Illinois softball falls victim to big innings in Los Angeles

By Cole Henke

The Illinois softball team ended its tournament season on a low note at the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament in Los Angeles over the weekend.

The Illini (8-15) went 1-4 on the trip. Their only win came in their first game of the tournament — they took down UC Davis in walk-off fashion.

Two home runs by sophomore outfielder Nicole Evans and junior infielder Allie Bauch’s walk-off double were the highlight of the weekend for the Illini.

Bauch had a good weekend at the plate, with her walk-off hit Friday and a go-ahead home run Sunday in a loss to Providence. Her good weekend at the plate was overshadowed by three defensive errors in five games.

“I felt like it was the least I could do to provide a little offense,” said Bauch, who has nine errors on the season. “I made too many defensive errors, and it cost us this weekend.”

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    Illinois ended its second game of the weekend — Friday against No. 15 UCLA — after just five innings. Sophomore pitcher Breanna Wonderly (2-6) was taken out in the first inning after giving up five runs and recording only one out. The first inning struggles continued with senior Shelese Arnold, who gave up four more runs in the first.

    According to head coach Terri Sullivan, giving up big innings to opposing offenses is a major problem for the Illini.

    “The big innings kill us,” Sullivan said. “It has been happening all season. We hang tight all game, but then (the opposing team) will score enough runs in one inning to put the game out of reach.”

    The Illini offense did not show up to bail out its struggling defense — the Bruins senior pitcher Aly Carda no-hit the Illini in the mercy rule-shortened game.

    The Illini played UC Davis and UCLA again Saturday. The Illini lost to the Aggies 3-1, and lost to the Bruins 9-2.

    The Bruins were the second nationally ranked opponent the Illini have played this season. The Illini are a combined 0-4 against ranked opponents and have been outscored 39-5 in those games.

    Sophomore pitcher Jade Vecvanags (2-3) lost both of her starts on the weekend. Vecvanags suffered a concussion before the season started, and Sullivan said Vecvanags isn’t back at full strength. In her start Sunday against Providence, she gave up two hits in three innings pitched, but walked four batters.

    The defense behind her didn’t do Vecvanags any favors, recording four errors. She gave up 10 runs over her two starts.

    According to Sullivan, this weekend was still a step in the right direction for Vecvanags, and Vecvanags is feeling more and more confident with every start.

    The tournament season is over for the Illini, and now they begin conference play. According to Sullivan, Big Ten play is Illinois’ “second season.”

    “There is a lot of parity in our conference,” Sullivan said. “Nobody is afraid to play anybody.”

    Last season, the Illini were two completely separate teams between tournament season and conference play. The Illini had the best start to a season in school history, but fell apart in the conference — they ended with a 7-16 conference record and a 24-26 overall record.

    The Illini look to do the opposite of that this season.

    “We are going to work on being consistent through the game and not letting up and giving up the big innings,” Sullivan said. “We are looking to start over and come back a new team this (conference) season.”

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