Illinois softball brings four-game win streak to Iowa


Illinois’ Carly Thomas (25) lets the ball go by during the softball game v. Illinois State at Eichelberger Field on Tuesday, March 31. Illinois won 5-4.

By Ethan Swanson

The Illinois softball team travels to Iowa City, Iowa this weekend for a three-game conference series on the road against Iowa, where the Illini hope to extend their four-game win streak with their record-breaking offense.

Despite struggling at the beginning of the season, the Illini (12-20, 3-3 Big Ten) are having one of the best offensive seasons in program history. With 19 regular-season games remaining, the Illini’s 38 home runs rank seventh all-time in school history for a single season. The team’s .310 batting average, .512 slugging percentage and .383 on-base percentage all rank second in Illinois history.

“We faced a lot of tough pitching early in the season,” freshman outfielder Carly Thomas said. “So we’ve been making adjustments. We just keep attacking, coming at it hard and never backing off.”

However, Illinois will need more than a high-octane offense to beat the Hawkeyes. Iowa’s (11-27, 2-7 Big Ten) record is deceiving; the Hawkeyes have faced six teams nationally ranked in the top-20, three of which are in the nation’s top four. Nine of Iowa’s losses have come by one run, including a 4-3 loss to No. 6 Louisiana-Lafayette and a 2-1 loss to No. 2 Oregon. The Hawkeyes are fresh off a 6-4 upset of No. 4 Michigan.

Illinois is 14-20 against Iowa all-time, winning two of the teams’ four meetings last season.

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    “Iowa is a solid team that’s played an aggressive schedule,” head coach Terri Sullivan said. “You just have to trust your game plan: Make routine plays, have pitchers execute, work together, come out every day planning to be at your best and always expect your opponent to be at their best.”

    The defensive aspect of the game plan is where the Illini have been lacking — they have 39 errors as a team, led by second baseman Allie Bauch, who has collected 15 errors already this season.

    Although Illinois can keep the bats hot, the team has a bad habit of falling behind in early innings. In the Illini’s game against the Hoosiers Sunday, they found themselves in a 6-0 hole after the first inning. Despite the fact that Illinois rattled off a program-record 22 runs to pull off the win, Indiana still put up 12 runs on the Illini pitching staff.

    It seemed to be déjà vu Tuesday against Illinois State as the Illini gave up a four-run third inning to the Redbirds, forcing yet another big comeback. Just in its last 20 games, Illinois has allowed an average of more than 8 runs per game.

    “We’ve given up much bigger innings, so we do feel like we’re making progress,” Sullivan added. “What we’ve decided to do is understand that you have to keep pressuring the opponent and stay committed the entire game, even when things aren’t going your way.”

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