Illini softball begins to find its rhythm at Houston Tournament

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

There’s nothing like playing at home. While the Illini (9-5) were not in Champaign this weekend, redshirt-senior outfielder Danielle Davis was just 24 miles from where she played high school ball. Her comfort in the Houston environment was evident, leading to a big weekend for the Missouri City, Texas native and the Illini.

Davis wasted no time welcoming herself home, homering in game one, putting the Illini on the board in the first inning. The two-run shot was the first of three games where Davis helped the Illini strike first and put them ahead for good in the opener.

Junior shortstop Megan Ward also contributed two RBI in the initial 8-0 victory where the Sam Houston Bearkats (5-9) didn’t stand a chance. The fifth-year ace Sydney Sickels dominated, only allowing three baserunners in the five-inning mercy rule, keeping herself and the rest of the rotation rested for the remaining games.

A Friday night loss to the Houston Cougars (8-6) lit a fire under the Illini, evident in the final three games. Davis took the matter of responding into her own hands, capitalizing with multiple runners in scoring position against the Houston Christian Huskies (8-6). A two-RBI single in the second inning of the game would have been enough for a victory, with sophomore pitcher Lauren Wiles throwing a gem. However, senior third baseman Delaney Rummel wanted to join the action, ripping a triple that scored two and giving the Illini a 4-1 win.

The rematch with the Cougars was also a close affair, and who else but Davis put the Illini on the board to start the game? The senior drove a ball up the middle to start the inning and made it all the way around the bases, eventually scoring on a two-out single. The Illini never trailed again in the tournament, taking down the Cougars and outlasting the Pittsburgh Panthers (10-4) in extra innings of the final contest.

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Davis says she is happy with the team’s performance this weekend and is grateful for the experience of having her two homes mix.

“The orange and blue is something that I hold very dear to my heart, or I wouldn’t be here for another year,” Davis said. “But it just means even more to be able to share a little bit of me with my teammates.”

Davis’ teammates mean a lot to her, and she admits that the reason for her sense of freedom at the plate is the women behind her in the lineup.

“That’s all my teammates,” Davis said. “If I don’t get it done, the next person will … There’s no pressure because we are all in this together.”

During the big weekend, growth was shown from the Illini, something Davis believes we will continue to see.

“We had a couple of hiccups earlier on, but I think we’re picking up and we’re rolling … There’s nothing in front of us now other than ourselves, so we are going to just keep putting the pedal to the medal.”

Winning seven of their last nine, the Illini have their first momentum of the season heading into another weekend of opportunity with the Carolina Classic beginning Friday.

 

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