Illinois ace Duchene shuts out Gators
Published: Friday, February 28, 2014 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 28, 2014 at 11:05 p.m.
Illinois sophomore starter Kevin Duchene tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout, and the Illini plated four runs in the top of the sixth to break open a close game en route to a 6-0 win over No. 23 Florida on Friday night at McKethan Stadium.
“He was really good,” coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “He was a freshman All-American last year, and he threw the ball really good. He used both sides of the plate and had life to his fastball.”
The win, the second of the day for Illinois (4-4), dropped the Gators, who lost for the fourth time in five outings, to 5-5 heading into Saturday night's game with FGCU (6-4), which lost earlier in the day to the Illini, 3-2.
Illinois broke on top in the third inning on a two-out, two-run double by David Kerian off lefty Bobby Poyner, UF's starter.
Kerian, a right-handed batter, hit a soft liner on a 1-2 pitch that landed just inside the right-field line and rolled into the corner, plating teammates Casey Fletcher and Will Krug, who each had singled.
After facing the minimum of nine UF hitters through the first three innings, Duchene (1-1), who was 9-1 with a 2.69 ERA last year, finally ran into trouble in the Florida fourth.
The Gators got the first two men on and eventually loaded the bases with only one out, but just as in Thursday's 2-1 loss to FGCU in the same scenario, could not capitalize and never really threatened again as Duchene finished off his impressive effort by throwing exactly 100 pitches and only facing four batters over the minimum.
“Against pitchers like that, you only get so many cracks, and when you get your opportunity, you've got to have your best at-bat,” O'Sullivan said. “We'll learn from it. We'll get better, but we've just got to get better at-bats when those opportunities arise.”
Illinois extended its lead to 6-0 in the top of the sixth, stringing together four hits with a hit batter and a UF error to plate four runs, all charged to freshman right-hander Brett Morales, who relieved Poyner in the fifth.
That was more than enough for Duchene, who allowed only three lead-off singles — one to sophomore Richie Martin in the fourth that extended his team-high hitting streak to 14 games dating back to last year, one by freshman Peter Alonso to start the seventh, and one by freshman Ryan Larson to open the Gator eighth.
“Our plan tonight was to attack the fastball, but obviously we didn't really do a good job with that,” Alonso said. “It's a team effort, and everybody needs to swing the bats with conviction and have better at-bats.”
Krug went 4 for 5 to pace a 12-hit Illinois attack and reached base in all five at-bats thanks to one of two UF fielding errors on the night.
Poyner (1-2), the first of five UF pitchers, took the loss.
Two games are again on tap Saturday, with FGCU and Illinois meeting at 1 p.m. before the Eagles and Gators square off at 7.