Illini prepare for game with Illinois State


Brian Bauer

Illinois’ Breanna Wonderly pitches in the game against Rutgers at Eichelberger Field on Sunday, Apr. 3, 2016

By Lucas Wright

Tweet: @IlliniSB prepares for mid-week matchup with ISU

In a break from Big Ten play, the Illini softball team will take on the Redbirds on Tuesday, hoping to break out of a slump.

Illinois is coming off of two losses to Rutgers over the past weekend that head coach Tyra Perry called a “set-back.” Rutgers had previously gone without a win in conference play before taking the series 2-1 against Illinois.RB

Illinois State comes into the matchup with a 10-23 RBoverall record, but sophomore Annie Fleming said the rivalry game always gets the team ready to play, regardless of record.

“We’re ready to go, ISU is always a really fun game,” Fleming said. “They still play Ruby’s (Rivera) winning home run from last year, and it’s always a good in-state competition. I think we’re ready to get back out there, especially after last weekend.”

Illini live by the big inning, die by the big inning

It’s no secret the Illini have an offense capable of being one of the more high-powered in the Big Ten.

Illinois hung 18 runs on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a double-header March 26, which the team followed up with an 8-0 win against Rutgers on April 1. RBIn the three games, the Illini posted four innings in which they scored four or more runs, including 10 unanswered in game two against Nebraska.

In Big Ten play the lineup has been balanced, featuring seven players hitting over .300. One of those players, Fleming, boasts the second highest average on the team in conference play (.474) and attributes her success to improved confidence at the plate.RB

“I’m a lot more relaxed,” Fleming said. “It’s been a lot more about just trusting myself and my preparation and I think that’s what is carrying me through.”

On the flip side, Illinois has been on the opposing side of the big inning, including giving up eight runs to Nebraska in the second inning of their March 25 meeting and five runs to Rutgers in the eighth inning of an extra inning affair on April 2.RB

Wonderly and Vecvanags lead the way

In the pitcher’s circle for the Illini this season, two names have commanded the majority of the innings: juniors Breanna Wonderly and Jade Vecvanags.

Vecvanags leads the team ERA at 2.84 on the season and already has a no-hitter and a one-hitter on the season. Wonderly has come on as of late and Perry said she has been the go-to pitcher in Big Ten play.

“I believe she is hot and is really stepping up to the plate,” Perry said. “She worked really hard in the offseason to develop all of her pitches, and I’m really proud of the success she is having so far.”

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