COLUMBUS, Ohio No. 1 seed Ohio State opens 2009 Big Ten Conference tournament play at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at Huntington Park against No. 4 Seed Illinois, a 16-5 winner over No. 5 Michigan State Wednesday.

Minnesota, the No. 2 seed, will also open tournament play Thursday against No. 3 Indiana, a 9-1 winner over Purdue in the second game Wednesday.

Illinois’ win over Michigan State came in the first game of the first Big Ten tournament on a neutral field since 1994. MSU catcher Eric Roof hit a grand slam home run off the scoreboard in right center field to give MSU a 4-0 lead, but Illinois scored five runs in the fourth inning and seven in the sixth to break open the game. RF Pete Cappetta and 2B Josh Parr had four hits apiece and they combined for four doubles, five runs and seven RBI to spark Dan Hartleb’s Illini.

Illinois and Ohio State played two weeks ago in Champaign, with Ohio State winning the series, two-games-to-one, after losing the first game of the three-game set. 

Notes from one spectacular venue that every family in Columbus should visit this week:

  • Way to go, O-HI-O. Ohio is the capital of the college baseball world this week as four conference tournaments are being played in the state. The Horizon League is holding its tournament in Lorain, Ohio at The Pipe Yard; the Atlantic 10 Tournament is being played in Dayton at Fifth Third Field; the Mid American Conference tournament is in Chillicothe at VA Memorial Stadium; and of course the Big Ten tournament is here in Columbus at Huntington Park.
  • Seriously, folks: consider coming to Huntington Park Thursday or Friday or Saturday to watch outstanding collegiate baseball action in a new facility as charming as a Shrek movie and with good music…baseball music, fight songs, organ music. And cheering, too.
  • Games Wednesday start at 12:05 p.m. (Michigan State vs. Purdue), 3:35 p.m. (Minnesota vs. Indiana) and then the Buckeyes, led by All-American candidate and Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Alex Wimmers and Big Ten Player of the Year Dan Burkhart, take the field at 7:05 p.m. against Illinois.
  • More Huntington charm: A hook-and-ladder from one of the Columbus fire stations parked along right field on Nationwide Blvd. during the games Wednesday, and some of the finest firefighters around watched a few innings from the sidewalk and through the fence which runs the length of right field, and is there specifically for that purpose.
  • Advance word is the Ohio State game will draw 3,000. There’s about 8,000 comfy chair back seats in the facility, so come on down and bring the family. Tickets are just $10 at the door and senior citizens and children under 12 get in for $7.