Okay, Indiana beating up Illinois in baseball is not quite as big as finding Noah’s Ark, watching Cody Zeller sign with the Hoosiers or getting Danica Patrick to blame herself for her Indy 500 qualifying flameout, but it still shows something special is happening with the Hoosiers’ oldest sports program.
Does that mean Cream ‘n Crimson fans care? Perhaps not, at least not universally, but that misses the big picture, which is that a Hoosier athletic team is winning. In these victory-shy times involving the football and basketball programs, that is saying something.
IU crunched the Illini 16-6 to earn a spot in the six-team Big Ten tourney for the third straight year. That it did so with a young and shaky pitching staff reflects its strong hitting as much as it does conference vulnerability.
Depending on your perspective, Big Ten baseball represents either mediocrity or parity. The Hoosiers qualified for the conference tourney despite a 12-12 league record, 27-25 overall. Minnesota won the regular season crown with a losing overall record (27-28), although it did go 15-9 in league play.
That is of no relevance to IU coach Tracy Smith. His team has a chance to defend its conference tourney title and it will do so while boasting some formidable hitting.
Outfielder Alex Dickerson had three hits against Illinois to win the Big Ten triple crown. He led in batting average (.415), home runs (23) and runs batted in (73).
Dickerson needed those three hits given that teammate Jerrud Sabourin finished at .410. He went 2-for-5 with a home run against the Illini.
So what does all this mean? Indiana is the sixth seed, losing out to Purdue (which also finished 12-12) because the Boilers won their series. The Hoosiers will open the double-elimination tourney Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio, against No. 3 seed Northwestern (13-11).
Given the fact the Wildcats (24-30 overall) remind no one of the 1927 New York Yankees, IU has a good shot at advancing and, perhaps, reaching the NCAA tourney for the second straight season.
Hey, it's not like the basketball team returning to NCAA relevance, but it's a start.