Illinois softball shocks Michigan in first game of series

Illinois’ Brandi Needham pitches the ball during an Illini win against Michigan on Friday.

By Daniel Dexter

The Illinois softball team (20-25, 4-16 Big Ten) shocked visiting No. 4 Michigan (39-9, 17-3) on Friday with a mercy-rule victory.

The Illini won the game in the sixth inning when Nicole Evans hit the ball to centerfield to bring in the final run, which ended the game with a score of 10-2.

Center fielder Brittany Sanchez went 3-for-4 in the game and was a big contributor to the Illini driving in three runs in three different innings of the game. Sanchez was thrilled with the way she and her teammates competed in the game after having struggled from the plate in recent outings.

“I felt like I have been thinking too much about things recently, so I just went up there and swung as hard as I could,” Sanchez said.

Needham dominates from the circle

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Illinois’ freshman ace Brandi Needham kept the Wolverines at bay in the series opener and finale as she hurled two complete games over the weekend.

In Friday’s 10-2 win, Needham allowed only five hits in the game to a lineup that features eight players batting over .300.

Needham struggled in the opening innings of the series finale. She allowed six runs through the first two innings, but she rebounded and prevented Michigan from scoring any more runs.

Needham’s strong weekend came after allowing six runs through three innings to Northwestern in the team’s previous matchup.

“You have to get over it,” Needham said after Friday’s game. “I was just focused on the next pitch of every at-bat, letting everything else go and just staying focused on what I was doing in the present.” 

Bauch gets on base a bunch

Leadoff batter Allie Bauch led the way for the Illini in the doubleheader on Saturday. She got on base in every single one of her plate appearances, including recording her first career triple.

She scored Illinois’ only two runs of the team’s loss in the first game of the doubleheader as she went 2-for-2 with a walk.

Bauch continued her stellar play into the second game. She again went 2-for-2 and helped the Illini load the bases during their second inning comeback effort against Michigan.

Despite Bauch’s strong play, she couldn’t will the Illini to a win on Saturday as the team dropped both games to the Wolverines.

Daniel can be reached at [email protected] and @ddexter23.