It was a season to remember for Illinois baseball a year ago, as the Fighting Illini had the best season in school history. They won a Big Ten regular-season championship and made it to a NCAA Super Regional for the first time in program history.
Replicating last season’s success might be challenging, after losing 13 players to graduation or professional baseball. But, the Fighting Illini have made it clear that their goal is to make it to the College World Series this season.
“We’re working towards defending our Big Ten title and making it to Omaha,” Illinois right-handed pitcher Cody Sedlock said. “I think that is the goal every year. Last year really helped instill the belief in our team. I think we can do it again and be even better this year.”
Illinois will need players to step up after losing the Big Ten player (David Kerian) and pitcher (Tyler Jay) of the year, along with the entire weekend rotation.
“I think we just need to find a rhythm and everyone needs to just find their role,” Sedlock said. “Last year our biggest thing for us is we didn’t try to win. We just went out there and played and ended up winning all those games.”
One player Illinois will be relying on is Sedlock. Primarily a relief pitcher last year, Sedlock will make the move to the starting rotation this season.
“I’ve been a starter my whole life,” Sedlock said. “I view myself as a starter. I think I’m prepared for it. There’s not much I really have to change.”
A 6-foot-4, 210-pound hurler, Sedlock generates a lot of ground balls with his four-pitch mix and is known to throw a lot of strikes.
His best pitch is his low-90s fastball with his slider being his best off-speed offering. He also throws a curveball and changeup.
It wasn’t until this past summer that Sedlock broke onto the scene while pitching in the prestigious Cape Cod League, where he made the transition from relieving to the starting rotation.
“It really helped me as a pitcher and as a person,” Sedlock said. “Having that experience and pitching against that kind of talent and being around such great pitchers made it one of the most influential summers in my baseball career.”
Sedlock spent the offseason improving his command in order to have a productive junior season, after going 4-0 with a 4.02 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings as a sophomore.
“It was kind of a big developmental summer and it really helped me,” Sedlock said.
If he can be an effective starter this season for the Fighting Illini, there’s a chance Sedlock could be a first-round pick in June’s MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Sedlock is ranked No. 43 on MLB.com’s top 50-draft prospect list and has the chance to move up draft boards with a strong spring.
“I don’t really think about that,” Sedlock said in regards to the draft. “We are just working as a team. I know that every time I go out there and pitch that I have 35 guys who are out there backing me up and firing me up. I just need to go out there and relax.”
Last year, Illinois had nine players selected in the MLB Draft, and Sedlock was able to experience other players having to deal with the extra attention of being draft-eligible.
One of those players Sedlock was able to observe was left-hander Tyler Jay, who became the highest draft pick in school history after being taken No. 6 overall by the Minnesota Twins.
“Ty is one of my good friends and I was right there with him,” Sedlock said. “He talked to me about it all last year. I kind of know the process going into this year. I saw how people should handle it and how people shouldn’t handle it. I got both those sides.
“As of right now I’m not thinking of the draft at all. I’m just working on trying to help the younger guys get better and be a leader in the pitching staff.”
You can find more MLB Draft coverage here.