Coming off one of the most successful year ever for Illinois baseball, the Fighting Illini open the season tonight in New Orleans taking on No. 19 Tulane for the start of a three game set, and the 2016 campaign. The Illini finished with a school record, 50 wins on their way to a 50-10 overall record and a Big Ten title with a 21-1 conference record.
The Illini were elimated at Super-Regionals of the NCAA tournament last year by National runner-up Vanderbilt, who produced two top ten picks in the major league baseball draft.
The Illini will open the year with a plethora of new faces on the diamond. Seventh overall pick to the Minnesota Twin, Tyler Jay, will be the most obvious hole to fill.
Power hitting first baseman David Kerian and ace Kevin Duschene both were drafted on day of the three day MLB draft.
Additionally, last year's third baseman, Ryne Roper transfered following the Illini's postseason run.
The Illini were picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten in a number of preseason polls.
The Illini return a trio of notable role players from last year's squad, including right handed starter Cody Sedlock, who is expected to anchor the Illini starting staff.
Shortstop Adam Walton returns after hitting .289 in 2015 with three home runs and 31 RBIs. Walton was drafted in the 20th round by the Baltimore Orioles but will return to the Illini.
Catcher Jason Goldstein was drafted in the 17th round of last year's MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, however, chose to return to the Orange and Blue for his senior season.
The Illini host Penn State March 25 in their home opener and Big Ten opener. Illinois plays just four home games in the first six weeks of the season.
In year two under head coach Bo Durkac, the Illinois State Redbirds open their season this afternoon at Belmont.
The Redbirds went 27-27 last year.
The Redbirds key losses from last year's squads were Paul DeJong (INF) and Will Headen, both drafted.
The Redbirds pitching will be anchored by preseason Louisville Slugger All-American Jacob Hendren. Hendren is a lefty from LeRoy and a transfer of Heartland Community College.
The Redbirds figure to have Steve Heilenback take a larger role on the pitching staff as well.
Offensively, Illinois State will look to Joe Kelch and Daniel Dwyer to carry the offense. Kelch hit .338 last year with four home runs and 24 RBIs. Dwyer will look to improve his .292 average after having an OBP of .436 in 2015.
The Redbirds head to Eugene, Oregon to take on top-15 ranked Oregon. The Redbirds host Wisconsin-Milwaukee March 18 in their home opener and for three games.
They host Illinois March 22. Big Ten opponent Purdue comes to town April 26.