Illinois will put its undefeated record on the line this weekend as it travels to Florida Atlantic (3-1) for a Friday-Sunday series.
The Illini (3-0) defeated Georgetown, No. 20 Wake Forest, and Sacred Heart last weekend and look to keep that hot start going this weekend against the Owls. Florida Atlantic swept Cincinnati in 9-0, 8-7, and 5-3 victories last weekend, but dropped its first contest against Miami, 11-4 on Wednesday night.
Eric Rivera and B.J. Murray provided most of the offense for the Owls, while Blake Sanderson threw a shutout through six innings and will most likely get the ball in game one of the series with Illinois.
On the mound, the Illini plan to roll out the same three starting pitchers as they did last weekend: Quinn Snarskis, Andy Fisher and Cyrillo Watson.
Snarskis struggled a bit, giving up two runs and not getting out of the fourth inning, while Fisher pitched into the sixth before getting pulled. He struck out seven and gave up two runs.
Watson looked like an ace for the Illini, striking out eight in six innings of shutout baseball.
“I like what those guys give us in the beginning of games, to get it to our bullpen,” said Illinois Pitching Coach Drew Dickinson.
Offensively, Zac Taylor put on a show and batted .462 over the three-game span, clubbing a homer and barely missing his second of the year.
Michael Massey showed why he belonged in the three hole, batting .364 but not playing the field. Massey was in the designated hitter role and Ben Troike was suspended and is still suspended this weekend due to team rules. That means one of the better double-play duos in the country last year have yet to make its 2019 debut.
Branden Comia (2B) and Grant Van Scoy (SS) performed admirably up the middle. Both of whom have batting averages upwards of .300 and have driven in a run in the team’s first three contests.
In regards to who will be up the middle this weekend against Florida Atlantic, Coach Dan Hartleb was not giving anything away.
“That’s yet to be determined. I need to see guys in practice and see where we’re at,” Hartleb said.
The Illini opened their season 3-0 and look to build on that this weekend.
“I don’t expect to win every game,” Harleb said. “I thought [the team] did a good job... To come out 3-0, I thought we were fortunate, but I thought we played to that level where we deserved to be 3-0... What we did last weekend doesn’t matter, it’s getting better and moving forward and playing even better this weekend.”
The Illini will start the series at 5:30 p.m. CT on Friday, with the final two games being held at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and 11:00 a.m. CT on Sunday.