Loyola baseball alums to play on national stage: When the NCAA Division I national baseball tournament starts Friday with 16 regionals, three of the 64 teams will feature Loyola graduates. Thomas Smart (Class of 2016) and Ryan Lin-Peistrup (Class of 2017) both play for Illinois-Chicago. Jack Yalowitz (Class of 2015) plays for Illinois, and Jack Lombardi (Class of 2016) plays for Nebraska-Omaha. 

UIC (29-21) secured an appearance by capturing the Horizon League championship. The Flames open with Louisville on Friday at the Louisville Regional. Summit League champion Nebraska-Omaha (31-22-1) plays UCLA, arguably the best team in the country, on Friday at the Los Angeles Regional. Illinois (36-19) earned one of 33 at-large bids and will play Clemson at the Oxford Regional. All games are Friday. 

“We are bringing everything together at the right time,” said Smart, an Evanston native who went to St. Joseph in Wilmette. “This is where we wanted to be, but we aren’t done yet.”

The regional round is a double-elimination, round-robin format, with only one team advancing to the super regionals, where the 16 remaining teams play a best-of-three series to determine the eight teams for the College World Series. 

The Flames rallied from a three-run deficit Saturday in Fairborn, Ohio, to beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee 6-5 in the league final. Smart made a highlight-reel catch against the left-field wall for the final out. It was UIC’s ninth win in 10 games. 

A junior outfielder, Smart (pictured above) is in his second season with the UIC after playing one season at Oakton Community College. He hit .417 and scored five runs during the conference tournament. Lin-Peistrup, a sophomore shortstop, earned all-tournament honors by batting .385 with five runs and seven RBIs. 

“We felt like we had some good vibes going in,” said Lin-Peistrup, who’s from Chicago and a product of St. Mary of the Woods. “Even when we were down in the last game, we all trusted each other. We’ve had good team chemistry from the start, and that’s something that’s helped us all season.”

Yalowitz, a senior outfielder for the Fighting Illini, will be making his debut at the regionals. He was named to the third team All-Big Ten. After helping Jefferson College to the Junior College World Series last season, Lombardi is a key contributor for the Mavericks in both the infield and outfield. Lombardi started his career at Creighton, but he transferred after redshirting as a freshman. 

In its first trip to the regionals since 2017, UIC is matched up against the host Cardinals, the No. 11-ranked team in the nation by D1baseball.com. But that doesn’t bother either Smart and Lin-Peistrup.

“We are gelling really well right now and enjoying the ride,” Smart said. “It’s obviously a big stage and a big deal, but we won’t be overwhelmed. We aren’t going to see anything we haven’t seen before. We are looking forward to the opportunity.”

Brennan Dwyer enjoys breakout lacrosse season at Northwestern: Loyola graduate Brennan Dwyer (Class of 2017) had a spring to remember in Evanston. A sophomore midfielder, Dwyer set a program record with 181 draw controls to help the Wildcats win the Big Ten title and advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2014. She was selected first team All-American by Inside Lacrosse and named first team All-Big Ten in addition to earning All-Big Ten tournament honors. 

Photo credit: UIC Athletics