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After years of trying and coming close, the Illinois-Springfield baseball team finally broke through and earned its first-ever trip to the NCAA Division II national championship.

It will have to wait before claiming its first victory at the finals. The Prairie Stars came, saw and were quickly conquered, as their bats went cold in back-to-back losses to Point Loma and Rollins.

Coach Ryan Copeland’s Midwest Region champions managed only three runs over their 18 innings at the USA Baseball National Training Complex to see their season come to a disappointing end with a 48-11 record.

“As a head coach, you know at some point the season is going to end,” Copeland said. “You hope it’s going to be with a win, but only one team gets to do that. Unfortunately, that wasn’t us.”

Whether it happens next year or sometime farther in the future, Copeland believes his team will be better prepared to stay longer and perhaps bring home a national championship once it makes its World Series return.

“When we get back, we’ll have that feeling that we’ve been here before,” he said. “I think it’s good for our program to officially break through on the national stage. There’s something about teams that get here that get immediate respect. And we hadn’t done that yet.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 8, 2022. Read the entire article online.