The 2017 Illinois baseball season is just a day
away! Two games against Milwaukee and then two with Lamar over four days in Texas.
Concerning is not seeing Doug Hayes in the opening weekend probables. Sophomore Luke Shilling has big-time stuff but is still raw as a college starter, especially to be an "ace." Fellow sophomores Quinten Sefcik and Cole Bellair and freshman Ty Weber round out the rotation. This group is talented but equally inexperienced. Shilling and Weber were drafted out of high school.
The Illini should be solid in the lineup and on the field. Power numbers won't be eye-popping but the team should hit for average and field the ball well. The player I expect to really take off is outfielder Doran Turchin. Good speed, pop, and glove. Senior first baseman Pat McInerney will also be critical to this team's success.
Without knowing the extent of Hayes' first week absence, I feel 28-30 wins and a .500 Big Ten record is reasonable. Next year is when the Illini should again join the ranks of the Top 25. Top recruit Ryan Kutt likely will join Hayes, Shilling, and Weber in the starting rotation. I could also see Hartleb making Shilling, with his 95 MPH heater, the closer and Bellair in the rotation.