Illinois baseball blows opportunity for the sweep in Florida

By Cole Henke

The Illini (3-3) recorded four hits in their 3-2 loss to the Eagles (2-5) in Fort Myers, Florida, but took the series 2-1.JT

Shortstop Adam Walton, who went 0-2 with two walks, scored both of the Illini’s runs. Catcher Jason Goldstein and right fielder Pat McInerney recorded RBIs for Illinois. Goldstein went 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly; McInerney went 0-for-4 and earned his RBI via a fielder’s choice.JT

Two of the Illini’s four hits came in the top of the ninth, when center fielder Doran Turchin and first baseman Matthew James hit back-to-back singles to make one final push.JT

But the threat was a hollow one. Pinch-hitter Dan Rowbottom lined out to second to end the game.JT

The Illini’s four hits are the fewest recorded in a single game this season.

Head coach Dan Hartleb wasn’t with his team Sunday. He flew home after Saturday’s victory due to a death in his family.

Florida Gulf Coast starter Mario Leon pitched 5 1/3 innings Sunday, giving up one hit and walking five. With the game tied, the Eagles brought in reliever Ryan Lang to finish the game. The right-hander gave up three hits and no earned runs en route to his first win of the season.JT

“I don’t think we struggled that much,” Goldstein said. “We hit a lot of balls hard, but we hit a lot of balls at people. The kid was good, but I wouldn’t say he was great. I don’t think anybody on our team would say he was great.”

Starter Andrew Mamlic pitched five strong innings, but he did not have the same stuff when he returned to the mound for the sixth. Mamlic gave up three hits and one run without recording an out before he was pulled.JT

Before the sixth, Mamlic had given up four hits and the Eagles had scored one unearned run. He threw 94 pitches before being replaced by reliever J.D. Nielsen.

“I thought his whole outing was kind of a struggle,” Goldstein said. “He made good pitches and he competed. Our defense didn’t help him out much in the beginning, but he put together a gutsy performance.”

The loss was Mamlic’s first decision of the year.

Nielsen was solid in his second appearance of the weekend, eating up 2 1/3 innings while striking out five. He has pitched 6 2/3 innings in three appearances for the Illini, giving up five hits along the way.JT

Freshman Cole Bellair closed out the bottom of the eighth after Nielsen recording one out. Bellair got the Illini out of the inning without letting a batter reach base.

The Illini left the weekend with their first series win of the season, but were disappointed that they could not come away with the sweep.

“I think we left a lot of opportunities out there today,” Goldstein said. “Overall we had a good weekend. As a pitching staff we are terrific right now, and as an offense we are good, but we are not great. We need to score more runs.”

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