Northeast facility to host Illinois, Western Illinois baseball series
Photo: The Plex, which opened officially on the campus of Northeast Mississippi Community College in February 2020, will host a NCAA Division I baseball series for the first time as the University of Illinois takes on Southern Illinois University in a non-conference three-game set from March 17-19. (Michael H. Miller/Northeast Public Information)
Credit: Northeast CC Sports Information
Some “B1G” time baseball is coming to the campus of Northeast Mississippi Community College this weekend.
The University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University are moving their three-game series from the Land of Lincoln to The Plex due to forecasted inclement weather that includes temperatures below freezing.
“We’re really excited,” said Tigers headman Richy Harrelson. “The coach from Illinois (Dan Hartleb) called us up and we told them that we’d love to have them come play in Booneville. We’ve got the complex to host it. We’d love for people to come out and support these guys and show them some Southern hospitality.”
Game one of the series is scheduled for a 3 p.m. start on Friday, March 17. The Fighting Illini and the Saluqis also meet at 1 p.m. on Saturday and high noon for a Sunday matinee.
Admission is $10 per day and payable by cash or card at the main entrance to the stadium. Gates will open two hours prior to first pitch ahead of the beginning of batting practice for both teams.
Northeast Diamond Club, Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference (MACCC) and Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) passes will be accepted and admit one person. No pets or sunflower seeds are permitted at The Plex.
Each game will air on the Black Channel of NEMCCTV.com, which is also available on Amazon Fire, Apple TV or Roku devices by searching for Northeast Mississippi CC, with a simulcast on the Big Ten Network+. Jody Presley and Carter Smith, the Voices of the Tigers, will provide the play-by-play.
It will be the first NCAA Division I contests played at Northeast’s multi-million dollar complex, which opened in 2020 and has since hosted hundreds of high school, collegiate and travel ball events.
Illinois (7-6) is making its second trip to the Magnolia State this season after taking two-of-three at the University of Southern Mississippi from February 24-26. Hartleb is a 500-game winner as the leader of the Fighting Illini.
The Fighting Illini finished in a tie for second in the Big Ten Conference standings last year. The last NCAA Tournament appearance for Illinois came in 2019 when they appeared in the Oxford Regional.
Southern Illinois (8-10) pays its first visit to Mississippi since starting the 2020 campaign at Jackson State University. The Saluqis won both of their midweek matchups against Southern Indiana University and the University of Tennessee at Martin.
SIU, who is led by head coach Lance Rhodes, was the regular season Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) champion in 2022 after compiling a 44-16 record. That was the third most wins in a single year in program history.
The Plex features an artificial turf playing surface, a two-story pressbox plus concessions building, new locker rooms and an indoor hitting facility. It also boasts a state-of-the-art video board that towers above right field.
Northeast’s nationally ranked softball program will share the spotlight with Illinois and SIU on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers welcome Southwest Mississippi Community College at 1 p.m. for a conference doubleheader.