Illinois softball’s Evans ties record in loss


Austin Yattoni

Illinois starting pitcher Breanna Wonderly delivers a pitch against Minnesota on April 1.

By James Boyd , Staff writer

Senior Nicole Evans just etched her name in the Illinois softball history books.

In Game One of a doubleheader against Northwestern, Evans stepped to the plate and crushed her team-high 16th home run of the season. The dinger to left field was the 51st of her career and ties her with Angelena Mexicano as the all-time home run leader in program history.

During her final campaign with the Illini, Evans continues to add to a hefty list of accomplishments. Earlier this season in a home game against Purdue, she recorded six RBIs to also become the school’s all-time RBI leader.

But despite bouncing back from a hitless outing against Eastern Illinois, Evans’ big moment wasn’t enough to help her team pick up any road victories against Northwestern. The Wildcats outscored the Illini 11-7 during the two-game stretch and recorded five more hits.

Less than 24 hours since its last game, Illinois looked poised to bounce back from its underwhelming performance against Eastern Illinois. In the top of the first inning and with a runner on first, senior Ruby Rivera hit her third home run of the season to put the Illini ahead 2-0. But the lead did not last long.

Senior Breanna Wonderly gave up three hits in the bottom of the first, and Illinois recorded two throwing errors, allowing Northwestern to score four unearned runs.

Evans pulled her team within one run with her historic home run, but Wonderly and the defense struggled for much of the afternoon. Illinois’ pitcher recorded a complete game but allowed 10 hits and three earned runs. The 7-4 loss was Wonderly’s 11th of the season.

Determined to leave Drysdale Field with a victory, Illinois fell in a 0-1 hole early in Game Two but responded with two runs in the top of the third inning.

Junior Leigh Farina drew a walk from senior Nicole Bond, and junior Maddi Doane hit an RBI single to left field. Doane advanced to third after a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch, and junior Rowan McGuire was the one to bring her teammate home.

But just like in Game One, the Illini did not hold on to the lead. In the bottom of the third inning, the Wildcats scored two runs off of a double from sophomore Morgan Nelson and an infield single from junior Sammy Nettling. Nettling and Nelson capped off the inning by stealing second and home, respectively.

Heading into the final inning, Illinois was within striking distance and trailed by one run. Doane hit a leadoff single to put the tying run on base, but her team did not capitalize. The Illini lost, 4-3, as Bond secured her fifth victory of the season.

After winning 10 consecutive games, Illinois has now lost four games in a row and five of its last six. The team’s overall record sits at 35-15 and 13-6 in conference play.

The Illini will try to get back on track at home this weekend when they close out the regular season against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 31-14 overall and trail Illinois by one game in the Big Ten.

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