The Daily Illini

Illinois baseball hangs tight with defending national champs

Cole+Bellair+pitches+in+a+game+against+St.+Louis+University+on+April+17+at+Illinois+Field.++Bellair%27s+performance+against+Coastal+Carolina+earned+him+praise+from+head+coach+Dan+Hartleb.
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Illinois baseball hangs tight with defending national champs

Cole Bellair pitches in a game against St. Louis University on April 17 at Illinois Field.  Bellair's performance against Coastal Carolina earned him praise from head coach Dan Hartleb.

Cole Bellair pitches in a game against St. Louis University on April 17 at Illinois Field. Bellair's performance against Coastal Carolina earned him praise from head coach Dan Hartleb.

The Daily Illini File Photo

Cole Bellair pitches in a game against St. Louis University on April 17 at Illinois Field. Bellair's performance against Coastal Carolina earned him praise from head coach Dan Hartleb.

The Daily Illini File Photo

The Daily Illini File Photo

Cole Bellair pitches in a game against St. Louis University on April 17 at Illinois Field. Bellair's performance against Coastal Carolina earned him praise from head coach Dan Hartleb.

By Mike Gasick, Assistant sports editor

The Illinois baseball team was three outs away from taking two games against defending College World Series champion Coastal Carolina.

The Illini received one of their best pitching performances this season from Ty Weber on Saturday. The freshman threw 7 2/3 innings of no-hit ball, leaving it up to the bullpen to preserve a 2-1 lead.

Zack Jones inherited a runner on second after head coach Dan Hartleb pulled Weber. The right-hander caught Coastal Carolina’s Kieton Rivers looking on a 3-2 pitch to keep the lead heading into the ninth.

The Illini failed to score in the top-half of the inning and brought Ryan Schmitt in to close out the game.

The freshman had to go through the Chanticleers’ heart of the lineup in hopes of preserving two-straight Illini wins over the weekend.

After getting Coastal Carolina’s Wood Myers on a sharp lineout, Schmitt yielded a solo shot off the bat to tie the game at two.

Peyton Isaacson followed with another home run off of a 1-2 pitch to walk it off for Coastal Carolina. Dan Hartleb did not like the end result, but was pleased with Weber’s performance to keep his team in the game.

“We thought he did very good,” Hartleb said. “I thought he competed well and continues to get better and better, so we are very pleased with his progress and his performance.”

The Illinois head coach was also happy with another one of his starting pitchers in the previous game. Cole Bellair took the mound in the opener, going six innings and giving up six runs on seven hits and four walks.

The bullpen took care of the rest Friday, pitching three scoreless innings to solidify a 7-6 victory for the Illini.

The team could not repeat its performance in the second game of its doubleheader Saturday.

The Illini went up against Costal Carolina’s Jason Bilous, who did not allow a run in his first start of the season against Albany.

Bilous had an almost identical performance against the Illini, going seven innings and striking out nine.

Hartleb said he expected to see some of his players have difficult at-bats because of Bilous’ strong breaking ball and fastball that touched 94-96 mph.

The Illini could not get anything off the Chanticleers’ bullpen, dropping the final contest of the series, 6-0.

Illinois now stands at 4-9 on the season and have failed to win a season series. Through 111 innings pitched, the Illini pitching staff has posted a 7.14 ERA, while hitters have put up a .268 batting average.

Hartleb did not believe his team was fazed by the competition this weekend but said he would like to see his players make fewer mistakes.

“I don’t think our guys were in awe (of Coastal Carolina),” Hartleb said. “Right now, we’re making too many mistakes to get over the hump, but I think each week we see progress in a lot of areas.”

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@mike_mgasick 

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