Illinois softball travels to Arkansas, will take on two ranked teams over five-game weekend


Photo courtesy of Illini Athletics

Pitcher Sydney Sickels begins to pitch the ball during a game against Wisconsin. The Illini will be going up against Arkansas on Friday with Sickels being a key offensive player so far.

By Nick Kane, Staff Writer

After a 4-1 finish at the LSU Tiger Classic and a win against No.14 Louisiana State last weekend, the Illini look to stay hot in the Razorback Invitational.

Illinois will travel to Arkansas in SEC territory for the second week in a row, in which they will play No. 25 Wichita State, Western Illinois, Longwood and No. 10 Arkansas twice. With a .800 winning percentage and being on the cusp of being ranked in the top 25 and surprising everyone, the Illini will look to continue to make a name for themselves. 

First, Illinois will have to face Wichita State on Friday at 10 a.m. The Shockers are ranked 25th in the nation by USA TODAY/NFCA Coaches after going 4-1 at the Bearkat Classic. Sydney McKinney was the best offensively by far, and she hit .600 with nine hits, two home runs and six runs batted in.

Wichita State has not been shy in the power department, hitting 11 total home runs so far. The Shockers have been getting quality starts from their pitching staff as well. 

Later that day, the Illini will take on the Razorbacks, who are ranked 10th in both the USA TODAY/NFCA Coaches poll and the ESPN/USA Softball poll. The Razorbacks went 3-2 last weekend thanks to the efforts of Taylor Ellsworth (five RBIs) and Danielle Gibson (.533), as well as quality pitching from Mary Haff and ​​Chenise Delce. Illinois will also play the Razorbacks on Sunday 12:15 p.m. 

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About 24 hours later, Illinois will take on Western Illinois, who are struggling so far with a 2-4 record. Kayla Zamora has been a bright spot so far, leading the team in batting average (.316) and hits (6). Piper Foote has raked in a team-leading four RBIs. 

Illinois will close out Saturday playing Longwood at 7 p.m. The Lancers went 1-4 on opening weekend, starting their season at the CFX Classic hosted by the University of Central Florida. Longwood defeated Fresno State in its season opener, but it dropped four straight. Emily Vinson has gone 7-14 from the plate on the season but has really been the only bright spot for the offense so far on the year. The pitching has not been good at all either



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