Softball defeats No. 18 Southern Illinois in a wild extra inning contest

By Gina Jenero

In a game of instate rivalry, the Fighting Illini softball team scored six runs in a matter of four innings, defeating the No. 18 Southern Illinois Salukis, 6-5, in eight innings on Friday night.

Fighting Illini first baseman Meredith Hackett proved her strength, hitting her fourth home run of the season while going 4-of-4 in the game. The Illini ended Saluki pitcher Katie McNamara’s streak of 33 innings without giving up an earned run. On the mound, pitcher Monica Perry threw a hard eight innings, giving up five runs on five hits while striking out eight.

On the offensive end, the Illini trailed early, scoreless for the first four innings. The Salukis forged ahead in the third with a leadoff single and a two-out double, bringing in one run. In the next inning, the Salukis scored two more runs with designated player Chelsea Held’s hard hit, making the score 3-0.

In the top of the fifth, the Illini strung together several hits to tie the game at three. However, the Illini were quickly behind again as SIU grabbed the lead in the bottom of the fifth.

In each of the next two innings, the Illini managed to plate a run. Hackett doubled to lead off the inning and pinch runner Katie Lutes scored on Linnea Detrick’s groundout. In the seventh, Danielle Zymkowitz stretched her single and made it to second on an error and was later brought in by Hope Howell’s sacrifice fly, tying the game at 5.

In the bottom of the seventh, the bases were loaded for the Salukis, but the Illini got out of the jam as Perry got a strikeout on a full count to end the inning. Finally, Illinois took a 6-5 lead in extra innings as Hackett smashed the first pitch of the inning over the left field wall.

The Illini’s next game is Friday, March 13, as they open the Adidas Invitational Tournament against UNC-Wilmington at noon. Other opponents that weekend include North Florida, Syracuse and Winthrop.