Softball hunkers down for conference contests



By Kate Munson

With a successful home opener behind them, the Illini softball team is on the road again this weekend for four key Big Ten games.

“Obviously, in Big Ten play you get really pumped up and excited to do that and play against your conference,” senior third baseman Shanna Diller said. “I think we’re ready. We’ve played a really tough schedule to get us ready for it.”

Friday and Saturday the team will play at Penn State. There, Illini pitching will have to contend with junior outfielder Danielle Kinley who has a .386 average and six stolen bases in 35 games. Penn State freshman infielder Desi Giordano will also be on the pitchers’ minds.

She leads the Lions with 26 RBIs in 33 games to go along with four home runs.

On Sunday, the Fighting Illini will be in Michigan for a doubleheader against No. 5 Wolverines.

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Michigan is led by senior first baseman Samantha Findlay who has a .402 average to go along with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs in 32 games.

Illinois is looking forward to the challenge.

“We’re very excited. We prepared during our preseason and we played against ranked teams and had tough losses and also some really good wins,” said senior shortstop Angelena Mexicano. “They’re tough teams this weekend and I think we’re going to bring it to them and hopefully sweep the whole weekend.”

The Orange and Blue may have good reason to be optimistic.

In their home opener Wednesday, the team scored a combined 27 runs in two games against Eastern Illinois to improve to 12-1 overall against the Panthers.

Meanwhile, Illini pitching gave up five runs in the first game and only one in the second.

Illinois did not commit an error in either game, a marked improvement from the seven errors in the two games against Ohio State last weekend.

“I know we had a problem with defense this past weekend, so if we can just make sure all parts of our game – defense, pitching and hitting – are all the same, we’ll be fine,” Diller said. “I think playing exciting games and coming out strong like this definitely builds momentum for us going into this weekend.”

But Illinois is not taking anything for granted.

“We know it’s going to be a challenging conference weekend, but we know that we bring a challenge,” head coach Terri Sullivan said. “Our team loves to play. They have a lot of enthusiasm and they’re going to expect it all from Penn State and Michigan.”