Illinois softball enjoys winning weekend at Gamecock Invitational but goes cold in important game against South Carolina

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

The college softball season is flying by, with week four already in the past. Four weeks have seen the Illini (12-6) in four tournaments filled with competition before the conference schedule begins. The team has shown flashes in the early stages of 2023 but has yet to be consistent against more formidable adversaries.

The Illini find themselves 5-5 against Power 5 opponents, with an outstanding 7-1 record against everyone else. The recurring problem is the inability to get runs across the plate in the Power 5 games. Averaging 1.9 runs per game in these contests is way down from their 6.5 runs against mid-major programs.

The pitching has not taken much of a dip between the matchups, so getting the bats adjusted to higher-quality pitching will be crucial for the Illini before Big Ten play. In their most recent matchup with the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-2), the Illini managed just four hits and one walk, scoring their only run off of a Gamecock error.

The fifth-year ace Sydney Sickels went the distance, allowing just four runs against a potent SEC offense. While it wasn’t her best day on the mound, Sickels held the Gamecocks in check after the second inning but received no run support.

The bats did not stay cold as the Illini outscored their opponents 14-1 in the remaining three games. Sophomore pitcher Lauren Wiles and redshirt-senior pitcher Addy Jarvis both tossed complete game shutouts, stifling opposing offenses.

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Senior third baseman Delaney Rummel started the scoring in game one for the Illini to begin a productive weekend for the three-hole hitter.

“I feel really confident in this spot and really excited going forward,” Rummel said. “I trust everyone before me and trust everyone after me. It makes it really easy to be comfortable up there at the plate.”

Rummel drove in two runners with a double in the first inning against the North Carolina A&T Aggies (3-14) and later scored to put the Illini up 3-0 quickly. The Illini coasted the rest of the way, taking game one 4-0 and riding the momentum into Saturday for a contest with the UNC Wilmington Seahawks (5-13).

The senior tied the game in the fourth with a blast over the left field fence, giving Rummel her third RBI of the weekend. The Illini tacked on one in the fifth, and two more in the sixth before Rummel stepped back to the plate with a runner in scoring position. After lacing a single for another RBI, Rummel provided even more insurance, scoring on a sacrifice fly to put the Illini up 6-1.

Rummel managed a base knock in each of the weekend’s final two games to continue her hot streak at the plate.

“Honestly, I’m just looking for something over the plate,” Rummel said. “It doesn’t matter to me what kind of pitch it is.”

She says that the wins feel good, and she isn’t worried about the loss to the Gamecocks as the Illini continue to adjust and get better throughout the season.

“We want to stay gritty, stay within each other, understanding our own game,” Rummel said. “Just focusing on ourselves playing, and I think we’ll be just fine from here on out as well.”

The Illini have one final tournament before their home opener, as the South Florida Bulls will host the USF Tournament in Tampa, Fla., from Friday to March 12.


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