Illinois softball exits NCAA Tournament after first round losses to Arizona, Missouri State


Sidney Malone

Junior outfielder Kelly Ryono runs to the next base during the home game against Penn State on May 7. The Illini are eliminated from the NCAA Tournament following their first round losses to Arizona, 8-3, and Missouri State, 2-0.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

Friday’s 8-3 loss to Arizona and Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Missouri State saw Illinois eliminated from the NCAA Tournament after placing last in the Missouri Regional. Following the team’s second loss of the weekend, the Illini’s season ended going 0-3 in the postseason.

Illinois’ first match of the weekend proved to be a disastrous start. The Arizona Wildcats came to play.

Early on, however, the Illini were the ones controlling the game. Senior pitcher Sydney Sickels began hot despite getting the loss. In the top of the first, she got three outs from the first three batters, sending Illinois into the bottom of the first where junior Kelly Ryono knocked in her first 2 RBIs of the day with a double to right field. Illini led the Wildcats 2-0 after the first inning.

From there on out, Arizona took over. Sickels’ efficient first inning was not replicated the rest of the day by any Illini pitcher. The Wildcats started their run off with a solo home run in the second inning, followed by three runs via two more home runs in the third inning, putting them up 4-2 after three. 

At this point, the offense began to falter. Innings three and four saw no Illinois batting success. The team became frustrated with its lack of strong offense throughout the game.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Arizona didn’t stop and wait for Illinois’ bats to become hot, however. After a zero-run fourth inning, the Wildcats doubled their score with another home run in the fifth, putting them up 8-2. One more Ryono RBI gave the Illini a less-lopsided loss in the seventh, as the match finished 8-3 in favor of the Wildcats.

This loss sent Illinois into the elimination match on Saturday against Missouri State, where it would achieve its second loss of the weekend.

Sickels got the start once more, as she aimed to provide a better result than Friday’s match. While her pitching let up fewer hits than the previous match, she let up a home run in the bottom of the third, putting the Bears up 2-0. 

While the pitching improved for the Illini, the offense continued to frustrate. Producing just one hit in a playoff game almost never amounts in a victory.

Senior Avrey Steiner had the Illini’s only hit of the day in the fourth inning, but she was left stranded on base. After three more quiet innings from both teams, the Bears ended the match as the victors, 2-0, moving on to face Missouri for a chance to move on to the NCAA Super Regional.

With this loss, the Illini’s season finished 34-22 overall. The young core of head coach Tyra Perry’s team will be back next season after providing the program with one of their best seasons in recent history.



[email protected]