May 23, 2005
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PARK RIDGE, IL – The University of Illinois will serve as host of the 2005 Big Ten Baseball Tournament after clinching the school’s first regular-season League Championship since 1998 this afternoon. The Illini will welcome Purdue, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Minnesota to Illinois Field for the 25th annual event, which will be held next week from Wednesday, May 25, through Saturday, May 28.
The race for the Big Ten title came down to the last day of the regular season, as Illinois and Purdue began Sunday’s action with championship hopes still alive. The Illini entered the final weekend needing only two wins against Iowa to clinch the title but dropped three of four games to the Hawkeyes, including a 7-1 defeat today. The Boilermakers had to sweep in-state rival Indiana to climb into first place and won the first three games of the series before falling 6-0 this afternoon to finish second. The Illini concluded the Conference slate at 20-12, shattering the school record of 19 Conference wins accomplished in 1990 and 1998, to claim their 28th Big Ten Championship, which ranks second all-time behind Michigan’s 32 crowns. Purdue finished the year at 17-11 in League play to capture the No. 2 seed in the Tournament, as both teams earned first-round byes and will begin play on Thursday, May 26.
The remaining four teams in the 2005 Big Ten Tournament were also finalized over the weekend, as the final seeding came down to the last game of the year on Sunday. Iowa (19-13 in Conference action) won three of four games at Illinois to claim sole possession of third place and earn the No. 3 seed. Michigan (17-12) and Ohio State (17-12) entered the weekend tied for fifth place and each picked up 3-1 series victories to climb into fourth place, but the Wolverines collected the No. 4 seed based on a triumph over the Buckeyes on April 22 in a series that was shortened to one game due to weather difficulties. Minnesota (17-15), the reigning Big Ten Tournament champion, saw its streak of three straight Conference titles come to an end this year but picked up the No. 6 seed.
The 2005 Big Ten Tournament will open on Wednesday, May 25, as No. 4 Michigan will battle No. 5 Ohio State before No. 3 Iowa takes on No. 6 Minnesota. The top two seeds begin play on Thursday, May 26, as No. 2 Purdue will face the highest-seeded winner from Wednesday and No. 1 Illinois will square off against the lowest-seeded winner from Wednesday. The Tournament winner is granted the Conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.