Softball heads to West Coast

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illini take their 11-7 record to Sacramento to compete in the Capital Classic.

This tournament is played in a round robin format with the Illini being one of 13 teams competing. Also competing in the tournament are fellow Big Ten members Minnesota and No. 23 Northwestern.

They head to California on the heels of a 4-3 win over Illinois State on Wednesday.

The Illini are led offensively by senior leftfielder LeeAnn Butcher, who is hitting .391 and leads the team in hits with 25.

The pitching staff is led by sophomore Mary Miller who has a 7-3 record with a 2.46 ERA. Freshman Claire DeVreese came on in relief Wednesday, and pitched out of two bases-loaded jams.

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“We expect all our pitchers to continue to improve because we need them,” said Illini head coach Terri Sullivan.

Freshman third baseman Shanna Diller has been hitting very well lately, and marked her homecoming Wednesday by hitting a home run in her first at bat.

“She is more consistent,” Sullivan said.

On Friday, the Illini face Brigham Young and tournament host Sacramento State.

BYU is 15-2 on the season and was supposed to play the Illini at the Rebel Classic in Las Vegas, but the game was rained out.

The Cougars are led on offense by senior catcher Lauren Watson with a .491 batting average. She has 7 home runs and 17 RBIs on the season.

“Every game is a big game and BYU has a solid offensive lineup,” Sullivan said.

BYU’s pitching staff is led by junior Summer Tobias who has a 7-2 record, while opponents are only hitting .205 against her.

Sacramento State is coming off of a doubleheader sweep of Utah Valley State on Wednesday. In the second game Sacramento’s junior pitcher Nikki Cinque threw a no-hitter as the Hornets won 6-0. Opponents are only hitting .201 against the Hornets this season.

On offense, Sacramento is led by junior center fielder Lindy Winkler with a .407 batting average.

On Saturday, the Illini play against Long Island and Kansas.

Long Island is the lone team on the Illini schedule with a losing record. The Blackbirds are now 3-13 after beginning the season 0-9. The Blackbirds are led by senior first baseman Briana Mathieson who has hit all five Blackbird home runs this season.

Following Long Island, the Illini will face 14-8 Kansas for the first time ever.

The Jayhawks are coming off of a 4-0 record at their own tournament last weekend. They are led by junior shortstop Destiny Frankenstein, who has a .383 batting average, 6 home runs and 23 RBIs.

On Sunday the Illini only play one game, but it is against No. 2 California. The Golden Bears are 22-2 on the season and are hitting .313 on the season while their opponents are hitting .147. They are led by junior catcher Haley Woods with 7 home runs and 29 RBIs.

California’s pitching staff is led by Junior Kristina Thorson who is 11-1 with a 0.84 ERA. She also has 89 strikeouts compared to 11 walks. Senior Kelly Anderson is 10-1 with a 0.94 ERA.

“We’ve faced pretty solid pitching staffs all year, and our team has done a good job on attacking the opposing pitchers,” Sullivan said.