Big Blue Baseball Upsets the U of I

Trevor Hooth

It is a tale as old as time itself. David vs. Goliath. The favorite squaring off against the underdog.  No one quite knows how the small guy can tame the beast, but time and time again, that is how it goes.

Campus was abuzz when the news came out that the Millikin baseball team was scheduled to play the University of Illinois. News spread quickly around the small campus, as news has a tendency to do. Out of the excitement quickly spawned predictions of the game.  Spoiler alert, none of the predictions involved Millikin winning. Or even being close for that matter.  

The story of how this game came about is a bit of luck. This is the first season that the CCIW allowed teams to play other schools during the fall season. So, when Coach Brandon Townsend handed out the practice schedule, players were delighted to see outside competition.

However, originally, the schedule read “Parkland College.” They are a tough opponent, just as U of I, but they aren’t a part of the NCAA. Then, some things happened within the Cobras team that caused their coach to pull the plug. As Townsend searched for a new team, and the Fighting Illini happened to agree to a game.

“Illinois is my favorite college team so just playing them was a dream come true,” senior outfielder Devin Crews said.

Never in his wildest dreams could Crews imagine the outcome. David once again beat Goliath 6-3 in a 10 inning scrimmage. It was a tight game throughout. Entering the top of the eighth inning, the Big Blue were losing 3-1. But then a five run outburst put Millikin in the lead, and they never looked back.

What the Big Blue showed was a lot of heart and talent throughout their entire team. The pitching staff saw a great outing from Sophomore Ben Williamson as he struck out three Illini batters through two innings of work. And senior Logan Talkington pitched the last two outs to secure the victory.

The last out? That was a ground ball to Decatur’s own Adam Peters. After a torn labrum sidelined the man known as “AP” his freshman year, he worked his way back. For the last two years he has been known for his ability to make plays with his glove. Sure enough, the reliable infielder scooped up the final ground ball of the game and ran over to second base. The exact second his foot touched that base, Goliath had fallen.

“I could feel everyone in the dugout sort of holding their breath until I beat the runner to the base,” Peters said. “And then being able to celebrate with the team on the field like we do after every win was just awesome.”

As cool as this type of game is for the younger players on the team, the seniors really have something to look back on. When they decided to continue their playing careers as Millikin four years ago, playing on an NCAA Division I stage was not something they expected.

They have spent four years giving everything they have to the program in hopes to improve the reputation of Millikin Baseball. Whether it be Julian Guttierez and Seth Coffey gathering All-CCIW honors as sophomores, or Crews tying a long-standing record as a junior. This class has put the work in, and it all culminated to 10 innings of play in Champaign.

“Beating Illinois was one of the most fulfilling baseball moments of my career,” Crews said. “It felt like we have been fighting for relevancy in the previous years I have been here, and that win felt like we finally broke through the wall.”