Illinois softball takes on Indiana State in one-game series

Illinois+Kylie+Johnson+%281%29+sprints+for+first+base+after+hitting+the+ball+during+the+softball+game+v.+Illinois+State+at+Eichelberger+Field+on+Tuesday%2C+Mar.+31%2C+2015.+Illinois+won+5-4.

Illinois’ Kylie Johnson (1) sprints for first base after hitting the ball during the softball game v. Illinois State at Eichelberger Field on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. Illinois won 5-4.

By Cole Henke

The Illinois softball team looks to keep its hot streak alive when Indiana State comes to Eichelberger Field Wednesday for a one-game series.

Illinois (14-21) has won six of its last seven games. 

The game against Indiana State (13-20) sits between two conference series for Illinois. With a three-game series against Maryland looming this weekend, junior outfielder Kylie Johnson said it’s important that her team focus on Indiana State.

“We really try to keep our mind on one game a time,” Johnson said. “We can’t look too far ahead. That is how you end up dropping games.”

According to Johnson, the Illini can’t afford to drop these games. They have posted a 6-5 record since the conference season began and want to continue their recent momentum. 

The Sycamores come to Champaign having won four of its last eight games and has not been as successful in conference play as the Illini — the team hasn’t won a series in Missouri Valley Conference play.

They have won eight of their 13 games by three runs or fewer and have only scored seven or more runs on nine occasions.

Their opponent’s lack of offense favors the Illini whose offense has been at the top of its game lately. The underclassmen on the team have really begun to contribute since the beginning of conference season.

Sophomore Nicole Evans has been the team’s best power hitter this season, and freshmen outfielder Carly Thomas has recently caught fire, batting .520 with five home runs in the Illini’s last seven games.

The contributions of the underclassmen have been a huge boost to the team and the upperclassmen. Captains Allie Bauch and Johnson have been the heart and soul of the Illini offense. Bauch is hitting .395 with 19 RBIs, despite being a leadoff hitter. Her six home runs are the third-most on the team. Johnson is hitting .364 on the season with a .402 on-base percentage.

“It is really great to see the underclassmen play so well,” Bauch said. “It is really well deserved. They have been working so hard, and I know that this is just opening more opportunities for them.”

The Illini’s offense will be going up against a pitching staff led by Sycamore junior Taylor Lockwood, who has eight wins and a 3.52 ERA with 72 strikeouts over 101 1/3 innings.

The Sycamore’s offense is led by underclassmen as well, with three sophomores hitting above .300: Kassie Brown (.393), Erika Crissman (.383 with a team-high 23 RBIs), and Mary Turitto (.326 with a .488 slugging percentage).

The Illini’s catcher Jess Perkins will also have her job cut out for her — the Sycamores have stolen 40 bases this season.

According to Johnson, despite the record of their opponent and what games follow, a win tomorrow would give Illinois the momentum they need to welcome Maryland to the Big Ten.

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