Illini baseball fails to finish job

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It’s been more than 20 years since Illinois has qualified for the NCAA baseball tournament in consecutive seasons.

Coach Dan Hartleb is confident the drought ends next spring.

“It should be an expectation (to make the NCAAs) and not a goal,” Hartleb said after Sunday’s 6-3 loss to Georgia Tech. “We have a lot of things in place.”

The Illini showed potential at the Nashville Regional, winning their opener and pushing Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech to the limit. However, the Commodores took control late Saturday before the Yellow Jackets scored four times in the top of the ninth Sunday to eliminate the Illini.

“We could have won both of those games,” outfielder Justin Parr said.

Instead, Illinois closes 35-20 after making its second NCAA appearance in three seasons.

Tech rallied against veteran closer Bryan Roberts, whose 16 career saves rank fourth in school history. Matt Gonzalez, who entered as a pinch runner in the sixth, doubled in the go-ahead run against Roberts (3-4), who was touched for four earned runs in 11/3  innings.

“We couldn’t close it down,” Hartleb said. “It’s rough to see it end this way.”

Jordan Parr’s eighth-inning inside-the-park home run, his third home run of the regional, gave Illinois a 3-2 lead. Tech’s center fielder and right fielder collided while tracking Parr’s line drive.

“I kept going,” Jordan Parr said.

So, too, did Tech, which advanced to play Vanderbilt on Sunday night. This despite another solid effort from another underclassman in the Illini’s rotation, freshman Ryan Castellanos.

Twins Justin and Jordan Parr each had two hits. Reid Roper went 3 for 4, but the Illini stranded 10 base runners.

“We had multiple opportunities throughout the game,” Hartleb said. “I felt we could have broke open the game but couldn’t come up with the two-out hits.”

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