Poor offensive output leaves Illini softball frustrated with weekend split

The Illinois softball team’s offense ran out of steam this weekend.

The Orange and Blue’s streak of scoring six or more runs in seven straight games skidded to a halt in Madison, Wis., as Wisconsin (24-19, 4-8 Big Ten) held Illinois (20-18, 7-5) to just five runs in two games.

The Illini split the weekend series with a 4-2 win Saturday and a 1-2 loss Sunday afternoon.

“All weekend we really struggled to get anything going offensively,” head coach Terri Sullivan said. “We had really poor offensive performance on the weekend.”

Both teams struggled offensively in the first game until the sixth inning when Illinois’ Meredith Hackett broke a scoreless tie with a home run to left field for the Illini. Wisconsin responded in the seventh with a home run of its own by freshman outfielder Mary Massei to force extra innings.

Illinois closed out the game by scoring three runs in the eighth off four hits, including a triple by Kelley Wedel.

“It was good to see us pull through in extra innings, especially because the game didn’t go exactly the way we set out for it to be,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes you win in different ways.”

Second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz opened the second game with a single to left field, but remained the only Illini batter to record a hit until the sixth inning.

“We didn’t have any rhythm at the plate,” Sullivan said. “They kept us off balance.”

The Badgers defense, led by freshman pitcher Cassandra Darrah, contained an Illinois offense Sunday afternoon that has been explosive in recent weeks.

“The second one we didn’t come out to play as we would have liked,” Zymkowitz said. “Their pitcher did a good job. She shut us down for five innings. We didn’t really get much going. It’s hard to get a rally going when we didn’t have any runners on.”

Despite struggling at the plate, the Illinois defense performed well enough to stay in the game through the final pitch.

Sophomore Pepper Gay pitched in the circle for Illinois on Sunday and allowed four hits and no earned runs.

Gay said it’s tough to lose such a close, low-scoring game.

“It is frustrating, but it’s not one hit, one pitch that makes the game,” Gay said. “It’s a team effort. We just have to come back stronger.”

The Illini may have picked up another Big Ten road win, but splitting the series wasn’t the aim heading into the weekend.

“We really wanted to come in and obviously sweep,” Sullivan said. “We’re disappointed that we didn’t come away with that.”