Illinois’ NCAA Tournament drought will continue until 2019.
After finishing the regular season at 33-20, Illinois did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament in 2018, the third-straight year without earning a bid.
The 64-team field was announced Monday morning.
Illinois bowed out in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals after an 11-5 loss to Purdue on Saturday. Highlights of Illinois’ season included sweeping three opponents (No. 11 UCLA, Arizona and Washington) at the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge in March as well as a series victory on the road at Michigan.
Illinois last made the big dance after the magical run in 2015 when the team won a program-record 50 games.
First baseman Bren Spillane put Illinois on his back for most of the season, hitting 23 home runs — the second-most in single-season program history — and winning Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Shortstop Ben Troike also reached base in 57 consecutive games, a streak that was the longest in the nation and ended Saturday against the Boilermakers.
Five Illini position players (Michael Massey, Troike, Zac Taylor, Doran Turchin and Jack Yalowitz) started all 53 games this season, a testament to the consistency the team was able to build throughout the year.
On the mound, Dan Hartleb’s team relied on its three main starters: Quinn Snarskis, Andy Fisher and Ty Weber. Snarskis (6-1, 2.84 ERA), Fisher and Weber will all be returning to the top of the rotation in 2019.
A tournament berth did not look like it was in the cards after a blowout 9-2 loss to Indiana on April 29. At the time Illinois sat at 25-14 and had lost six of its past eight games, looking like a struggling team that had fallen off toward the end of the season after having an RPI as high as 27 in mid-April.
Regional play gets started this weekend with the College World Series commencing on June 18.