Women face Bradley in doubleheader

Illinois softball pitcher Clair DeVreese winds up before throwing a pitch at the Illinois-Iowa softball game Saturday. Tessa Pelias

Illinois softball pitcher Clair DeVreese winds up before throwing a pitch at the Illinois-Iowa softball game Saturday. Tessa Pelias

By Troy Murray

Illinois softball hopes to ride the wave of a comeback victory against Wisconsin and get back on track against Bradley (13-13, 3-4) in a doubleheader in Peoria on Tuesday.

The Illini (14-18, 1-3) lost three out of four against Iowa and Wisconsin in its Big Ten home opener over the weekend, but closed it out with a five run comeback to capture its first conference win.

Shortstop Angelena Mexicano provided the offense as opposing coaches tried to prevent first basemen Jenna Hall from beating them by walking her 11 times during the weekend.

Mexicano has been hot from the plate as of late, driving in 13 runs last week including six in the doubleheader against Wisconsin.

“She’s done a great job of maturing as a hitter,” said head coach Terri Sullivan. “I think she is a player that is most improved in playing with a lot of confidence on both sides of the ball – offensively and defensively.”

Sullivan bumped her up to the number two spot in the order for the Wisconsin series, but said she was not entirely sure where Mexicano would bat against Bradley.

“We feel right now that Angelena is in a frame of mind to hit in any spot in the order,” Sullivan said. “She’s got power but she also has speed. She’s really seeing the ball well and hitting with confidence.”

The Illini struggled in the field over the weekend, committing seven errors in the four games, but Sullivan said the team did not do anything differently to get back to where they needed to be defensively.

“There isn’t a day where we stress one thing or the other,” Sullivan said. “We like to always have an element of working on good, solid fundamentals, especially on the defensive end.

Illinois has also been getting in the habit of giving up runs early in the game, allowing 13 runs in the first inning alone. Sullivan mostly attributed this to the pitching staff and their confidence level.

“Most teams have hitters in the top of the order that are threatening,” Sullivan said. “You just have to really believe in your defense as a pitcher and make batters really work to get something started early.”

Bradley boasts one of the best lead off hitters in the Missouri Valley Conference and will look to jump all over the Illini early. As a freshman last year, Molly Bergeson was one of two players to start all 51 games, hitting .301 with a team leading 30 runs scored and five triples.

Although Bradley’s record would not strike fear in most opponents, Sullivan said she considers the in-state rivals tough all the same.

“Every time we play them it’s good competition,” Sullivan said. “They have a good coach who’s been there and they really come to play at their home field. No matter who we play, we try not to think about the name on the jersey. It’s proven that with one swing of the bat, the game can change.”