Illinois' historic season has come to an end. The Fighting Illini (50-10-1) were eliminated by the the Vanderbilt Commodores (47-19) on Monday afternoon by a final score of 4-2. With their backs against the wall, Illini manager Dan Hartleb gave star LHP Tyler Jay the starting nod, but he allowed four earned runs on ten hits in 6.1 innings of work to earn the loss. Philip Pfeifer was the pitcher of record for Vanderbilt after going 6.2 innings and allowing just two earned runs on seven hits.
The Commodores will now advance to the College World Series to seek their second-straight national title.
Note: Vanderbilt was the home team despite the game being played in Champaign.
The Illini got on the scoreboard in a hurry. After loading the bases in the first inning, Casey Fletcher delivered a sacrifice-fly to center field. Unfortunately, a lineout by Pat McInerney proceeded to strand the other two runners on base. Tyler Jay took the mound in the bottom half of the inning for just his second start of the year and he retired the side in order on ten pitches.
Vanderbilt's Zander Wiel led off the second inning with a solo home run. However, it didn't take long for Illinois to answer. In the top of the third, McInerney notched an RBI single into center field to bring Fletcher across the plate.
Potential No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson led off the fourth inning with his own solo home run to tie the game once more. Jay allowed the next few hitters on base and, for really the first time all year, he was running into some struggles on the mound. Luckily, he was able to get out of the inning without allowing any more damage.
After a few innings of dominant pitching on both sides, Swanson clubbed a leadoff double off of Jay; he eventually came around to score on a two-out single by Bryan Reynolds to give the Commodores a 3-2 lead.
Illinois' last, best chance came in the top of the eighth with the bases loaded with one out. Will Krug popped out to right field, but it wasn't deep enough to score Fletcher from third base. Ryne Roper followed up with an inning-ending strikeout and the Commodores escaped unscathed.