Softball finishes 3-2 in Florida

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illini went 3-2 this weekend at the Speedline Invitational to finish second to South Florida in Clearwater, Fla.

For the first time this season, the Illini won the opening game of a tournament by defeating Coastal Carolina 7-0.

“We put a big emphasis on winning this game,” said Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan.

The Illini were led by sophomore pitcher Mary Miller, who pitched a complete game, allowing only two hits. This game was the first shutout for the Illini this season.

“The most impressive thing about her (Miller) was the leadership and confidence she had on the mound,” Sullivan said.

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On offense, the Illini attacked from the outset, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning. Junior centerfielder Rachelle Coriddi led off with a single and then stole second base. After being bunted over to third base by senior leftfielder LeeAnn Butcher, Coriddi scored on a wild pitch. Freshman shortstop Shanna Diller doubled to score Butcher. Freshman second baseman Angelena Mexicano rounded out first inning scoring by driving in Diller with an RBI single.

The Illini made the score 5-0 in the top of the sixth when junior Jackelyn Diekemper singled, scoring Butcher and senior pinch runner Elene Planinsek. The Illini then scored two more runs in the seventh inning.

In their second game of that day, the Illini defeated Pittsburgh 6-3.

Down by a run in the fourth inning, the Illini offense came alive when Mexicano drove in two runs with a single. That was followed by an RBI double by senior catcher Julie Balicki, who was driven in by sophomore first baseman Kisten Martin to make the score 4-1. The Illini didn’t look back.

“We had a balanced offensive attack, we didn’t leave runners, and we played solid defense,” Sullivan said.

Friday would be a different story for the Illini as they lost to Central Michigan 1-0. Junior pitcher Jessica Garvin pitched a complete game as the Illini failed to execute with runners on base, stranding six runners in the game.

“Their pitcher (Garvin) had a great game; she threw strikes and hit her spots, but it just wasn’t our day,” Sullivan said.

Mary Miller also pitched a complete game, but she allowed a run in the second inning that would turn out to be the difference.

Sophomore right fielder Jacque Benedict started the inning by drawing a walk. She stole second base and advanced to third on a sacrifice fly by sophomore designated hitter Lindsey Calme. Senior centerfielder Christin Sobeck drove in Benedict with an RBI double.

“We didn’t execute offensively that game,” Sullivan said.

On Saturday, the Illini came back to defeat Southern Mississippi 5-3 to win their bracket.

Once again, the Illini scored in the first inning as Coriddi reached on an error and advanced to second when Lady Eagles pitcher Krystal Crooks threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt. Butcher put down a sacrifice bunt to advance Coriddi to third. She scored on a groundout by Diller.

The Lady Eagles scored the next three runs to take a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth.

The Illini responded with two runs of their own when junior third baseman Jenna Hall hit an opposite field home run that went off the glove of left fielder Jennifer Fox and over the fence.

They completed the comeback when Diller hit a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“That was one of the most dramatic finishes we’ve had all year,” Sullivan said.

The Illini played South Florida in the championship game of the tournament, but the Bulls came back and defeated the Illini 8-7.

Illinois had a 4-0 lead after two innings thanks in part to a two-run single by Hall.

The Bulls came back with four runs on five hits in the third inning to tie the game.

The Illini took the lead back 5-4 when sophomore right fielder Molly Lawhead hit an RBI single to score junior outfielder Laura Zobrist. South Florida responded when junior third baseman Krista Holle hit a two-run double to give the Bulls a 6-5 lead. They added two more runs in the top of the fifth to take an 8-5 lead.

The Illini came back as Coriddi hit RBI singles in the fifth and seventh innings, but they could not push across the tying run.

“It was a great softball game offensively,” Sullivan said. “Both teams hit well and executed offensively.”