Illinois club softball dominates conference competition

By Carley Kulenkamp

The loud music and laughter coming from the Illinois club softball’s dugout are proof that this season has been one to celebrate for the team.

The team sits at the No. 1 seed in its conference at the end of fall-season play. Illinois sports a 7-0 record in conference and finished 13-1 overall.

Illinois’ club president Katie Wiest contributes a lot of the success to the team’s high scoring offense and depth in pitchers.

As a team, Illinois has a batting average of .362, on-base percentage of .414, slugging percentage of .523 and on-base plus slugging percentage of .937.

One of the Illini’s strongest hitters is senior Melany Love. Love leads the team in hits, triples, home runs and overall average — she’s hitting .538.

In the bullpen, Illinois has two upperclassmen and two freshmen. All together, the pitchers sport a 1.85 ERA.

Through the work of both the offense and the defense, Illinois has scored a total of 85 runs this season and has only given up 29, leading them to outscore their opponent nearly 3-1.

Illinois has only sported one loss this season, and that game was to a strong out-of-conference Kansas team 3-1. The Jayhawks are undefeated in their conference and they have only lost two games this season, both to Grand Valley State.

Last season the Illini lost to the Jayhawks 21-7, but despite the loss, Wiest said that she was proud of her team for getting the score closer.

“We know that they are a good team, and the loss put us into our place,” Wiest said.

The team is very senior laden this year with seven seniors and one super-senior, Julie Sweeney. Along with the multitude of upperclassmen, the Illini also welcomed in five rookies to the team. When asked how they felt about the team this year, the rookies simply responded, “We’re awesome.”

Illinois has backed up this claim with it play this season, beating some teams by more than 10 runs. While beating teams by such a large deficit can be fun, easier games can make it more difficult to stay focused and keep skills sharp.

“Winning is fun,” sophomore Molly Dumstorf said. “But we don’t want to drop to the level of our competition-we know our potential.”

Wiest shared a similar view. They use those games against less competitive teams to work on different aspects, as well as the techniques of their game.

Their opponents not only remember the Illini by the final score, but also by their demeanor. Love commented on how the team always remains positive on the field — no matter what. Another trademark of the Illini is that every game, they like to play music from its dugout, and they don’t’ just play the music, they blast it.

The girls laughed when talking about it, because for them it’s a part of their team’s culture they’re proud of — being loud and obnoxious.

Along with their play, the players said that team chemistry is one of the reasons they believe that they had so much success this year. Their chemistry was evident in person as all of the players sat around and joked with one another.

“We like to do stuff together outside of softball,” Love said. “Some of us have been together for four years and have developed these friendships.”

Every member of the team played softball in both high school and on a travel team. The overall consensus of the players was that club softball gave them the opportunity to continue playing the game they love without the time commitment of a Division I sport. Many of the players stated that they came to UIUC because of its academics, but at the same time, they weren’t ready to give up softball quite yet.

“I would have missed it,” Dumstorf said. “I wanted to play but didn’t want too much commitment and club was a good balance.”

With the fall season over, the Illini now wait for the first weekend of April and their spring-season opener against Eastern Illinois.

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