Illini sweep weekend series


Illinois pitcher Taylor Edwards throws a pitch during Illinois’ home game against Maryland on April 7. The Illini are preparing to play in their second tournament of the 2019 season.

By Brian Binz

First, it was getting back on the field, but now, for Illinois pitcher Taylor Edwards, it’s about staying off as much as she can.

After coming back from an eye injury, Edwards now has a different focus.

“Our fans come to watch our hitters; they don’t come to watch defense,” Edwards said. “Get in, get out as soon as I can, and I know I’ve done my job.”

She didn’t have much problem staying on the field, giving up no earned runs on the weekend and helping Illinois win its second game in the series 7-1 over Maryland.

Edwards pitched a five-inning one-hit shutout on Friday and, behind an eight-run second inning, the Illini dominated the Terps, winning by the run-ahead rule after the fifth.

    Subscribe to our sports newsletter!

    “She’s comfortable,” said head coach Tyra Perry. “It was one of the best performances we’ve seen her have.”

    The Illini chased the Terps’ pitcher, Ryan Denhart, loading the bases thanks to some fielding errors before Kiana Sherlund and Bella Loya had extra-base hits to add up four of the team’s eventual eight runs in that inning.

    Carly Thomas put the icing on the cake, scoring on a fielder’s choice to push the score to 11-0. Edwards closed out the rest of the game.

    Maryland offered more resistance on Saturday, but the Illini again jumped on them early.

    A three-run first inning set the stage for later, when a two-out single to right field by pinch hitter Rowan McGuire began a run that put the Illini up 7-1 in the third inning.

    “Rowan’s been clutch for us all season,” Perry said. “She was a good choice.”

    McGuire picked up her first RBI in seven appearances, with her last one being almost a month ago against Fresno State.

    However, for the senior, most of her work at the plate had already been done.

    “Everyone was telling me she was throwing outside,” McGuire said. “I was just sitting on that outside hit no matter what.”

    After McGuire’s hit, Leigh Farina emptied the bases with a double to center field, ending a four-run inning for the Illini.

    The Illini looked to extend their lead after the double, with Sherlund singling, then stealing second to put runners on second and third. However, Sherlund was called out for leaving early, and that ended the Illini’s run.

    “It would’ve been nice to end the game with our bats,” Perry said.

    However, Sherlund wasn’t sweating the call too much.

    “We didn’t need that call today,” Sherlund said.

    The Illini pitching staff was strong again on Saturday, with Edwards allowing only five hits, with the one run being unearned in six innings. Emily Oestreich closed the game with a one-two-three seventh inning in her first trip to the mound this weekend.

    On Sunday, the Illini picked up right where they left off, completing the sweep with a 20-2 win. Illinois’ bats were hot from the opening pitch, scoring in every frame, including an eight-run second and seven-run third inning. 

    “It’s fun when other people are on base,” Sherlund said. “I try hitting ground balls up the middle, and sometimes you get under it and it goes a little farther than you expect it to.”

    Sherlund knocked in a grand slam in the second, and Maddi Doane hit back-to-back three-run homers in the third and fourth innings.

    With the pair of wins, the Illini improve to 24-13 and move above .500 in the Big Ten at 5-4. After being swept by Minnesota, Illinois has now won three in a row.

    “It’s really nice to win and play good softball,” Perry said. “In the Big Ten, a win is a win.”


    [email protected]