Illinois softball defeats Illinois State in extra innings

Head coach Terri Sullivan’s Illini softball team managed to capture the win in extra innings once again in an in-state rivalry game against the Illinois State Redbirds on Tuesday. On a suicide squeeze by freshman first baseman Meredith Hackett in the bottom of the eighth, the Illini captured the win, 10-9.

The Illini (21-10) again found themselves on top when playing past seven innings, as their record in extra innings shot to 5-0 after Tuesday’s win.

“I wanted to win the game. Meredith executed an amazing suicide squeeze. I know that players win games, not coaches,” Sullivan said.

Coming off a perfect weekend on the mound, freshman pitcher Monica Perry tossed six strong innings to capture the win. Two pitching changes in the fourth and fifth innings interrupted Perry’s play. However, Perry refused to allow these changes to bring her down.

“I came back in with the same strength, I just didn’t come back in with the same mentality. Once I got my mental game right, I think I was okay,” Perry said.

Looking back, Sullivan had different expectations for the game. She assumed that taking Perry out early would help her relievers get some extra time in with such a large lead.

“Monica has been a workhorse for us, and she’s the leader of the staff, but we wanted to get some pitchers some innings,” Sullivan said.

After removing Perry from the game, the Illini made several errors in the field, allowing the Redbirds to come back easily. After giving up six runs in two innings, the Illini knew something had to change defensively.

“It’s just adjusting to a different style of pitcher. With some pitchers, we can expect more groundouts, with Monica, more popouts and strikeouts. As a defense, we have to recognize that and be able to adjust midinning,” Armstrong said.

One problem Sullivan noticed on the mound was the tendency for both relief pitchers to hang the ball over the plate too frequently.

“They just left the ball a little bit too much on the plate. And throwing in games is what will help them improve that kind of stuff,” Sullivan said.

Behind the plate, senior catcher Lana Armstrong was quick to notice the trend as well.

“The problem we had was really hitting the corners. At this level, you put it on the plate and somebody’s just gonna rip it,” Armstrong said.

With Perry’s return in the sixth inning, the Illini were able to regain confidence both defensively and offensively.