Crawford helps Gophers keep season alive

Junior Alec Crawford allowed one run in 6.2 innings after a rocky start, and Minnesota beat Illinois 3-1 to avoid elimination in the Big Ten tournament.

Charlie Armitz

Junior Alec Crawford threw 6.2 innings of one-run ball after a rough start, and the Gophers kept their season alive Friday with a 3-1 victory over Illinois in the Big Ten tournament at Target Field.

Minnesota (32-21) still needs to win four games in three days, including a second game Friday against Nebraska, to win the tournament. A tournament championship would give the Gophers an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, but a loss would likely end their season.

The Gophers scored all three of their runs in the fourth inning off five hits. Dan Olinger, Michael Handel and Ryan Abrahamson had RBI singles in the inning.

Crawford allowed an unearned run and threw 46 pitches in the first two innings. But the righty settled in and gave the Illini few opportunities after that.

Freshman Lance Thonvold threw 2.1 scoreless innings to earn the save. He replaced Crawford with two on and two out in the seventh inning and got out of the jam.

“We’re playing well,” Crawford said. “We’re starting to hit the ball. Defense is making plays as they have all year, and we’re pitching well, so I think we’ll have a good shot at Nebraska.”

Freshman Dalton Sawyer (2-2, 3.09 ERA) will start against the Huskers, who will counter with Ryan Hander (0-2, 6.00 ERA). Sawyer got the win against Nebraska on May 11 at Siebert Field, throwing 2.1 no-hit innings in relief.