Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.

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Crawford, Thonvold keep Gophers alive in Big Ten tourney

Posted by: Joe Christensen under The Big 10 Updated: May 24, 2013 - 2:19 PM

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.

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