Illinois softball sweeps Indiana with 22-run effort

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Illinois’ Carly Thomas swings at the ball during the softball game against Indiana at Eichelberger Field on Sunday.  Thomas contributed to the Illini’s 22-12 victory.

By Cole Henke

The Illinois softball team was all too familiar with the Indiana Hoosiers entering the final game of their three-game series Sunday at Eichelberger Field.

The Illini offense exploded for 22 runs — the most ever scored in program history — to beat the Hoosiers 22-12 and complete the weekend sweep.

A weekend sweep, especially in the Big Ten conference, is really hard to come by, according to head coach Terri Sullivan.

“I thought we played really well all weekend. It was really nice to see underclassmen step up this weekend,” Sullivan said.

Freshman center fielder Carly Thomas was the star of the weekend for the Illini. Thomas went 9-for-11 on the weekend, with 10 RBIs and three home runs. One of her home runs was a grand slam in the bottom of the fourth inning Sunday to score the Illini’s 22nd run and break the school record.

After this weekend, Thomas has the second most RBIs (21) on the team and is second on the team in home runs (six). She trails sophomore Nicole Evans in both categories.

“I go to the plate with the mentality that I won’t try to do too much,” Thomas said. “This weekend I just saw the ball really well, and I hit the ball hard.”

The Illini’s 40 runs on the weekend were enough for the sweep, but the Hoosiers did not go down without a fight — they scored 26 runs over the three games. The first two games had scores of 9-6 and 9-8.

The Hoosiers scored six of their runs Sunday in the first inning against Illini sophomore pitcher Breanna Wonderly. Jade Vecvanags came in relief after only two outs were recorded in the first. She pitched the rest of the game but gave up six additional runs.

Junior outfielder Kylie Johnson said that it is important for the Illini defense to stay in the ears of the Illini pitchers even when they are struggling.

“It is really all about trust,” Johnson said. “We make sure that (our pitchers) know that we have their backs. When we are struggling to get an out we make sure to tell them to let them roll one to us.”

Illinois end the weekend with a record of 11-20, while Indiana drops to 10-26 record. The Illini have an nonconference matchup with Illinois State on Tuesday and then get right back into Big Ten play with a weekend series at Iowa.

“If you look around the conference, there have been a lot of high scoring games lately,” Sullivan said. “It is because everybody is scouted so well. Pitchers don’t really have any surprises entering the games, and that goes for ours, too. They are really just going to have to trust their stuff the rest of the way.”

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