Offense revives as softball defeats Bradley twice

By Meghan Montemurro

The offensive woes are no more. After being shut out their last three games by a combined score of 26-0, the Illini finally righted the ship on the softball diamond. Facing off against in-state foe Bradley University, Illinois (22-20, 2-4 Big Ten) swept their doubleheader, winning 5-2 and 9-1, respectively.

“It’s nice to get a sweep on the road; it’s not easy to do,” head coach Terri Sullivan said. “It took a little while (for us) to hit … but there wasn’t a panic mode when we got down early.”

While the Illini did manage to register two more wins, early game-one play suggested the team would continue to be offensively challenged. The Orange and Blue managed to finally break through in the fifth inning on first baseman Katrina Ross’ home run – her fifth of the season – to bring Illinois closer, down 2-1.

“We treat all the opponents the same and we come in and prepare to be aggressive,” Ross said of the team’s offensive turnaround.

Illinois added two insurance runs in both the sixth and the seventh inning, led by freshman Hollie Pinchback’s two-run homer in the final frame to ultimately put the game away against the Braves (11-16, 3-9 MVC). The pitching performance of Ashley Wright was just what the Illini needed. The sophomore threw a complete game, surrendering only one earned run on five hits while walking only two.

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Freshman Danielle Zymkowitz carried the offense and kept it rolling in game two, going 3-for-3 with three runs, one RBI and a stolen base.

“It’s exciting, (Zymkowitz’s) a real gamer and in the leadoff position she’s going to do her part to try and get the offense going,” Sullivan said. “She’s a smart player and loves to win.”

Pitcher Claire DeVreese kept the Braves off balance in the night cap, throwing two-hit ball while giving up only one run. While the offense flourished, the defense still struggled, committing a total of five errors in the doubleheader. Sullivan has preached consistency in all aspects of play throughout the season.

“We did have some errors, but I think they were aggressive mistakes,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes you make mistakes, but it’s a part of the game.”

As the Illini are known for their offensive power, there was no shortage of home runs for fans of the long ball. Illinois connected for three. Senior shortstop Angelena Mexicano hit her team-leading 13th home run over the right-center field wall in the fourth inning of game two, scoring two runs. The Illini will look to carry their power surge into this weekend’s Big Ten play when they meet No. 14 Northwestern and Michigan State at Eichelberger Field.

“It’s a confidence thing,” Sullivan said about hitting home runs. “Everyone gets excited when you hit a long ball and it gets contagious. We certainly feel we are strong top to bottom.”