Castellanos Pitches Illini Past FGCU, 3-2

Sophomore Ryan Castellanos matched his career-high with five strikeouts and earned his first win of the season over FGCU.
Sophomore Ryan Castellanos matched his career-high with five strikeouts and earned his first win of the season over FGCU.

Feb. 28, 2014

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. - In his first start of the season, sophomore Ryan Castellanos earned his first win with two runs over seven innings, as Illinois (3-4) topped Florida Gulf Coast (6-4) in a one-run game on Friday afternoon, 3-2. Castellanos retired the first 11 Eagles and gave up a pair of runs in the sixth before sophomore Nick Blackburn and redshirt-junior Reid Roper closed out the one-run victory.

"Overall, it was a very good game for us," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "It was a tight ballgame, but I thought we were in command the whole time. Ryan pounded the strike zone and we cruised early. He only ran into a little trouble with the two runs in the sixth, but didn't cave and continued to pitch strong. We were solid defensively and our bullpen closed it down."

UI scored all three of its runs on two-out RBI singles, led by redshirt-freshman Zack Kolakowski, who finished 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Junior David Kerian and Reid Roper both went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while sophomore Ryan Nagle tallied two hits and a run.

"The difference on offense today was our two-out hitting," Hartleb said. "I was really pleased with what Zack did. He took advantage of his opportunity in the lineup and was very sound at the plate which led to a productive day."

Castellanos threw 87 pitches with 53 for strikes and did not allow a walk. He matched his career-high with five strikeouts and totaled three groundouts and 13 fly outs at McKethan Stadium.

Illinois scored in the opening inning for the second time this season. Reid Roper singled home junior Michael Hurwitz for the first run of the game. In the bottom of the second, Kolakowski, who made his second career start at shortstop, collected his first career Illini hit with an RBI single that drove in Nagle for a 2-0 lead.

After two scoreless frames, the Orange and Blue went up 3-0 in the fifth. Kerian knocked in Kolakowski, who doubled and advanced to third on junior Will Krug's sacrifice bunt. The Eagles scored two runs in the sixth on an RBI single and an RBI double, making it a one-run game at 3-2.

Following a 1-2-3 seventh inning, Blackburn took over in the eighth and tossed a scoreless frame despite a leadoff walk. He left a runner at second after a sac bunt, fly out and strikeout ended the stanza. Reid Roper made his first appearance in the ninth and shut the door with two strikeouts and a groundout for his first save. He is now tied for eighth in school history with nine career saves.

Up Next: Illinois will be back in McKethan Stadium at 6 p.m. CT for a showdown with No. 23 Florida, which will be televised live on FOX Sports Florida.