Softball win brings Big Ten record to 5-3

Illinois infielder Shanna Diller swings at a pitch during the doubleheader against Michigan on Sunday, at Eichelberger Field. Beck Diefenbach

Adam Babcock

Illinois infielder Shanna Diller swings at a pitch during the doubleheader against Michigan on Sunday, at Eichelberger Field. Beck Diefenbach

By Mike Theodore

The Midwest weather finally cooperated with the Illinois softball team this weekend, allowing the team to host two doubleheaders.

The Illini swept a Friday doubleheader against Michigan State and split with No. 8 Michigan on Sunday afternoon.

After getting blanked 5-0 in the first game and trailing 3-0 in the last inning of the second game against Michigan, the Illinois offense finally came to life. Following a span of 13 innings without a run, the Illini pushed across three of them, led by Shanna Diller’s two-run home run.

Illini pitcher Claire DeVreese shut down the Wolverine offense in the bottom half of the inning to send the game into extra innings. Kisten Martin led off the top of the eighth with a single to center, but the next two Illini hitters struck out after failing to advance her to second on bunt attempts. With two outs and the go-ahead run on base, Illini centerfielder Sarah Bryers drilled the first pitch from Lorilyn Wilson over the right field wall to give the Illini the lead.

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“If you don’t get the job done you need to know you can count on your teammates,” head coach Terri Sullivan said. “I think our players do a good job of picking each other up.”

DeVreese returned to the mound and retired the Wolverines in order to give Illinois its third win in four tries of the weekend.

The wins improved the Illini’s record to 5-3 in Big Ten play and 26-15 overall.

“I think the biggest part was staying resilient,” Sullivan said. “We stunk up the field the first game; they regrouped, and then got behind again. You can run and hide or you can really get tough. Moments like this really show what a team is capable of doing.”

Friday afternoon freshman pitcher Vicky Brown pitched five innings to notch her 15th win of the season in the Illini’s 9-6 victory in the first game against the Spartans. The Illini hit four long balls to help Brown.

In the nightcap, the Illini scored five runs in the top of the second and went on to win again by the score of 9-6.

Brown returned to the mound to close out the win and earned her first career save.

“Michigan State fought hard too,” Sullivan said. “In this conference, it’s just not over until the final at bat. We knew we had to stay really focused.”