Illinois sweeps Wisconsin and moves to nine games over .500

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Logan Hodson

Freshman outfielder Stevie Mead prepares to swing her bat during the game against Wisconsin on Sunday. The Illini won all three games against Wisconsin over the weekend 4-1, 4-2 and 7-1.

By Nick Kane, Staff Writer

In their Big Ten opening series, Illinois swept Wisconsin, beating them three times across the weekend at Eichelberger Field.

Coming into the Big Ten opener, the Illini were coming off of some impressive wins, but still had a narrative attached to them. They could not consistently beat the best teams. The Illini had the chance to prove that idea wrong with this three-game series versus the Wisconsin Badgers. They responded by completely dominating the Badgers, beating them three times in a row.

In game one of the series, sophomore Tori McQueen, the starting pitcher who has often been undervalued because of all-time great senior pitcher Sydney Sickels, continued to add to her spectacular season. She went the full seven-innings, allowing only one run, not walking a batter, and striking out an absurd 13 Badger hitters. She improved her record 9-4.

Offensively, Illinois got things going in the second inning. Illinois got two of their first three runners on base to set up freshman Paige Berkmeyer with runners on first and second with one out. Berkmeyer brought in junior Delaney Rummell and junior Gabi Robles brought in senior Kailee Powell.

McQueen allowed only two hits, but unfortunately, one was a solo home run in the fourth to make it a one-run ballgame. The next half inning, Illinois responded. Sophomore Megan Ward batted in a run with a groundout, a senior Avrey Steiner walk and freshman Stevie Meade single extended Illinois’ lead to 4-1. That would be all that would come in the series opener, as McQueen cruised along. Maddie Schwartz was the losing pitcher in this one, in what was only her fourth loss compared to her 15 wins. 

The Illini also took the second game of the doubleheader once again courtesy of a masterful performance by McQueen who went the full game again. However, this time around, she won and was effective in a whole different fashion, which really showed her ability to make in-game adjustments. Compared to her 13 strikeouts in game one, she only struck out three in game two. She still was able to limit the Badger’s potent offense to two runs. She only allowed one more hit than her game one gem and only walked two. Two wins, two complete games in one day. 

The Illini scored all their runs in the third inning. The Illini got four hits all with two outs in that inning.  Steiner bunted for a single and was brought to the plate after Meade launched her third home run of the season. Junior Kelly Ryono then walked and Rummell brought her to the plate with a two-run home run of her own to make it 4-0. 

Wisconsin grabbed a run in the bottom of the sixth as well as the seventh, but they still failed to truly get to McQueen. Illinois 4 Wisconsin 2 and the series was clinched.

The Illini completed the sweep the next day by continuing to have dominant pitching, but this game, they exploded offensively for seven runs. Freshman Lauren Wiles, the usual reliever, got the start and had a great performance. She went 5.2 innings and struck out nine. She only walked one and allowed one solo-shot in the top of the third. 

The Illini got the offense going in the second inning when an RBI groundout from graduate student Bella Loya put the Illini up 1-0. The Badgers followed with a solo-shot to tie it. Although they threatened several times, that was the lone run for the Badgers in the finale. 

In the fourth, Illinois was able to retake the lead via a RBI double from Ryono. 

The Illini exploded for five runs in the fifth. A couple of errors and a single loaded the bases with no outs. Ryono then singled to center field to advance all the runners. Ward scored on a passed ball from the catcher. Rummell then hit a single to right field to score another run, and Berkmeyer reached on a fielder’s choice to keep the scoring run going. Davis collected an RBI single to make the score to 7-1.

The Badgers got some runners on the next inning and Coach Perry brought in Sickels to get it done. She finished it off with 1.1 innings of work and three strikeouts.

The Illini will look to add on to their impressive six-game winning streak in their Tuesday home matchup versus Indiana State before their next Big Ten series at Eichelberger Field.

 

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