The Daily Illini

Illini baseball heads to Boca Raton for three-game series with FAU

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Illinois’ Luke Shilling swings at a pitch in a game against St. Louis on April 17..Shilling has been adjusting to being the Friday starter

Illinois’ Luke Shilling swings at a pitch in a game against St. Louis on April 17..Shilling has been adjusting to being the Friday starter

The Daily Illini File Photo

The Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois’ Luke Shilling swings at a pitch in a game against St. Louis on April 17..Shilling has been adjusting to being the Friday starter

By Thomas Polcyn, Assistant sports editor

After two weekends of play, the Illinois baseball team is now 2-5.

The Illini have traveled to Texas for two straight weekends and played seven games during that time, including one matchup with No. 25 Houston.

This weekend, the traveling won’t stop and the competition won’t get much easier. Illinois will head to Boca Raton, Florida, for a three-game series with Florida Atlantic University.

In their first two weekends of play, the Owls are 4-1-1, and have scored 55 runs in their six games. The Illini pitching staff has a 6.82 ERA and has given up 20 extra base hits on the season.

The pitching staff as a whole has struggled, but despite its troubles, there are still some bright spots.

Sophomore pitcher Luke Shilling has been adjusting to the Friday starter role. In two starts so far, the hard-throwing righty has struck out under one batter per inning and has already picked up his first career win.

Freshman reliever Zack Jones has also been a solid contributor for the Illini pitching staff. In four appearances, the lefty has thrown 6.1 innings, struck out 10 batters and has a team-low 2.84 ERA.

Despite the team’s defensive struggles, the Illini have played better than the numbers may show.

Offensively, the Illini are averaging nearly seven runs per game and are hitting .277 as a team, led by sophomore outfielder Jack Yalowitz who is hitting .393.

Other younger players have continued to contribute as well.

Ben Troike and Michael Massey — both freshmen — have been two of the team’s strongest offensive leaders so far. The pair has a combined 10 RBIs, 10 runs and 19 hits in the first two weekends alone.

Sophomore catcher David Craan — who was named to last weekend’s all-tournament team — thinks that the team has much better baseball ahead of them.

“We have a lot of youth that are all really talented,” Craan said. “We’ve played some tough competition and it’s never a bad thing, but we also want to be at that top level at the end of the season.”

Troike also thinks that the team has a lot of room for improvement.

“We’re getting better and better and I think everybody on the team can feel that,” Troike said. “We’re going to do a lot better than we’ve shown these last two weekends.”

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@TPolc

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