NCAA Baseball Tournament -- Champaign Regional:
(1) Illinois 8, (3) Wright State 4
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Wright State gave Illinois all it could handle in the regional final, but the No. 6 national seed Fighting Illini used a dominant relief effort from Tyler Jay to knock off the Raiders, 8-4, claiming the Champaign Regional and advancing to the super regional round.
Wright State saw its season end at 43-17, the second-most wins in program history. The Raiders became the first Horizon League team to reach the regional final since the reconfiguration of the NCAA Baseball Championship.
The Raiders became the first team in the regional to force Illinois to use its bullpen, and the Fighting Illini used 4.1 innings of scoreless relief to shut down the WSU offense.
Tyler Jay entered the game in the bottom of the sixth with Illinois holding a 5-4 lead and did not allow a baserunner until a one-out walk in the eighth. Sean Murphy's double with two outs in the ninth proved to be the lone time Wright State put a runner in scoring position in the game's final four innings.
In the first five innings of the game, Wright State matched Illinois punch-for-punch, striking first with two runs in the third. A two-out error allowed Andrew McCafferty to reach, and on a hit-and-run, Sean Murphy doubled down the left field line as McCafferty came all the way around from first to score. Mark Fowler followed with a single to left to drive in Murphy and stake the Raiders to an early lead.
Illinois would get to Wright State starter Trevor Swaney in the fifth, plating four runs to jump in front. The Fighting Illini sandwiched four singles around a double off the glove of a diving John Brodner at third.
However, Wright State would respond immediately, with the bottom of the order once again setting the table for the top. Morrow singled to lead off the bottom half, and after a fly out, McCafferty rolled a single through the right side to put two on for Murphy.
Murphy, who finished 3-for-5 in the game with three doubles, stroked his second of the afternoon to the right-center gap, bringing the Raiders within a run and putting McCafferty 90 feet from home.
With Fowler up, McCafferty was picked off third, but Fowler hit a liner to center on the next pitch, and a sliding Murphy just beat the throw home to knot the game after five innings.
In the sixth, the Fighting Illini would scratch across a run on Will Krug's two-out double to right-center. Jason Goldstein would score on the play, with the Raiders cutting down David Kerian on the relay and Murphy holding on to the ball at the plate after a collision.
With Jay holding the Wright State offense at bay, Illinois struck for three insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Kerian's two-run homer to right opened up the game, making it 7-4 before the Fighting Illini tacked on one more against WSU reliever Andrew Elliott.
The WSU quintet of Murphy, Brodner, Fowler, Mitch Roman and Jack Van Horn were all named to the all-regional team.
In winning the regional, Illinois will host Vanderbilt in the best 2-of-3 super regional.