Bauch and Rivera lead Illinois softball offense

Second baseman Allie Bauch and shortstop Ruby Rivera have been the only consistent offensive sources for the Illinois softball team through three weekends of play. This weekend in Houston, Bauch batted 10-for-17 with two walks, while Rivera went 7-for-15 with two walks.

Bauch has served as a catalyst for the Illini offense. Of her 11 home runs since the start of last season, eight have led off an inning. Oddly enough, in eight of the 10 games that the junior has homered, a second Illini has also homered, but Bauch was the first to homer.

Rivera had a 10-game hitting streak going before it was snapped in the tournament finale Sunday. She and Bauch work off of each other. Bauch usually gets on base, and Rivera often drives her teammate in to score. Twice in Houston, Bauch opened the inning with a hit and Rivera would take care of the rest.

In Saturday’s rematch with New Mexico, Rivera registered the only pair of RBIs for Illinois and accounted for three of the team’s seven hits.

“I thought I was very consistent,” Rivera said. “I think I’m getting better at being more consistent and having the team follow in on my lead.”

Inconsistent softball

Illinois started off strong in its first two games of the weekend, putting up a combined 22 runs. But the intensity quickly dropped off for head coach Terri Sullivan’s team. The Illini exploded both offensively and defensively in their 12-4 win over New Mexico on Friday. Having trailed by as many as three runs, the Illini outscored the Lobos 12-1 in the final three innings.

The Illini’s rematch with the Lobos on Saturday proved to be a halt in progress. Illinois could not recover from a 12-4 loss, losing the next two games, as well. Inconsistent pitching and field play, in addition to weak bats, paved the way for Illinois’ final games of the stretch.

“We all started getting in our heads a little bit,” Rivera said. “We didn’t go as hard as we could have gone a few days ago. I just felt like we were all off, and no one was consistent. The team just followed in on that, and it really hurt us.”

Sullivan added, “When we played aggressive, we took care of business. But I really felt like we beat ourselves with some walks at critical times, defense that didn’t make plays, and then not getting hits when we needed to strike back.”

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