Riley Gowens sparks Illini history after being sidelined for two years


WCIA — Riley Gowens was keeping track of the days he spent off the mound.

“In the fall was the first time I had even thrown a baseball to a batter, I think it was 876 days to the date,” says Gowens.

The right-handed pitcher hadn’t played a game with Illinois until this year after spending the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery.

“That was by far the low point of my athletic career,” says Gowens. “I’m so excited to see the development I’ve had because my entire career here. I haven’t really focused on being a better pitcher, I’ve just been trying to get on the field.”

And once he did, he became a part of history. In his seventh career start last month, Gowens was one of three pitchers to combine for a no-hitter, the program’s first since 1985.

“It felt awesome,” says Gowens. “There have been some really frustrating weekends, and for us to be able to have a weekend like this, have a couple of good games building up to this is definitely big.”

His seven innings led Illinois to its 11th no-hitter. It was his longest and best outing of the season, after starting the year with a 6.50 ERA through five games.

“The jumps he’s made have been tremendous,” says head coach Dan Hartleb. “That goes back to being able to throw and get a feel, and gain that experience. He’s got a chance to be really special.”

From the highs of experiencing his first no-hitter to the lows of his first major injury, Gowens says it’s all part of the comeback that leaves him wanting more on the mound.

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