Illinois baseball falls short of College World Series

By Daniel Collins

Tyler Jay did what was asked of him Sunday at Illinois Field in game two of the NCAA Champaign Super Regional.

Jay, who spent his career at Illinois coming out of the bullpen, received the nod because the Illini’s season was on the line. And all things considered, he had a strong outing and gave his team a chance to win.

The southpaw went 6.1 while allowing 10 hits, four runs and struck out six against a Vanderbilt offense that produced 34 runs in their previous two games. However, Jay’s performance didn’t propel Illinois to victory. The team lost to Vanderbilt by a score of 4-2.

“Tyler was outstanding today,” head coach Dan Hartleb said. “He competed very, very well. He’s one of the best competitors I’ve ever been around.”

Early on, it seemed as if Illinois had a good chance of coming out with a victory. While Jay had strong command, Vanderbilt’s starter, Philip Pfeifer, struggled with his. The Illini put up two runs in the first three innings, looking as if they would eventually blow the game open.

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“Once we scored a couple runs on him, he really started painting corners on us,” right fielder Casey Fletcher said of Pfeifer. “He got to us. He was a tough pitcher.”

While Pfeifer seemed to slightly settle in as the game went on, there were still many times where Illinois had an opportunity to put together a good offensive inning, but it never happened.

Illinois finished the game with a total of 10 batters left on base.

“We just couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it,” first baseman David Kerian said.

Vanderbilt’s offense was led Dansby Swanson, the first overall pick in the MLB draft. In his first at-bat against Jay, Swanson struck out. The next two times around were a different story, though. The shortstop hit a home run and double, respectively. He went on to score following his double.

With the win, the commodores punched their ticket to the College World Series. With the loss, the Illini’s season is over.

The Illinois record books will show that this is the best team in the schools’s history. Because of that, the team believes the future is bright for the program.

“I think we opened up a lot of doors,” Kerian said. “For it to be a northern school to make it this far (and) host a regional (and) super regional is awesome. I know there’s a lot more recruits who are willing to come here.”

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Check out a gallery of the game here