Softball to face No. 22 Southern Illinois

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illini will go on the road to face No. 22 Southern Illinois in a doubleheader today in Carbondale.

The Illini were supposed to play a doubleheader against Michigan State on Sunday, but received an unexpected rest last weekend when the Spartan doubleheader was cancelled due to snow and excessive wind. The two games will not be made up.

“We really don’t need a rest, we have a great team that we’re playing against tomorrow,” said Illini head coach Terri Sullivan.

This comes on the heels of a rain out of the second game against Bradley while the Illini were up 5-0 after three innings.

“We have lost a lot of games to weather, but it’s something you can’t control,” Sullivan said.

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The Salukis are 40-10 and 18-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference. They come off of a series in which they won two out of three against No. 19 Creighton. In that series, the Salukis moved a game ahead of the Blue Jays for the conference lead. They started the season 6-7, but have won 34 of its last 37 games.

“They are a very balanced team,” Sullivan said. “They have good offense, defense, pitching and good coaching.”

The Salukis hit .279 as a team and are lead in batting average by Krystal Stein who is hitting .372 on the season.

Its power comes from first baseman Katie Louis and outfielder Katie Jordan, who are tied for the team lead with 11 home runs each.

The Salukis’ pitchers hold opponents to a .166 batting average and have a team ERA of 0.95. Its pitching staff is lead by sophomore Cassidy Scoggins.

Scroggins is 18-3 with a 0.54 ERA and has only given up 50 hits this season while striking out 163.

The Illini managed to sweep a doubleheader against the Salukis at Eichelberger Field last season, but the Illini were 34-17 at that point last year.

This year the Illini are 20-23 overall including 1-11 in Big Ten play.

“It’s perfect timing that we play a team like them this week,” Sullivan said. “It will prepare us for the weekend.”

The Illini came back to defeat Bradley 5-2 last Thursday to win the 200th game in the program’s six year history.

After being down 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth, the Illini scored four runs and then kept the momentum in the second game until the rain came.

Sophomore second baseman Molly Lawhead led the Illini offensively going 2-for-3 with a home run.

Sophomore Mary Miller came into the game at the beginning of the third inning and pitched five hitless innings to pick up the win.

“We scored five runs early and we were really swinging the bats, but we ran into some bad weather,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan knows that her team can compete with any team in the country when they bring their A-game to the park.

“We need to have good at-bats, make routine plays and the pitchers need to throw strikes,” Sullivan said. “If we do that we can compete with any team in the country.”