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Illinois Ends Season at Oxford Regional

OXFORD, Miss. — The Illinois baseball team’s season came to an end Saturday with a 7-5 loss to Jacksonville State at Swayze Field. Illinois finishes the season 36-21, its second-most wins since 2000.

Illinois led 4-0 in the seventh, but Jacksonville State scored seven runs in its last two innings to come back and win. JSU hit two homers in the seventh to tie it 4-4, before Kellen Sarver gave Illinois another lead with a solo homer in the eighth. Jacksonville State answered with three runs in the bottom half on a two-out, two-strike double.

“Obviously a tough day any time your season comes to an end,” said head coach Dan Hartleb. “I thought a lot of our guys did some things very well today and put us into a position to win several times. We couldn’t come up with the key pitch and then we fell behind, had opportunities again and couldn’t come up with the key hit. I thought we played to win and it just wasn’t our day. I’m really proud of the group.”

Jeff Korte led Illinois with two RBIs and two runs, Grant Van Scoy scored twice and Michael Michalak had two hits. Illinois led 2-0 early with a sac fly from Branden Comia and RBI single by Michael Massey in the second inning.

It was the final game for 14 seniors and potentially some juniors depending on next week’s MLB Draft.

“Being in this program has been unbelievable for me,” said junior Michael Massey, one of the top MLB Draft prospects in the Big Ten. “Getting the chance to put on the same uniform that my dad did 30-plus years ago and getting the opportunity to play for Coach (Dan) Hartleb, Coach (Adam) Christ, Coach Drew (Dickinson), Coach (Curt) Courtwright. It’s been everything I’ve ever dreamed of. I’m incredibly thankful for this program. It teaches you a lot more than how to be a baseball player. Like I said, just incredibly thankful. Whatever happens from here happens from here. I’m glad I’m going to have memories with my teammates for the rest of my life.”

Season Notes

  • Illinois made its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last nine years, the best stretch in program history.
    • Illinois was in the NCAA Tournament for the 12th time in program history (1947, 1948, 1962,1963, 1989, 1990, 1998, 2000, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2019).
    • Illinois is 17-23 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
    • Head coach Dan Hartlebhas made as many NCAA tournaments in 14 seasons as head coach (4) as the previous 42 Illini seasons combined. Pitching coach Drew Dickinsonhas been with Hartleb for all four of those NCAA tournaments, while on staff for 10 of Hartleb’s 14 seasons as head coach (8 years as pitching coach, 2 years as volunteer assistant).
    • Illinois’ four NCAA appearances is tied for the second-most in the Big Ten this decade (Indiana 6, Nebraska 4).
    • Illinois was No. 4 in the nation in nonconference RPI with the No. 15 nonconference strength of schedule.
    • Illinois won six straight Big Ten series to end the regular season (at MINN, PSU, at NEB, IND, PUR, at MSU).
    • Illinois had series wins against every top-five Big Ten team played (at Minnesota, at Nebraska, Indiana).
    • Illinois was 5-2 against ranked teams (D1Baseball Poll). The five wins tied for the most in the Dan Hartleb era (2009, 2015). Illinois won two season series against ranked teams (Coastal Carolina, Indiana) for the third time in the Dan Hartleb era, joining 2009 (LSU, Minnesota) and 2015 (Oklahoma State, Ohio State).
    • Illinois was 10-5 in one-run games and 18-8 in games decided by one or two runs.
    • Illinois regularly started four freshmen: SS Branden Comia, 1B Kellen Sarver, C Jacob Campbell, LF Cam McDonald. The freshmen class was ranked No. 22 in the nation by D1Baseball.com and No. 24 by Baseball America as recruits, Illinois’ first-ever top-25 recruiting class. Campbell (No. 25) and RHP Aidan Maldonado (No. 49) were both among the top 50 freshman in the nation according to Baseball America.
    • Illinois won despite major injuries all season, with the top three hitters in the order all dealing with injuries.
    » Gold Glove 2B Michael Massey did not play the field for 29 games (back).
    » RHP Quinn Snarskis, the opening day starter, missed more than a month.
    » Big Ten steals leader and team home run leader CF Zac Taylor  missed 14 games (ankle).
    » SS Ben Troike has been out for the season (thumb) since being hit by a pitch vs. Indiana 5/4/19.
    • Illinois set the Big Ten record for fielding percentage in Big Ten games (.987). Illinois made only 12 errors in 24 Big Ten games to break the old record of .986 set by Illinois in 1981.
    • Illinois set the Big Ten record for fielding percentage at .982, ahead of Nebraska’s previous record of .981 set in 2013. The previous Illinois record was .979 set last season.
    • Michael Massey has only one error in his last 93 starts at second base dating back to 4/23/2017 (a dropped feed at second from shortstop on a fielder’s choice at Michigan 5/13/2018).
    • Illinois started the season 14-3, tied for the best start through 17 games in the last 60 years (Started 16-1 in 1959).
    • Illinois swept five of its first six weekends. The Illini swept three of its first four weekends for the first time since beginning to regularly play February games in 1982. Illinois swept a total of seven weekends on the year.
    • Illinois went on a six-game foreign trip to Curaçao and Aruba over Thanksgiving Break in November. The Illini went 0-2-1 against the Curaçao National Team before winning the Aruba Cup with two wins in three games against a group of Aruba amateur and professional players.