Here is the final recap of the 2021-22 season and the future outlook for the Illinois baseball team
The Illinois baseball team’s season has concluded following an 8-1 loss to the Indiana Hoosiers in their second matchup of the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini finished the season with a 31-22 record, going 17-7 in conference play and winning 16 of 20 home games.
Despite posting a solid .585 win percentage, the Illini were not selected to compete in the 2022 College World Series. While this was not an ideal finish to the year, there are many reasons for the Illini faithful to feel optimistic heading into the offseason.
Illinois Baseball Future Outlook
Looking to next season, the Illini will return at least four players who posted a .300+ batting percentage this year. Additionally, they will be bringing in a number of new players as well.
According to PerfectGame.org, the Illini are bringing in six new players, including five homegrown products from within the state of Illinois.
Jake Swartz is a right-handed pitcher out of University High School in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. This summer, Swartz is playing for the Blue Caps of the KCL baseball league in Normal while preparing to begin his collegiate career at Illinois.
Illinois is also bringing in Christian Smith, a shortstop out of Hamilton High School in Hamilton, Ohio. Daniel Pacella is a first baseman from Mundelein High School in Mundelein, Illinois. Jayden Comia is a shortstop from Carl Sandberg High School in Orland Park, Illinois. Brady Banker is a left-handed pitcher at Carmel Catholic High School and is from Antioch, Illinois. Last, but certainly not least, the highest-graded player in the class, Julius Sanchez, is a right-handed pitcher from La Salle-Peru Township High School in La Salle-Peru, Illinois. Julius also is playing with the Blue Caps in the KCL this summer.
Overall, this incoming recruiting class consists of some really solid talent. Since taking the job, head coach Dan Hartleb has built a winning program off of homegrown talent.
While the Illini may not have made the College World Series this season, they have been consistent winners over the last decade, having made multiple appearances in the College World Series.
Many would consider this season to have been a down year for the Illini and going off of the standards set by the staff, it was. However, 31-22 is a winning record. I cannot stress enough, that finishing nine games above .500 is no small feat.
In the last decade, most revenue-generating sports teams at Illinois would gladly take a .585 win percentage. This speaks to the winning culture that Coach Hartleb has cultivated long before other Illinois programs experienced their turnarounds.
Moving forward, Illini baseball will return many of their best players from last season. Many of the team’s best players were sophomores and juniors this year, meaning this will be an upperclassmen-led team next year.
Personally, I expect them to bounce back next season and make the College World Series again. With many talented upperclassmen, I doubt they experience as many of the same struggles as they did as a young team this year.
Overall, Illinois didn’t achieve the finish they were looking for but don’t worry. As with many of the major programs at Illinois, the future is bright for Illini baseball. I expect big things from them next season, but that is months away. For now, we’ll have to wait and see how the summer and fall shake out.