Illini Down ISU 6-1 for Fourth Straight Win
March 26, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Sophomore Jason Goldstein was clutch with two outs on Wednesday and finished a career-best 4-for-4 with three RBI in Illinois' 6-1 victory over Illinois State (15-7). Sophomore J.D. Nielsen was credited with his first career win following two scoreless relief innings as part of a staff day in which the Illini used six pitchers. Illinois won its fourth straight game and improved to 12-10 overall.
"Today was a really good win," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "Illinois State is a very good club. I was really pleased with everything. We got very good pitching and got a lot of guys on the mound. We ended up with 11 strikeouts and only three walks while giving up only one run. We got the job done defensively and came up with timely hits."
Illinois State scored first on a bases-loaded walk in the top of the second, which would be the only run for the Redbirds. Freshman Cody Sedlock, who allowed one run in three innings, left the bags full in the second thanks to a pair of strikeouts, giving him four strikeouts in his first career start.
Illinois took a 3-1 lead in the third, scoring three runs after loading the bases in the inning. Freshman Ryne Roper singled to start the stanza followed by a double to the right field corner by sophomore Adam Walton. After a strikeout and an intentional walk to junior Michael Hurwitz, sophomore Ryan Nagle plated the first run on an RBI groundout. Goldstein, who increased his team-high average to .408, smacked a two-out, two-run double to put the Illini in front.
Sophomore Nick Blackburn took over on the mound in the fourth and put up a zero with one hit and a walk allowed. Nielsen came in next and shut down the Redbirds in the fifth and sixth, recording three punch outs and only giving up one hit.
Redshirt-sophomore Charlie Naso breezed through the top of the seventh, while the Orange and Blue tacked on two more runs in the bottom half to push it to a 5-1 advantage. Nagle reached on a leadoff walk followed by a Goldstein single and a sacrifice bunt by redshirt-junior Reid Roper, which put both runners in scoring position. Junior David Kerian poked an RBI single to center that brought home Nagle, while junior Casey Fletcher reached on a fielder's choice that plated Goldstein.
Senior Ronnie Muck pitched a scoreless top of the eighth followed by Illinois scoring again in the bottom half. Freshman Pat McInerney ripped a one-out, pinch-hit double to right and was pinch-run for by redshirt-freshman Zack Kolakowski. After a fly out, Goldstein knocked in his third RBI with two outs on a single up the middle on an 0-2 count.
Reid Roper cruised through a perfect ninth, throwing all eight pitches for strikes and notching two strikeouts. The Illini pitching staff lowered its season ERA to 3.13 and has only allowed six runs during the current four-game winning streak.
"We continue to throw quality strikes," Hartleb said. "We've come up with key strikes in certain situations and we don't have guys giving in at all. They just keep getting better day after day."
Up Next: Illinois is in the midst of a nine-game homestand and will host its first Big Ten series this weekend at Illinois Field, as the Illini are scheduled to play Purdue on Friday, March 28, at 4 p.m., Saturday, March 29, at 3 p.m. and Sunday, March 30, at 1 p.m.