Alec Crawford pitched 6 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run, and redshirt freshman Lance Thonvold recorded the final seven outs, as the Gophers defeated Illinois 3-1 on Friday in a Big Ten Tournament elimination game at Target Field.
Illinois (34-18) got knocked out of the tournament, but the Fighting Illini entered at No. 30 in the RPI rankings and still have a strong chance to make the 64-team NCAA field.
The Gophers (32-21) will need to win the conference tournament to advance, and they’re still four wins away. They are scheduled to face Nebraska at 3:35 p.m.
Illinois grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning, capitalizing on a two-out error by shortstop Michael Handel.
But Minnesota came back with three runs in the fourth off Illinois starter Ryan Castellanos. Andy Henkemyer lined a double, and Dan Olinger tied it with a two-out single to left field. The Gophers added three bloop singles after that -- by Mark Tatera, Handel and Ryan Abrhamson -- leading to two more runs.
With Crawford (4-2) at 100 pitches, the Gophers turned to Thonvold with two runners aboard in the seventh inning. Thonvold retired Thomas Lindauer to end that threat and pitched the final two innings.