Softball focuses on bringing heat to opponents in Las Vegas Classic



By Meghan Montemurro

When gambling, it can pay to be aggressive at the blackjack table and consistent when playing poker. For the Illinois softball team, it hopes to use both to cash in this weekend at the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas.

Looking to improve on their 3-2 record and third-place finish at the USF Wilson Tournament last weekend, the Illini will not have an easy road in the three-day tournament as three of the five teams are ranked in the top 25: No. 6 UCLA, No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 23 UNLV.

Despite the difficulty, Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan is excited her team has the opportunity to play a tough schedule.

“We know if we focus on what we do well, we can take care of business,” Sullivan said. “We are not intimidated by anyone.”

Junior Lana Armstrong echoed her coach’s sentiment and pointed to the fearless play of the freshmen, specifically of Danielle Zymkowitz.

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Last weekend, the second baseman had an impressive opportunity to turn two. Zymkowitz fielded a ground ball when a girl seemingly twice her size was barreling down the base path.

The 5-foot-4 West Hills, Calif., native stayed with the play, tagged the runner, bounced off her and threw to first base, completing the double play and gaining momentum for the Illini.

Zymkowitz was also impressive at the plate as she hit .444 with a triple and five runs scored.

“To put up those kind of numbers are very impressive, especially as a freshman,” Sullivan said.

As a team, Sullivan said Illinois needs to have a better two-strike approach on offense and at the same time be more aggressive at the plate.

Armstrong, the starting catcher, sees the weekend as a good challenge for a team that has a solid mix of veterans and first-year players.

“We need to be a more consistent team,” Armstrong said. “The talent difference is not that different.”

The Illini have the tools to compete with the nation’s best and shine under the lights of Las Vegas.

“We have a very good lineup top to bottom and are mentally tough,” Sullivan said. “Most every tournament we play in spring have (these) types of opponents and we’re excited about it.”