No. 4 Illinois baseball feeling good ahead of matchup against No. 5 Michigan in first round of Big Ten tournament

Junior+infielder+Branden+Comia+goes+up+to+bat+during+the+match+up+against+Miami+Ohio+on+May+7.+The+Illini+will+begin+the+Big+Ten+Tournament+in+going+up+against+Michigan+in+the+first+round+on+Thursday.+

Sidney Malone

Junior infielder Branden Comia goes up to bat during the match up against Miami Ohio on May 7. The Illini will begin the Big Ten Tournament in going up against Michigan in the first round on Thursday.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

Illinois baseball will play at Charles Schwab Field Omaha in Nebraska starting Wednesday, where the Big Ten tournament will resume for the first time since before the pandemic. The tournament was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, and the Big Ten decided against the tournament again in 2021. Only eight teams make up the tournament. Being the No. 4 seed, the Illini are matched up against No. 5 Michigan on Wednesday at 9 p.m.

Illinois finished 17-7 in the Big Ten, while the Wolverines went 12-12, with the two teams never meeting during the regular season. Michigan is full of experience as the program has been to four of the last six NCAA tournaments, making for a quality opponent in round one for Illinois.

Although it was a down year for the Wolverines, they finished the regular season with a series win against No. 2 Rutgers to secure an overall winning record. The Illini finished even better, as the offense and pitching seemed to come together at the same time heading into the postseason.

“I think we feel pretty good,” junior Branden Comia said. “We’ve won nine of our last 10 games, so you know that’s where we want to be.”

Comia is coming off a big weekend at Penn State and is ready to compete for a conference championship.

    Subscribe to our sports newsletter!

    “Energy is high,” Comia said. “Excitement is high and this tournament is big for a chance for regionals.”

    If the Illini want any hope of playing in the NCAA Tournament, they will likely need multiple wins this week and will need players to step up. Only one team stands alone at the end of the weekend as conference champions, and Comia believes that the Illinois culture can help them succeed.

    “The characters and personalities we have in the dugout, you just wouldn’t see anywhere else,” said Comia. “It’s always fun to come to the ballpark and play with these guys.”

    Comia wasn’t the only big name for the offense this weekend, as fellow juniors Jacob Campbell and Cam McDonald continue to produce runs for the Illini. An offense that finished third in batting average and fourth in on-base percentage in the Big Ten has the tools to continue getting on base in the postseason.

    Although the tournament only has eight teams, the format is double elimination over five days, giving room for error in one game. The winner of Illinois versus Michigan will play the winner of No. 1 Maryland versus No. 8 Indiana on Thursday, and the same will go for the losers.

    The losers bracket is difficult to rise out of, as no team has lost in the first two games and made the championship game in the last six tournaments.

    All games will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network and will also be available on the Fox Sports App.

     

    @benfader7

    [email protected]