.m. ET. MSU can also receive a bid to the tournament if Penn State beats Ohio State (14-15) on Sunday, as the Nittany Lions have won the first three games of their series with the Buckeyes.

Senior Sean Walker had a monster day at the plate, going 6-for-10 with three homers, five RBI and a double in the two games. Walker crushed a solo homer to deep center field in game one, then followed with solo homers in the first and third innings of game two. The Round Lake, Ill., native also had an RBI double in the second inning of game two and an RBI single in the seventh. Walker, who now has a team-leading six homers this year, moved into the top 10 career list at MSU for homers with 25. He also crossed the century mark for career RBI (101) and moved into third all-time at MSU with 43 career doubles.

Kyle Day also had an excellent day at the plate, batting 4-for-8 with six RBI, including a solo homer in the first inning of game one. Day tied his career high in the first game with four RBI.

Michigan State opened the doubleheader with a 7-3 victory in game one. John Dwan pitched an eight-hit, complete game, his second complete game of the year, and struck out five en route to earning his fourth win of the year.

Dwan (4-6) received plenty of run support. Day opened the game with a solo homer in the first inning, and after three scoreless innings, MSU tacked on three runs in the fifth and three in the sixth to go up, 7-0. In the fifth, Eric Roof hit a dramatic inside-the-park homer, his first as a Spartan. Roof hit a deep shot to center field, and Illini center fielder Kyle Hudson tracked it down and appeared to make an outstanding catch as he crashed into the wall. Roof kept running, however, as Hudson dropped the ball after making contact with the wooden fence, and rounded third as Illini put together a 9-4-2 relay to the plate. Roof slid head first and barely beat the tag from catcher Lars Davis, but he was safe, and gave MSU the 2-0 lead. Day followed later in the inning with a two-out, two-run single to center field.

In the sixth, Walker led off with a solo blast. Dennis Jones, who had four hits on the afternoon, hit an RBI single later in the inning and Day walked with the bases loaded for MSU's seventh run of the game.

Illinois stormed back with four consecutive hits in the bottom of the sixth, including back-to-back homers by Davis and Mike Rohde, to score three runs and trim the lead to 7-3. But it was all the Illini could get against Dwan, as the fifth-year senior closed the door in the seventh to secure the Spartan victory.

Mike Stankiewicz (4-5) took the loss for Illini after giving up seven runs, all earned, on 10 hits in six innings of action.

Michigan State exploded for a season-high 21 hits and five homers in game two, crushing the Illini, 16-4. The Spartans didn't waste any time, scoring three runs in the first. Steve Gerstenberger, who went 5-for-10 with four runs in the doubleheader, opened the game with a first-pitch double to center. Brandon Doherty then followed with a deep blast off the scoreboard in left field for his first homer as a Spartan. Doherty tied his season high with three RBI in the game and went 4-for-4 at the plate. Two batters later, Walker hit his second homer of the day with another shot off the backdrop in center field.

The Illini bounced back with three runs of their own in the bottom of the first to tie the game at 3. But it was as close as Illini would get.

Michigan State responded with three runs in the second and six in the third to take a commanding 9-3 lead. Doherty, Chris Roberts and Walker all collected RBI in the second inning. In the third, after back-to-back singles to open the inning, Gerstenberger drilled a towering three-run homer to right field, his third of the season. Day and Roberts followed with back-to-back, run-scoring hits before Walker crushed his third homer of the afternoon, this time a solo shot to left. It marked the third time in Walker's career that he has hit two homers in the same game.

In the fifth, Roberts led off the inning with MSU's fifth homer of the game and eighth of the doubleheader. Roberts hit Brian Long's first pitch way past the 330-foot fence in right field, his second of the season.

The Spartans tacked on three more runs in the seventh, courtesy of RBI hits by Day and Walker.

After the first inning, MSU starter Kyle Corcoran was effective on the mound to earn his second victory of the season. Corcoran (2-1) gave up four runs on seven hits in five innings of work. Peter Wolff pitched two innings of scoreless relief with two strikeouts to close the game for the Spartans.

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