The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Schroeder leads from behind plate as Illini baseball chases Big Ten championship

Daniel Zhou
Catcher Jacob Schroeder runs across the field during the second inning of a game against Eastern Illinois on Apr. 18.

After a season characterized by new faces in the program, Illinois baseball heads into 2024 with their eyes on a Big Ten championship tournament win.

Kicking off the season once again with the Wake Forest tournament, Illinois has another chance to face the top-ranked program. The Illini will advance to play another tournament with a tough program in Coastal Carolina, followed by the First Pitch Invitational in Greenville, South Carolina. The schedule stays difficult as a three-game series against Tennessee is set before Illinois moves into conference play.

Entering his 34th season with the Illini and 19th at the helm of the program, head coach Dan Hartleb faces the challenge of overcoming inconsistency suffered last spring. Illinois ended 2023 with a record just short of .500 (25-27) and went 12-12 against Big Ten opponents. Hartleb is the winningest coach in Illinois baseball history, with over 500 to his name.

Veteran catcher and leader for the Illini, redshirt senior Jacob Schroeder has developed a solid rapport with the Illini bullpen and contributes his strong swing to the batting order.

“We went to some tough places last year, too,” Schroeder said. “I felt like we played well and were in a really good spot, but when we came to Big Ten play, we threw those lessons learned away and played down to our competition.”

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Schroeder was one of 14 new players for the Illini last season. After playing for the White Sox ACE team and at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, he started his college career at Northern Illinois but entered the transfer portal after breaking his hamate bone. He then played a season at John A. Logan College before joining the Illini squad.

Last year, he resurged his career starting 38 games for Illinois and hitting .284 on the season. In his junior year, he recorded 38 hits for 40 RBI and knocked 14 dingers.

Schroeder battled with a torn PCL suffered on a slide into home plate during summer ball in June but safely avoided surgery and is “getting pretty close to 100% now.” With time still left before the season, Schroeder said he plans to work on the mental aspect of his batting approach and refine his catching mechanics with the skilled Illini training staff as well as his trainers at home.

Illinois has 21 pitchers listed on the 37-man roster, giving them plenty of bullpen depth. Senior righthanded pitcher Jack Crowder, redshirt senior righthanded pitcher Joe Glassey and sophomore righthanded pitcher Julius Sanchez are returning arms who received considerable mound time last season and an extensive rotation can be expected in 2024.

“We’ve got a lot of electric arms with good value and really nice stuff,” Schroeder said. “There’s a whole bunch of new guys and I think that they have come in here and are just ready to compete. We’ve got a lot of strike throwers, guys who are going to attack and make the other team beat us. We’re not going to beat ourselves with walks.”

With a year of rebuilding in the past and chemistry continuing to build for the Illini, Schroeder carries a confident mindset into this season. Illinois swept Michigan State and Minnesota in 2023 but dropped two out of three games against all of their other Big Ten opponents.

“Obviously, I think that we’re going to go in and beat everyone,” Schroeder said. “But regardless of the results, we should be able to learn and carry that into Big Ten play where we’re playing teams we know we should beat.”

Baseball fans can look forward to Illinois Field’s home opener on March 15 versus Southern Indiana.


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