Mixed bag for Illinois softball at Wilson Tournament

By Kate Munson

The second weekend of the season drove home a message to the Illini softball players: it’s a lot more fun to travel on a win than a loss.

Illinois (5-4) dropped their final game of the weekend to Marshall 3-1 on Sunday, forcing them to take the disappointment home with them.

“I think we made it tougher on ourselves than we really needed to. We didn’t play our game all weekend, and I think we all knew that and I think everyone watching that knew it also,” freshman third baseman Kelley Wedel said. “It’s just the fact that we didn’t get it done and that’s what’s frustrating me.”

Missed opportunities plagued the Illini all weekend as they dropped three of five at the Wilson Tournament in Tampa, Fla. They left 11 runners on base in Sunday’s loss to Marshall and stranded 36 on the weekend.

“We left a lot of runners on over the weekend, and obviously the positive to that is that we’re getting some people on, but we need to deliver some clutch hits and find some consistency in seven innings of play,” head coach Terri Sullivan said. “We had opportunities and what you have to do in our game is take advantage of opportunities when you get them because they don’t come around that often.”

Despite the missed opportunities, the Illini showcased their resiliency Saturday in defeating Hofstra 2-1 a day after falling 4-1 to the Pride.

The other Illinois victory of the weekend came in the second game Friday against South Florida. Five different Illini tallied RBIs in the 6-4 victory, including a two-run double in the sixth inning by junior right fielder Hope Howell.

But the Fighting Illini dropped three close games on the weekend, including a 7-4 loss to No. 10 Arizona after leading the Wildcats for the first five innings.

“I just think it shows how much work we have and how much effort we need to put in to the rest of our season. I mean, I think we have all of the things we need to put together to pull off wins, we just haven’t put them all together at once,” sophomore left fielder Hollie Pinchback said.

“We can compete with them and we will. It’s just going to take a few more losses to get through to see exactly what we need to do.”

With at least three freshmen position players starting every game and a key freshman pitcher in Monica Perry, an adjustment period is to be expected. But the Illini feel they have enough talent to learn and win at the same time.

“We have a fairly young lineup, so they’re just playing in their first collegiate games and their first games of the season,” Sullivan said. “We do feel that we have several of our young players stepping up for us. We’re looking for a little bit more from some of veterans and we fully expect the team to kind of carry a chip on their shoulder in the next game we play.

“Your goal is to always win the games that you have and we believe that we’ve got a team that is really resilient,” Sullivan added. “That’s definitely a characteristic that you need throughout a whole season.”