Softball looks to get over Big Ten losing streak

Illinois´ Rachelle Coriddi makes contact against DePaul at Eichelberger Field on Wednesday. Online Poster

Illinois´ Rachelle Coriddi makes contact against DePaul at Eichelberger Field on Wednesday. Online Poster

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illini look to break their 0-8 start in the Big Ten this weekend as they face Penn State and Ohio State on the road.

Illini head coach Terri Sullivan knows the bad start in the conference can weigh on the players’ minds.

“It’s got to be on everybody’s mind, but it’s got to motivate you,” Sullivan said. “We have enough smart players to realize that we have to make a move this weekend.”

The Illini are 18-20 overall this year and just concluded an eight-game homestand in which they lost five of eight.

“We’re excited to go on the road,” Sullivan said.

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On Friday and Saturday the Illini play Penn State in University Park, Pa. The Nittany Lions are 3-3 in the Big Ten and 25-14 overall.

“These are two teams we can do some damage against,” Sullivan said.

They come off of a doubleheader sweep of Pittsburgh, winning 7-1 and 10-1. The Lions have seven players hitting above .300, with two of those players hitting above .400. Freshman Jen Acunto is second on the team in batting average (.414) and leads the team in home runs (6) and RBIs (28). Four players are tied for second in RBIs with 23. As a team they have a .317 batting average, while their opponents are only hitting .204.

All three of the Nittany Lions’ pitchers have an ERA below 2.00, led by freshman Ashley Esparza. Overall, the pitching staff is led by junior Missy Beseres, who has an 11-8 record with a 1.46 ERA. She has struck out 171 and walked 30 in 129.1 innings.

Illini face Ohio State

On Sunday, the Illini play a doubleheader against Ohio State in Columbus. The Buckeyes are 3-3 in the Big Ten and 19-11 overall. They have lost three straight conference games with their most recent loss coming last Sunday to Michigan State, 7-4.

The Buckeyes have two players hitting .400 and seven others hitting .300 or above. They are led offensively by sophomore outfielder Megan Schwab who is hitting .420 with seven home runs and 30 RBI.

Ohio State’s pitching staff is led by sophomore Jamee Juarez, who has pitched 129.1 out of a possible 197 innings. She is 15-8 with a 2.00 ERA.

The Illini have played three straight errorless games on defense, and Sullivan is very optimistic about the defense turning the corner after a rough start.

“We made some changes and maybe that effected the chemistry a little bit,” Sullivan said. “We lacked a little communication, and we need to play better defense this time of year because teams are hitting the ball a little harder.”

To get that first conference win, Sullivan outlined a few of things that her team needs to do this weekend to give themselves a chance.

“We’ll have to come out with a sense of urgency, score in every inning, stay aggressive at the plate and make routine plays on defense,” Sullivan said.