Illinois rallies late to stay alive at Big Ten tournament

May 24—OMAHA, Neb. — Dan Hartleb didn't want what his team accomplished Thursday afternoon at the Big Ten tournament to be overlooked.

Illinois rallied in the 10th inning in Thursday's elimination game against Iowa for a 4-2 victory. A win that both snapped an eight-game losing streak in tournament play and kept the top-seeded Illini's chances alive to add a tournament championship to their regular-season title with another elimination game at 7 p.m. Friday against the loser of Thursday night's late game between No. 4 seed Michigan and No. 8 seed Penn State.

But that Coltin Quagliano's two-run single landed into left field wasn't the narrative-driving moment of the 10th inning at Charles Schwab Field.

Instead, it was an interference call on No. 5 Iowa in the bottom half of the inning that wiped out a run, saddled the Hawkeyes with two outs and effectively wiped out any chance of their own comeback.

"Umpires aren't paid to look at the situation," Hartleb said. "That's like saying we should expand the strike zone a little bit in the ninth inning.

"You call the game and you call the rules, and you leave it at that. It's a tough call, and they're enforcing a rule that's in place. I don't want that to take away from our guys, though. Our guys did an outstanding job and found a way to move forward. We were fortunate. I thought our guys competed hard. Really proud of what they've done."

Iowa loaded the bases against Joe Glassey in the bottom of the 10th an inning after the Illinois reliever struck out the side on 11 pitches. A leadoff double followed by a walk followed by a bases-loading single.

Then Michael Seegers hit a sharp groundball to Illinois first baseman Drake Westcott, who fired the ball to Cal Hejza covering second base before a relay to Glassey covering first. The call on the field was interference on Kyle Huckstorf. The runners on third and second were forced to return to their base, while Huckstorf and Seegers were both called out.

Home plate umpire Mark Hutchinson confirmed the call after a replay review, which brought Iowa coach Rick Heller storming out of the dugout. Heller's argument was short-lived, as he was ejected from the game. Glassey struck out Ben Wilmes. Illinois survived and advanced.

"How it all went down, I really don't even understand," Heller said. "I don't. I still don't even know what they saw on the double play. I watched it 20 times. I'm still confused. I thought it was a no-brainer going to get reversed when I saw it on the screen and also thought they might call our guy safe because I thought (Hejza) was off the bag when he caught the ball. At the very least, I thought it would get overturned, but it did not."

Iowa was forced into its own comeback attempt, though, because of Illinois' rally in the top of the 10th. Jacob Schroeder reached on a one-out single, Brody Harding doubled down the right field line and both came around to score when Quagliano got his "head high line drive" past the Hawkeyes' pulled-in infield.

"We work on it all the time," Quagliano said. "Infield comes in, hit the ball hard. Try to get it in the air if possible, but at least hit the ball hard and put it somewhere that puts us in a better opportunity to win."

A win that was added to Glassey's total after his two-inning relief stint. Half dominant with Iowa unable to touch him in the ninth inning and half fortunate when the call in the 10th helped him escape trouble of his own doing. A win that erased a stretch of three consecutive Big Ten tournaments where Illinois left Omaha for Champaign following consecutive losses. And an eight-game losing streak that dated back to 2018.

"I've been a part of the last five losses," Glassey said. "I know how that feels and definitely did not want to end 0-6 and go on back home. We were doing everything we could to make sure we came out with a win and make sure we have a chance to play (Friday)."

Hartleb knew his team hadn't had much success in Omaha in recent years. When he became aware Wednesday's loss to Penn State was an eighth straight, he was surprised.

"That monkey got heavy overnight," Hartleb said. "I think that shows the quality of the Big Ten because we've had good pitchers and good teams that have come out here and we've walked away empty. It's difficult. This conference does not get the credit I think it should for the quality of baseball.

"You have to play extremely well every single day to win a game. It's a big win for us. I always tell our guys it's really hard to win, and you have to do things correctly. We were fortunate we were able to get it done."