Illinois picks up wins over Coastal Carolina, West Virginia

Ty+Weber+pitches+the+ball+during+the+Illinois%E2%80%99+game+against+Coastal+Carolina+at+Conway+S.C.+on+Feb.+22.

Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Ty Weber pitches the ball during the Illinois’ game against Coastal Carolina at Conway S.C. on Feb. 22.

By Rich Eberwein, Staff Writer

Illinois won two games and lost one over the weekend as they traveled to South Carolina. The team lost Friday against West Carolina, 9-2, but picked up wins against Coastal Carolina (5-2) on Saturday and West Virginia (2-1) on Sunday. The weekend competition moved the team to a 3-3 record.

Junior left-handed pitcher Jimmy Burnette made his first career start against West Carolina on Friday, lasting three and one-third innings while four unearned runs crossed the plate on account of the five errors the Illini defense made before the fifth inning. Sophomore right-hander Ty Rybarczyk had a good outing in relief, tossing four and one-third innings and struck out six Catamounts.

Offensively, there wasn’t a lot of action, and the game had an overall “this is not our day” feel to it. Only five hits came off Illini bats, one of them coming from a home run by junior first baseman Garrett McGowan, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the nine-run onslaught.

Saturday had a much happier tale on both sides of the game, with senior Ty Weber getting the nod and tossing five shutout innings against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Weber has had success against the Chanticleers in the past, and his career numbers against them are impressive with 18.2 innings pitched and a 2.41 ERA to complement two wins. Junior Ryan Kutt, senior Ryan Schmitt and senior closer Garrett Acton all came out of the bullpen to throw a combined four scoreless innings and hold down the Illinois lead.

“A lot of positives and still a lot of things we need to clean up,” said head coach Dan Hartleb. “It feels good to get a win. These guys have worked hard and had a good attitude and continue to get better”

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    Junior center fielder Taylor Jackson, sophomore shortstop Branden Comia and junior designated hitter Alex Steinbach contributed six of the Illini’s nine hits, and sophomore first baseman Kellen Sarver drove in two runs on an RBI single in the fifth inning and a bases-loaded walk for an insurance run in the ninth. Two loud extra-base hits from junior outfielder Nathan Aide and Steinbach almost resulted in a couple of home runs.

    Illinois’ pitching and defense held West Virginia to one run on Sunday, as freshman starting pitcher Cole Kirschsieper made his first start for the Illini, recording the win in six innings pitched while allowing one run. Sophomore pitcher Aidan Maldonado recorded the save.

    The only offense came in the fourth inning when sophomore infielder Branden Comia hit a two-run home run, making the score 2-1.

    The team heads to Frisco, Texas, this weekend to compete in the Frisco Classic. They will see two ranked teams over the weekend in No. 20 Texas A&M on Friday and No. 14 University of California, Los Angeles, on Sunday.

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