Illini softball fail to keep strong offensively

By Charlotte Carroll

The Illinois softball team opened outdoor play at the USF Tournament in Tampa, Fla., this weekend with three straight wins and finished with two losses, giving the Illini their best season start in program history.

Illinois pitching combined for 18 strikeouts and 10 walks under starters freshman Brandi Needham, junior Shelese Arnold and freshman relief pitcher Jade Vecvanags. Needham had a 1.26 ERA where Arnold had 5.83 ERA. Needham and Arnold each pitched a shutout in Friday’s doubleheader. Against Wright State on Friday, Arnold got the first two batters out of each inning and didn’t allow a runner past first base. Vecvangas closed the final two innings of Saturday’s game against Binghamton, allowing just one base off a hit batter and finishing a perfect game in the bottom of the fifth.

“I was just sticking to our game plan and pitching goal,” Arnold said of Friday’s game. “That was the main thing. It was trusting Jenna and our defense.”

Offense lacking in second week of play

The Illini offense came out swinging the first three games. In the 8-0 Wright State win, sophomore Remeny Perez went 1-for-2 with a walk, two RBIs and a run scored. Senior Alex Booker went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a stolen base. In the 2-0 Pittsburgh win, Illinois had five hits over seven innings. Perez went 4-for-4 with a double, a home run, two runs and four RBIs in the 15-2 win over Binghamton. Freshman Ruby Rivera went 3-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI, while sophomore Allie Bauch, freshman Nicole Evans and Booker each had two hits in the game.

Illinois struggled against both No. 1 Tennessee and South Florida, which was ranked No. 23 in the preseason. While Illinois lost to South Florida in the final innings, they were shutout by Tennessee. Against All-American senior pitchers Ellen Renfroe from Tennessee and Sara Nevins from South Florida, Illinois failed to produce the same results it had from the first three games. In the 10-0 loss to Tennessee, Bauch went 2-for-3 while senior Jenna Mychko, junior Jess Perkins and Booker each had one hit off Renfroe. The Illini had just one earned run on five hits in the 2-1 loss against the Bulls. Junior Brittany Sanchez drove in the tying run on a two-out single in the sixth. Rivera also had her first career stolen base.

Charlotte can be reached at [email protected]