Illini Blank Sycamores in Home Opener, 8-0

Redshirt-junior Rob McDonnell earned his first career victory after striking out a career-high six and allowing three hits in five shutout innings.
Redshirt-junior Rob McDonnell earned his first career victory after striking out a career-high six and allowing three hits in five shutout innings.

March 18, 2014

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Redshirt-junior Rob McDonnell earned his first career victory and sophomore Jason Goldstein hit his first career home run in Illinois' 8-0 shutout of Indiana State on Tuesday at Illinois Field. In his first start of the year, McDonnell struck out a career-high six in five scoreless innings, while four relievers closed the contest with a scoreless inning apiece. The Illini posted their first shutout in a home opener since 1998 when they blanked Western Michigan, 6-0.

"Overall, we played very well today," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "Bob was really sharp. I think he's capable of throwing that way on a regular basis. He's worked hard to come back from his injuries in recent years and could be a big part in us winning a lot of games this year. We also were aggressive at the plate and took a step forward today."

The Illini defense turned its first of a season-high three double plays in the first inning, erasing a one-out double and walk by Indiana State. McDonnell then struck out the side in the second, starting a streak of eight straight Sycamores retired before a two-out walk in the fourth.

Illinois scored a pair of runs in the second, giving McDonnell an early cushion. Goldstein walked to start the stanza followed by singles from redshirt-junior Reid Roper and junior David Kerian that loaded the bases. Junior Casey Fletcher walked, bringing home Goldstein, while freshman Ryne Roper knocked in his brother with an RBI single to center.

Kerian scored Goldstein on a sacrifice fly in the third, making it 3-0. The Illini broke it open in the fifth with four runs on four hits. Junior Will Krug singled and advanced to third on a failed pick off. After a walk to junior Michael Hurwitz and a pitching change, sophomore Ryan Nagle knocked in Krug for the first run on an RBI single. Goldstein connected on a two-run double to left center followed by an RBI single from Reid Roper, giving Illinois a 7-0 advantage.

Sophomore J.D. Nielsen took over on the mound in the sixth, notching a strikeout and allowing a single before a double play wrapped up the frame. Freshman Cody Sedlock relieved Nielsen and only gave up a double in the seventh.

Goldstein capped off his perfect 3-for-3 day by hitting the scoreboard over the left-field wall with a line drive homer to lead off the bottom of the seventh. The Highland Park, Ill., native homered for the first time and finished with a career-high three runs and three RBI. Reid Roper also went 3-for-3, as the Illini racked up 11 hits on the afternoon.

"Jason had a very good day," Hartleb said. "He called a great game behind the plate and put the barrel on the ball offensively."

Sophomore Tyler Jay came in for the eighth and started it with a hit by pitch and a one-out single. He escaped the inning on an impressive double play up the middle when sophomore Adam Walton, who started for the first time at shortstop, made a diving stop and flipped it from his glove to Reid Roper, who grabbed it with his bare hand and fired to first to complete the web gem.

Senior Ronnie Muck gave up a leadoff double in the ninth before finishing the game with two strikeouts and a groundout. Illinois improved to 8-9, while Indiana State dropped to 14-3. The Illini also evened the all-time series with the Sycamores at 35-35-2.

Up Next: The first weekend of home baseball at Illinois Field on March 21-23 will now feature four games against Xavier. The Illini will play one game on Friday, March 21, starting at 4 p.m., a doubleheader on Saturday, March 22, beginning at noon and a single game on Sunday, March 23, starting at noon.

The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics also announced parking changes to begin the year. The grass parking lots surrounding Illinois Field will be closed for the start of the 2014 season due to effects of the winter weather. Fans attending games at Illinois Field should park in either the Northeast State Farm Center quadrant or the parking lot at the Bielfeldt Athletic Administration Building (weekend only) with entrance off Fourth Street.