Softball wraps up season

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illini end their season this weekend by playing at No. 21 Iowa on Saturday and Sunday. Illinois is 23-25 this season but has only won three of their sixteen conference games and will not qualify for the conference tournament. Only Indiana has a worse conference record than the Illini.

“You can’t let it get you down, and you’ve got to have some sense of pride,” said Illini head coach Terri Sullivan.

The Illini have defeated two ranked teams this season, then-No. 5 LSU and then-No. 20 Northwestern.

They also won their last non-conference game on Tuesday, defeating Eastern Illinois 4-2.

The Illini offense was led by junior centerfielder Rachelle Coriddi and sophomore second baseman Molly Lawhead who both went 2-for-3 in the game.

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Coriddi is hitting .329 and Lawhead .321, second and third on the team respectively.

Little-used junior pitcher Jackelyn Diekemper pitched the last four innings of the game only allowing one run to pick up the save.

“She has struggled throwing strikes and at one time had more walks than innings pitched, but she has made up her mind to pitch a lot better,” Sullivan said.

The Illini put the game away on a suicide squeeze play that was executed by freshman third baseman Shanna Diller, who leads the team in RBI’s with 38 and is tied with Jenna Hall for the lead in home runs with seven.

Iowa, which has won 16 of their last 18 games, comes into the weekend with an overall record of 44-10 and a conference record of 11-5, which is good for third place behind Michigan and Northwestern.

“They always have a solid team and we have always had great competitive games with them,” Sullivan said.

The Hawkeyes are hitting .283 as a team, have scored 266 runs and are second in the conference in doubles (77) and home runs (57).

They are led individually by freshman third baseman Emily Nichols, who is batting .331 with 16 home runs and 47 RBI. Her home run total is third in the conference and her RBI total is fourth in the conference.

“She’s put up some good numbers, but we’ve come up against some of the best hitters in the game,” Sullivan said.

The Hawkeyes team ERA is 1.34, which is third in the conference, and opponents are hitting .186 against them.

Their pitching staff is led by senior Lisa Birocci and junior Ali Arnold. Birocci is 24-7 with a 1.15 ERA. Her 221 strikeouts are third in the Big Ten. Arnold is 19-3 with a 1.49 ERA and 187 strikeouts.

“If our pitchers throw strikes, make routine plays on defense, have good at-bats and put pressure on their defense we should be fine,” Sullivan said.