In case you missed it, the Fighting Illini baseball team is having a record setting year, and poised to make a solid run at the NCAA World Series which starts June 13 in lovely Omaha, NE. The #6 ranked orange and blue are one of 16 teams to host a regional, facing off against 4th ranked Ohio tonight at 7pm. This is a double elimination format and should the Illini find themselves victorious, they will play the winner of Notre Dame and Wright State for a chance to appear in the World Series. The Illini will send left-handed pitcher Kevin Duchene (10-1, 1.30 ERA) to the mound to face off against RHP Jake Miller (6-3, 2.80 ERA). The last time these teams met, in 2013, the Illini won 11-6. They lead the all-time series against Ohio 9-3.
It’s been an amazing year for the Fighting Illini. They were one of five Big Ten teams to qualify for a NCAA regional, which is a conference record. This is their first time hosting a conference regional and their 11th NCAA tournament appearance. The Illini have the No. 1 winning percentage (0.848) in Division 1 baseball and the fewest losses (8). They are 47-8-1 on the year and posted a 27-game winning streak which was snapped by Maryland during the Big 10 Tournament.
Among some of the more exciting players to watch are David Kerian (Player of the Year), and Tyler Jay (Pitcher of the Year).
Junior Tyler Jay leads the nation with a 0.62 WHIP and is second in the country with a 0.64 ERA. He has a career high 13 saves with 26 scoreless appearances out of 28 total appearances. He starts the tournament with 65 strikeouts compared to only 6 walks, which ranks third in the nation. If you haven’t had an opportunity to watch this guy pitch, do yourself a favor and tune in to the game tonight.
Senior David Kerian was the Big 10 leader in home runs this year, sending 14 bombs out of the park. He ended the year with a .366 average, a .644 slugging percentage and a .452 on base percentage. Oh, and he can play an okay first base, boasting a .993 fielding percentage.
Behind Big 10 Coach of the Year, Dan Hartleb, in his 10th season at Illinois, this team has quietly smashed numerous school and Big 10 records. Four Illini pitchers rank in the Big 10 Top Five ERA leaders and the team was first in the Big 10 in home runs (51). They are holding opponents to a .238 average with 423 strikeouts. They are a fun team to watch and given the somewhat disappointing seasons from our football and basketball teams, a breath a fresh air for Illini fans.