Softball ready for home opener

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illini hope to begin the home portion of their season in winning fashion as they go up against Loyola today at Eichelberger Field.

The game comes on the heels of a weekend in which the Illini went 0-4 in their first Big Ten games of the season against No. 20 Northwestern and top-ranked Michigan.

“Their heads and hearts are right where they need to be,” said Illini head coach Terri Sullivan. “We missed some opportunities, but we have to come out and play better softball.”

Loyola comes to Champaign with an 8-15 record. They started Horizon League play on Monday by splitting a doubleheader with Detroit, losing 1-0 in the opening game and winning the second game 6-0.

They started the season on a five-game losing streak and have had another five-game losing streak and one four-game losing streak this season. Despite their record, Sullivan is not taking the Ramblers lightly.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“It should be a good game since we are in-state rivals,” Sullivan said.

Over the weekend, the Illini committed 10 errors in four games, which didn’t help a pitching staff with an overall ERA of 4.24 heading into today’s game.

The Illini defense is ranked second to last in fielding percentage at .917. Only Minnesota is worse at .894.

“I’ve not been pleased with our overall defense,” Sullivan said. “I expect more out of our pitchers and defense.”

One possible reason why the Illini have struggled on defense is lack of games. The Illini have lost a number of games due to bad weather at preseason tournaments.

“That’s why we leave the state of Illinois in February and March, but we don’t make any excuses,” Sullivan said.

Sophomore Mary Miller has been the workhorse of the Illini pitching staff, throwing 116 of the 195 innings that the Illini have played this year. She has compiled a 10-7 record with a 3.56 ERA. She is especially looking forward to the home opener.

“I had a rough Sunday, and I want to throw strikes and be dominant,” Miller said.

One of the bright spots for the Illini has been the performance of its lead-off hitters, senior left fielder LeeAnn Butcher and junior center fielder Rachelle Coriddi. Coriddi is second on the team with a .308 batting average, and Butcher is third in the team hitting .300.

“I feel like Rachelle and I are the key,” Butcher said.

When they get on base, they have freshman third baseman Shann Diller (29 RBI) and junior firstbaseman Jenna Hall (24 RBI) to drive them in.

Despite the setbacks that the team has had this year, they are looking forward to finally playing at home for the first time.

“They are really excited, everybody has worked hard, the field is good and our fans give us a lot of enthusiasm,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan is also careful not to place too much importance on this game.

“You can’t make any game bigger than another, and our players can’t get distracted,” she said.

Butcher has a couple of expectations for today.

“We need two wins and to play solid defense,” Butcher said.