Softball: Women end season on a positive note

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illini concluded their season this weekend by splitting two games against No. 18 Iowa in Iowa City.

In Saturday’s game, the Hawkeyes defeated the Illini 4-3.

Iowa scored the first run of the game in the first inning as junior pitcher Jackelyn Diekemper hit Hawkeyes catcher Emily Nichols with the bases loaded to force in the first run.

Other than that, Diekemper and sophomore Mary Miller managed to contain Nichols in the game, not allowing her a hit.

Diekemper was able to get out of the first inning without further damage, as designated player Sami Baugh hit into a line-drive double play to end the inning.

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Center fielder Mindy Heiderken scored on a pass ball to extend the Hawkeyes’ lead to 2-0 in the second inning.

The Hawkeyes would take a 4-0 lead after four innings as pinch hitter Natalie Johnson hit a two-run home run off of Diekemper.

Hawkeyes pitcher Lisa Birocci held the Illini in check for four innings as she did not allow a single hit until junior first baseman Jenna Hall hit a single in the fourth inning.

Sophomore second baseman Molly Lawhead scored the Illini first run on an error by Iowa third baseman Abby Ruff.

The Illini continued the rally and made the score 4-3 in the sixth inning on a two-run home run by Hall after senior left fielder LeeAnn Butcher reached on an infield single.

“Our comeback shows that our team always plays the full seven innings and that we don’t give up,'” Sullivan said.

Iowa pitcher Ali Arnold came on in relief and with the bases loaded with one out, she struck out sophomore catcher Britney Koester and freshman shortstop Angelena Mexicano to end the inning.

“We have to take our hats off to their performance,” said Illini head coach Terri Sullivan.

The Illini won the second game of the series on Sunday 8-7 in a game that they almost let get away.

The Illini got out of the gates early by scoring four times in the first inning. Shanna Diller hit a sacrifice fly to get the Illini on the board. After a Lawhead RBI single, freshman pinch runner Katie Gaitros and Lawhead scored on an error by first baseman Brandy Sargent, one of four Hawkeye errors in the game.

“We were a lot more aggressive at the plate,” Sullivan said.

In the second inning Hall hit her first career grand slam to right field to give the Illini an 8-0 lead.

“You can’t say enough about her offense and defense,” Sullivan said. “Whenever she gets pitched to she comes through, and that’s the sign of a mature hitter.”

The Hawkeyes responded with two runs in the third inning to make the score 8-2 on a two-run single by right fielder Kylie Murray.

Miller came on in relief of freshman Claire DeVreese and got through the next three innings without giving up a run.

That was until the Hawkeyes staged a late inning rally by scoring five runs in the seventh inning.

The biggest hit came when Heidgerken hit a bases-clearing double to left field that made the score 8-7.

DeVreese came back into the game and got left fielder Natalie Johnson to ground out to end the game.

“There is no way that we are gonna be happy with no post season play, but today was a good victory, we beat Iowa for the first time at their place,” Sullivan said.