In early November, the Illinois baseball team competed in several practice games within the group, called the Orange and Blue Series. These games took the place of normally scheduled show games against other teams, which were canceled due to COVID-19. Head coach Dan Hartleb said that there were many things he liked from Illini during the series, and that there were a few areas the team could spend work on, but he felt that it was a lot of good in general.
“I would not say it was one or two prominent performances during the Orange and Blue series,” Hartleb said. “I would say that the whole team was strong and played well together.”
Sophomore jar Cole Kirscheiper expressed her happiness with the Orange and Blue series and said it was a great way to build chemistry.
“I feel that everyone, the transfers, the returns and the freshmen are buying into the same mentality right now, and that is that we all want to win,” Kirscheiper said.
After a relatively successful start to the 2020 season, which was highlighted by victories over two nationally ranked teams (Texas A&M and Oklahoma State), the baseball team wants to build on that success this spring. Several returning players and some new transfers, including junior catcher Ryan Hampe, will qualify for the MLB first-year draft in 2021 and will be eager to show off their abilities to help Illinois baseball teams reach the playoffs, as they last did in the 2018 Hampe show already signs of its value after hitting the .500 in the Orange and Blue series by three doubles.
Hampe’s decision to move to Illinois was due in part to the recruitment efforts of his teammate in high school, junior Brandon Comia. Comia was not only the biggest presence on the plate for Illinois last season, but he was also ranked No. 9 shortstop in the country by D1Baseball.
“We’re all pretty familiar with each other,” Hampe said. “We can really hold each other accountable without hurting any emotions.”
When the Orange and Blue series is completed, rehearsals will not be held until January when the team returns from the winter holidays. Until then, they will continue to lift and build the team chemistry of the diamond.