Bellair has breakout weekend for Illinois baseball

By Cole Henke

Tweet: [email protected] RHP Cole Bellair looked like a veteran on the mound against Florida gulf Coast.

There is one pitcher on the Illinois baseball staff
who hasn’t given up a run in more than one inning of work.

It isn’t lefty submarine hurler J.D. Nielsen. It isn’t senior
closer Nick Blackburn.

It’s freshman reliever Cole Bellair.

The 6-foot-1 right-hander has made three appearances and has given up one hit in 3 2/3 innings of work.

Nielsen is the only arm in the bullpen that has pitched
more innings than Bellair.

“Cole has been awesome,” catcher Jason Goldstein said. “He has turned into
our go-to righty out of the pen right now in the middle innings.”

Bellair went to Lockport Township High School in Lockport, Illinois. He went 5-3 with a 2.60 ERA his senior year and signed with Illinois as
the No. 17 recruit in the state.

The freshman had a breakout game against Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday in Fort Meyers, Florida. He went two innings without giving up
a hit, struck out three and provided Blackburn with a save opportunity.

“Just like a lot of freshman, Cole came in and his velocity
was down,” Goldstein said. “He was kind of tired out from the long year, but he
has delivered every time. He is a guy who throws all of his pitches for strikes
and he is really easy to catch.”

Looking ahead to
tournament time

The Illini are only two series into the season, but
postseason play is already in their sights.

Florida Gulf Coast won game three against
Illinois, preventing getting swept for the second time this season.

Goldstein said the missed
opportunity to complete the sweep could come back to bite the Illini, especially if FGCU becomes a team good enough to provide a big RPI boost.

“I know it sounds silly, but every game really does matter when it comes to tournament time,” Goldstein said. “If
we do become a bubble team (that loss) will hurt us. Obviously we don’t want to
be a bubble team, we want to be a team that is solidly in. But that’s going to be
dictated by how we play in the upcoming weeks.”

Too content with

The Illini scored 10 runs over three games against the
Eagles, but they only produced multiple runs in an inning once. 

Goldstein thinks his team gets too content after it tallies its first run in an inning.

“It is just an attitude of not settling for one run,”
Goldstein said. “We had a lot of situations where we had second and third with
less than two outs, and it’s kind of like we score one run and we are OK with
that. We just aren’t coming up with the big hit with two outs right now.”

[email protected]