Ryan Hastings wrapped up one of the best careers in Illinois history by going 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI.
May 27, 2008
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Well, Illini Fans, the 2008 Fighting Illini Baseball season is in the books. We're a couple of days removed from the season ending at the Big Ten Tournament in Ann Arbor with a loss to Indiana. We went up to the tournament expecting to win and things started off well after a complete-game four-hitter by Kevin Manson against Ohio State on Wednesday, but after that we just couldn't get things on track. Our second-round game against Michigan was one of the better games I've seen in my three years with the program. Unfortunately, we came out on the losing side and then could never quite recover the next morning against the Hoosiers.
Regardless of how things turned out, I think there were definitely some positives that the guys can take from this season and carry over to next season. Our offense as a whole stepped it up this year and even finished the regular season with the sixth-highest batting average in the nation. This accomplishment is due to the hard work that the offense put in starting way back in the fall and all season long with Coach Snider.
As I'm sure you've all realized by now, we weren't the best power hitting team in the conference, but our offense knew how to move runners and knew what needed to be done in each situation. As a freshman, Casey McMurray stepped right into the lineup and began producing in left field and finished the year with a batting average over .300. And Joe Bonadonna emerged as a very good defensive second baseman and an offensive force in his first season as an everyday starter. There are a couple of big holes that will need to be filled next season, but with most of our lineup intact, I think expectations will be high.
It wasn't always easy going for the pitching staff, but I think that everybody got some good experience and has things to build on for next season. Kevin Manson showed that he is a top-flight Friday night starter, and Mike Sterk and Ben Reeser were the stoppers out of the bullpen. Since there are no graduating seniors on the staff, things are looking up for the Fighting Illini hurlers in 2009.
I mentioned that there are a couple of big holes to fill from the offensive standpoint. Both Daniel Webb and Ryan Hastings have played their last games in the Orange and Blue. Ryan has really played his last game this time...I think. In all seriousness, though, these guys are going to be missed. Even though Dan was only here for two seasons he was a staple in the middle of the lineup both years and played solid defense in the outfield. Ryan spent five years at Illinois and played a variety of positions, but played them all well, and his offense was something that could always be counted on. Both of these guys were also great leaders for the entire team. They have showed the younger guys what it takes to be successful during their time at Illinois.
We also have said goodbye to one of our pitching coaches, Brett Herbison. Coach Herbison spent four years working with Fighting Illini pitchers while getting his finance degree from the College of Business. His area of expertise was pitching, but he really helped out the entire team in many ways. Now that he's graduated, he will be moving on to other things. I wish him, and Ryan and Dan as well, the best of luck.
That does it for the 2008 edition of Diamond Notes. I hope you enjoyed reading these updates throughout the course of the season. Up next for the guys will be summer baseball in a variety of leagues across the country. Some of them will be writing a summer version of Diamond Notes while they are playing, so be on the lookout for that. While they are writing those I'm sure they are going to be blaming me for setting the bar so high with my quality in-season Diamond Notes.
I'll be back with more Diamond Notes once the team gets back together for fall baseball in September.
Until then, Go Illini!