Illinois softball sweeps Liberty, gets swept by Clemson in Tiger Invitational

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The Daily Illini Photo File

Pitcher Tori McQueen begins to pitch the ball during a game against UIS on Oct. 2. McQueen aided the Illini during seventh inning against Liberty and led to an Illini win 5-4.

By Nick Kane, Staff Writer

Illinois softball traveled to Clemson, South Carolina, this weekend where they swept Liberty on the weekend, but dropped two matches to Clemson, leaving the invitational with a 2-2 record.

In their first match against Liberty, the offense wasted no time and senior Sydney Sickels was dealing in game one against Liberty. 

In the top of the first, Illinois tacked on two runs after RBI doubles from senior Kailee Powell and redshirt sophomore Jaelyn Vickery. The Illini added two more in the fourth as Powell brought in two with a single. 

The sixth inning came around, and the Flames got to Sickels by putting up four and making the eventual winning pitcher. As a result, sophomore Tori McQueen entered the game. 

The Illini threatened, but did not score in the seventh. McQueen went 1-2-3 to force extras.

Sophomore Megan Ward, who got caught stealing in the last half inning, started at second base for the tiebreaker innings. Illinois perfectly executed a get-her-over, get-her-in when Ward advanced on a ground ball then was brought in by a single from freshman Stevie Meade. 

The Flames continued to fight and loaded the bases with one out, but McQueen got it done with a force out at the plate and a fly out to center. McQueen got the win, Keeney the loss, and the Illini won the opener, 5-4 in extras. 

McQueen got the start in the next game versus Clemson. The Tigers brought in two in the first via a single. Highly-touted Tigers pitcher Valerie Cagle was lights out. McQueen started to settle in too after the rough first. It was not until the fourth where another run was scored due to an RBI single for Clemson. 

Graduate student Bella Loya got a base hit in the following inning and junior Gabi Robles pinch ran. Robles caused havoc on the base paths by advancing on a wild pitch and stole third. She scored the only Illinois run of the game off a single from redshirt junior Danielle Davis. 

Both pitchers went the full seven but the Illinois bats could not get to Cagle, as they dropped the second game 3-1.

The next morning, Illinois had a matchup versus the Flames in another tight match. McQueen got the start at pitcher again. Both teams threatened in the first, but did not score. It was a pitching dual up until the fourth.

In that inning, Illinois struck first. Junior Delaney Rummell led it off with a solo-shot, her team-leading fifth home run. The Flames followed with an out, but Ward got it going with a double and Meade brought her in with a triple. Powell singled in Meade to make it 3-0. 

Like always, Liberty did not hear a bell and hit a two-run homer in the following inning. Sickels relieved McQueen’s six innings of work looking for the save. She struck out two of the three batters and completed the sweep. 

With this win, head coach Tyra Perry earned her 600th win in her 21st season with the Illini. 

Sickels got the start in the series finale against the host of the tournament. Clemson scored first with an RBI single in the second. 

The Tigers grabbed a 4-0 lead after a three-run home run in the following inning. It was apparent that Sickels did not have her usual dominant performance that game, but freshman Lauren Wiles came in relief and kept the game in reach. However, the Illinois bats were basically non-existent, as Clemson’s Millie Thompson went the full game, pitching a five-hit shutout.

This Wednesday, Illinois will host Missouri in its home-opener, at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. in a doubleheader at Eichelberger Field.

 

@NickKane__

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