Baseball drops two at NCAA regional
June 2, 2019
It wasn’t the ending Illinois baseball was looking for in the postseason. Illinois was eliminated from the Oxford, Mississippi, NCAA regional on Saturday after a 7-5 loss to Jacksonville State. The game was the Illini’s chance at redemption after losing in the opening round of regional play to the Clemson Tigers 8-4 and being sent to the Losers’ Bracket. This was the second time Illinois has fallen short in postseason play, as the team was also eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament after games against Maryland and Michigan.
The Saturday elimination closed out Illinois’ season with an overall record of 36-21, making the 2019 season the Illini’s winningest season since 2015, when they recorded 50 wins and broke the program’s record for most wins.
On Friday, Illinois started out on top, leading Clemson 2-1 through the first three innings. Struggles at the plate prevented the Illini from gaining any insurance against the Tigers, and the Illini bullpen gave up eight runs for an 8-4 loss.
In Saturday’s regional matchup, Illinois scored early with two runs in the top of the second. Those opening runs would come via a sac fly off the bat of freshman shortstop Branden Comia and an RBI single from junior second baseman Michael Massey. The two runs in the second were matched in the sixth, allowing Illinois to pull ahead 4-0.
On the mound, redshirt senior Andy Fisher started for Illinois, and the left-handed pitcher and the Illini defense managed to keep the Gamecocks scoreless until the seventh inning, when Fisher gave up four earned runs. He would be relieved in the eighth by junior Ryan Schmitt, who took the loss for Illinois after giving up two earned runs in the eighth. Schmitt would be relieved by junior Garrett Acton, who managed to strike out one Jacksonville State player but gave up a run as well.
With the season closing out, Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb and his staff prepare to say farewell to 14 seniors — and likely some juniors, as junior Michael Massey is considered on of the MLB’s top Big Ten prospects.