Weekend shutouts taint softball’s encouraging start



By Katie Munson

Entering the weekend, Illinois softball was 1-1 in Big Ten play and coming off an impressive performance against Eastern Illinois, winning both games of last Thursday’s doubleheader.

On Friday, the women in Orange and Blue continued their impressive play, defeating Penn State 11-1 in six innings.

Leading the way for the Illini offense was junior catcher Lana Armstrong, who had six RBIs on a home run and a double. Sophomore right fielder Hope Howell added a home run – her first of the season. Senior center fielder Sarah Bryers contributed three RBIs and senior shortstop Angelena Mexicano also had an RBI in the team’s dominating offensive performance.

“Everyone contributed offensively in that first win at Penn State, from top to bottom,” head coach Terri Sullivan said.

Illinois senior pitcher Claire DeVreese handled the Nittany Lions’ offense, giving up just two hits and one unearned run in the game.

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    But the rest of the weekend saw the Fighting Illini on the wrong side of dominating offensive and pitching performances.

    “We always give it 110 percent, everything we do,” Armstrong said. “It just doesn’t go your way sometimes.”

    Nittany Lions senior pitcher Ashley Esparza subdued the Illini offense Saturday, not allowing a single hit. Only two players reached base in the game. Freshman second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz reached via a walk in the first, and Bryers reached on an error in the fifth.

    DeVreese, who dominated the Nittany Lions on Friday, surrendered seven runs, four earned, in just one and two-thirds innings as Illinois fell 13-0 in five innings.

    Penn State’s offense was powered by junior shortstop Kayce Zielinski, who hit two home runs and drove in five. Freshman first baseman Desi Giordano added four RBIs for the Nittany Lions (26-11, 3-3 Big Ten).

    “In the second game, (Penn State) showed a lot of resiliency,” Sullivan said. “They did the same thing to us we did to them in the first game.”

    Sunday, the Fighting Illini were in Michigan for a doubleheader against the No. 5 Wolverines.

    In game one, the Illini mustered just two hits against Michigan (32-4, 7-1) and sophomore pitcher Nikki Nemitz, both off the bat of Armstrong.

    DeVreese struggled again, giving up five runs, four earned, in two and one-third innings. Sophomore pitcher Ashley Wright fared only sightly better, surrendering three runs in two innings of work as the Illini (20-20, 2-4) fell to the Wolverines 8-0 in five innings.

    Illinois’ offense was once again unable to produce in the afternoon game. Zymkowitz and junior first baseman Katrina Ross were the only players with hits in the game, as the team fell to the Wolverines 5-0 in seven innings.

    Wolverines’ freshman pitcher Jordan Taylor dominated the Orange and Blue in game two, going seven innings without surrendering a run.

    Despite the up-and-down performances, Illinois is upbeat about its remaining schedule.

    “We are really confident that these two weekends on the road against the Big Ten have helped us grow as a team,” Sullivan said. “We want to grab some momentum now moving on in our schedule.”