After posting the longest winning streak in the history of the Big Ten, the Illinois Illini will be hosting the first weekend of the tournament, and possibly the second weekend as well after earning the No. 6 National Seed.
In the Champaign Regional, Illinois will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Wright State Raiders, and the Ohio Bobcats.
This is a field of teams that Illinois should absolutely romp through. This may be the first time that a lot of people get to see Illinois pitcher Tyler Jay, but it probably won’t be anywhere near the last. Jay is projected to go at or near the top of next month’s MLB Draft, and has the best WHIP of any pitcher in the country (0.62). He also strikes out batters at an extremely high rate of 10.38Ks/9 IP. Hopefully some of the Illini’s games are close so that we can see him try and add to the 13 saves he’s already put up this year.
Illinois is also a pretty good offensive team, blasting 51 total home runs in 2015. They’re also ranked in the 40s in both batting average and scoring, so it’s not like this is a team that completely relies on its pitching staff.
While Notre Dame is the 2-seed, the biggest challenge for Illinois is probably 3-seed Wright State. The Raiders have a 41-15 record, and earned the automatic bid from the Horizon League.
The Raiders aren’t particularly great at anything, but they aren’t awful at anything either. The reason that they should get past Notre Dame on Friday is Jesse Scholtens. He has the team’s only complete game this year, and also leads the staff with 69 strikeouts.
It would be shocking if Illinois didn’t get out of this Regional. But hey, weird things happen in baseball. Like Ohio throwing a no-hitter in the MAC Tournament last weekend.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to Illinois Athletics