Softball returns to action this weekend in Florida

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Online Poster

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

This weekend begins a stretch of 17 games in 17 days for the Illini softball team.

“It is pretty standard to have a stretch like this, and it’s what we expect, and it’s what college softball is all about,” said head coach Terri Sullivan.

The Illini are scheduled to play in the Speedline Invitational this weekend in Clearwater, Fla.

This tournament has a much different format than the previous ones the Illini have participated in. This tournament consists of 25 teams divided into five groups of five. The Illini are in a group with Coastal Carolina, Southern Mississippi, Pittsburgh and Central Michigan.

The Illini enter the tournament having won seven of their last nine games and are 8-5 so far this season.

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“It’s just us playing games, getting experience, working together on the field, our offense and defense settling into a consist lineup and individuals stepping up,” Sullivan said.

This season, junior third baseman Jenna Hall and freshman shortstop Shanna Diller lead the team in RBI’s with 14.

Hall already has 11 walks this season compared to 11 all of last season.

“We graduated a lot of our offense and with me being one of the main offensive threats, they are not looking to give me good pitches to hit,” Hall said.

Diller has a .368 batting average, which is third on the team. She is currently on a seven-game hitting streak. Although her numbers do not show it, her transition to college softball was not easy.

“It took me a little while, and I didn’t work on it this summer,” she said. “I started to feel more comfortable in the middle of our first tournament.”

Another player having a good season is junior centerfielder Rachelle Coriddi. She is tied for second on the team with 11 runs scored and leads the team with eight stolen bases in nine attempts. She has 50 stolen bases in 60 attempts in her career and five away from the school record of 55 set by Lindsey Hamma.

“This year, Coach is really pressuring us to get better jumps and that is what I have improved on most this season,” Coriddi said.

The Illini have dropped the opening game in the last two tournaments they have played in, but recovered to run the table each time.

“We really haven’t played really good in either of those games,” Sullivan said. “You want to establish yourselves out of the blocks and we’ve worked very hard to prepare for Coastal Carolina.”

The Illini begin play against the Lady Chanticleers on Thursday morning and then play Pittsburgh at noon the same day.

The Illini continue the tournament Friday when they play Central Michigan and then play Southern Mississippi. Depending on where the Illini finish up in their group, they could end up facing a team like No. 9 Baylor in the elimination round.

“It makes it like the postseason and we have a chance to meet up with great competition,” Sullivan said.