Zach Jones picked up the Illinois pitching staff as the Illini doubled-up in-state rival Illinois State, 4-2, Tuesday afternoon from a cold Illinois Field.
Jones, who threw the best game of his career out of the bullpen. Jones (2-0) threw a career-high 3 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three to pick up the win.
Jones entered in the fourth and put up zeros through the seventh to give the Illini offense a chance to break the game open. Illinois managed just six hits, all singles, but plated two in the fifth to get to the winning margin.
Aeilts struck out swinging but reached first base on a wild pitch, was advanced to second on a single by Joe Butler, and to third following a Grimm infield single. A batter later, Rave hit the first Redbird sacrifice fly of the game, staking the visitors to a 1-0 lead.
Bren Spillane had a go-ahead RBI single and the next batter Michael Massey followed with a sac fly in the deciding fifth inning. Illinois' first two runs came on RBI singles from Jeff Korte and Grant Van Scoy in the second.
Noah Sadler walked with one out in the third, advanced to second on a wild pitch. Sadler moved to third when a hit by Derek Parola went off of the bag at third base, putting runners on the corners. A batter later, Zouras hit a towering fly ball to right field that saw Sadler come around to score.
In the fourth the Redbirds loaded the bases with one out; however, Sadler hit a screaming shot off the bat, directly to the Illinois first baseman who turned a double play to end the threat.
Illinois State (11-16), which entered the game with a top-75 RPI, stranded 11 base runners. Joe Aeilts and Bryce Grimm led ISU with two hits, while the Illini did a nice job pitching to Redbirds' star center fielder John Rave, who snapped a 17-game hitting streak by going 0-for-4.
Joey Gerber shut the door quickly in the ninth inning with two strikeouts in three batters faced. He needed only 14 pitches to earn his ninth save, tied for the fifth-most in an Illinois single season.
Illinois State returns to action today hosting St. Francis at 3 p.m. at Duffy Bass Field.
Tuesday was the start of a nine-game homestand for the Illini. Illinois continues the stand Friday at Illinois Field against Rutgers.