Illinois starts its Big Ten tournament campaign tomorrow when it takes on the Maryland Terrapins in Omaha. The tournament starts this Wednesday and concludes with the Championship game on Sunday.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said senior outfielder Zac Taylor. “I’m looking forward to going back out there and giving it one last roll in this tournament.”
The Illini (36-17, 15-9 Big Ten) finished off the season winning the last six series against Big Ten opponents, including No. 19 Indiana. They beat the Spartans last week to finish out conference play before the tournament.
Maryland (28-27, 12-12 Big Ten) has been just above .500 this year but has been good on the road, posting a record on 16-11 away from home.
The Terrapins took the series between the Illini earlier this year. Illinois lost game one against Maryland and split a doubleheader the next day. The offense was stagnant, but Andy Fisher shined. Fisher went eight innings having given up only one hit, but allowed three hits and two runs in the top of the ninth and the Illini lost 4-2. Fisher will face the Terrapins once again in a redemption game one of the tournament.
“We’re gonna go out there and compete for another win,” said Taylor.
This time around Illinois will be without its star shortstop Ben Troike. Branden Comia has filled in for the injured Troike and has done a remarkable job. Comia hit two home runs and drove in five runs against the Spartans last weekend.
Senior standouts like Zac Taylor, Jack Yalowitz, Andy Fisher, Michael Michalak and Grant Van Scoy will make their final tournament appearances. Head coach Dan Hartleb may also lose underclassmen like Michael Massey, Ty Weber, and Ben Troike to the MLB draft.
Hartleb has won the tournament twice (2011, 2015) in his 14 seasons as the head coach of the Fighting Illini.
How to Watch
The entire tournament will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network and game one starts at 9 a.m.
Win or lose, Illinois will play its second game in the tournament against Ohio State or Michigan — neither team has faced the Illini this year. Regardless of how well Illinois plays this weekend, they are favored to continue their season in this year’s NCAA tournament.
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