Illinois softball opens season in Baton Rouge, participates in four-team weekend competition


Eliana Chandra

The Illinois softball team meets on the mound during its game against Purdue on April 16. The Illini will begin their 2022 season on Friday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

By Nick Kane, Staff Writer

Illinois softball is back.

After a solid up and down season last year which resulted in a 24-20 record, Tyra Perry’s squad looks to continue improving as the Illini start the season in Louisiana in the LSU Tiger Classic.

Illinois will take on Central Arkansas on Friday and Saturday, LSU on Friday and Sunday and South Alabama on Saturday in what should be an exciting weekend in which the Illini will look to gain some confidence for the rest of the season. 

Although being unranked, the Illini will start the year off in a tough match versus a sneaky good Central Arkansas team that finished the 2021 season with an impressive 37-19 record. Redshirt sophomore Jenna Wildeman is coming off a year in which she hit .390 and had 69 hits, leading her team in both categories. Redshirt sophomore infielder Mary Kate Brown hit .386 with three homers and 34 RBIs.

Kayla Beaver was spectacular in her freshman season as she posted a 1.36 earned run average and collected 21 wins in 32 appearances and 23 games started. In the 23 games she started, she threw 19 complete games. 

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    Illinois will play the host of this tournament next, and LSU just so happens to be the 14th-ranked team in the country. Last year, the Tigers finished with a 35-22 record courtesy of very impressive campaigns from Aliyah Andrews, who hit .365, and Taylor Pleasants, Amanda Doyle and Georgia Clark, who contributed in the power department by all hitting for double-digit home runs.

    LSU will look to start the season off right at their own tournament in a season in which it looks to win its first SEC championship in over 10 years. 

    In between games against Central Arkansas and LSU is a showdown against South Alabama. Last year, South Alabama was inconsistent on the road with a 11-10 record but strived at home, going 15-5. Meredith Keel hit .365, and Kamdyn Kvistad hit 10 homers and led the team with a .552 slugging percentage.

    Olivia Lackie was far and away their most reliable pitcher. She led the team with 19 wins, had a 2.34 ERA and ate up 194.2 innings for the Jaguars. 

    This year, the Illini are aiming to prove they can match with the best of the best, and there’s no better way to prove that than this weekend. Perry believes she has a squad that can impress the nation and finish at the top of the Big Ten. With several returning faces, the Illini will also have Kailee Powell, who was earned All-Big Ten First-Team honors last year, and pitchers Sydney Sickels and Addy Jarvis, who each contributed to the pitching staff last season, returning.

    Illinois will plays its season opener against Central Arkansas on Friday at 12:30 p.m.



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