Illinois softball gets seventh-straight in Chicago


Illinois’ Allie Bauch lines up for the hit during the softball game vs. Indiana State at Eichelberger Field on Wednesday. 

By Ethan Swanson

The Illinois softball team made another stride toward its first winning record of the season Wednesday, coming within two games of .500 by defeating in-state opponent DePaul on the road and bringing its win streak to seven straight games.

“We know we can’t get those early-season games back. We’re over it,” said head coach Terri Sullivan. “We’re battle tested and building off our recent wins. We have a lot of confidence moving forward.”

Facing the Blue Demons (15-19, 7-1 Big East) was like looking in the mirror for the Illini (19-21, 8-4 Big Ten); DePaul had won eight of its last 10 games before Wednesday and possessed a potent offense that ranked 22nd in the nation in home runs and 34th in slugging percentage.

Nonetheless, the streaking Big East team put nothing but zeroes on the board as the Illini cruised to a 6-0 victory.

Illinois wasted no time getting to work at the plate Wednesday. Junior infielder Allie Bauch roped a double to center field to lead off the first inning. It was her team-leading 132nd hit of the season.

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    “I go up to the plate aggressive every time knowing that if I don’t get it done, the next person will,” Bauch said. “It’s been really fun leading off for such a great offensive team.”

    Bauch did not stay stranded on second base for long. Sophomore first-baseman Alyssa Gunther reached first on an error in the next at-bat and a pair of RBIs by outfielders Nicole Evans and Carly Thomas brought both Illini across the plate.

    Senior Brittany Sanchez made the Illini outfield 3-for-3 in the first inning with an RBI single of her own, scoring Evans and giving Illinois an early 3-0 lead.

    As the Illini bats went cold for the next five innings, it turned into the Jade Vecvanags show. The sophomore pitched a gem Wednesday, striking out four, while allowing only three hits and three walks. The performance was good enough to register the first shutout win of her career.

    “You have to trust that the coaching staff has done their scouting and that you have a defense behind you,” Vecvanags said. “Then you go out there and throw your stuff.”

    The dormant Illinois offense awoke once again in the final inning to put the exclamation point on an already impressive outing.

    Senior catcher Jess Perkins kicked of the Illini’s three-run inning with a solo home run — her seventh of the year. Then after consecutive singles by Thomas and Sanchez, Vecvanags proved she can contribute in the batter’s box just as well as the circle by ripping a two-run RBI single past the Blue Demon infield.

    A 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh ended with a Vecvanags strikeout to seal the Illini victory.

    Illinois’ early offense and stellar pitching was not the typical formula found in the Illini’s win-streak. Although it wasn’t a dramatic comeback like in recent outings, the players still believe this game was a significant win for the team moving forward.

    “You learn a lot about a team when you win in different ways like this,” Bauch said. “Seeing how we’re able to win in any situation makes us feel unstoppable.”

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