Illinois softball fends off Bradley for midweek victory

Senior+utility+Gabi+Robles+and+redshirt+freshman+utility+Yazzy+Avila+celebrate+with+a+chest+bump+during+a+game+against+Lakeland+on+Sept.+24.+On+Wednesday%2C+the+Illini+secured+a+5-1+win+against+the+Braves+of+Bradley+University.

Logan Hodson

Senior utility Gabi Robles and redshirt freshman utility Yazzy Avila celebrate with a chest bump during a game against Lakeland on Sept. 24. On Wednesday, the Illini secured a 5-1 win against the Braves of Bradley University.

By Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor

A Wednesday evening matchup in Champaign, Il., between Illinois softball (18-9) and Bradley (10-18) ended with a victory for the home team. Though the mixture of 20 mph winds and leftover rain soaking the metal stands at Eichelberger field resulted in a chilly experience, the Illini fans were all smiles following the win.

“We’re getting the job done, and we’re working hard,” said sophomore left fielder Stevie Meade. “Just have fun like we are playing with our teammates that we love, and we get to play the game that we love, so just go up there, be confident and have some fun.”

The Illini did have fun against the Braves, especially in the dugout, cheering on their teammates. A collection of noises ranging from barks to screams could be heard over the Big Ten flags flapping in the wind parallel to the baselines. The chanting and chorus of voices singing every walk-up song showed veteran poise from an Illini squad that stayed loose throughout a close game.

“We are very energetic, and I think that sometimes carries us for games like maybe if we’re not performing as well,” Meade said. “Our energy is always going to be there.”

While the energy was high in the dugout, inconsistencies in scoring runs loomed again over the Illini for much of the game. Failing to capitalize with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the fourth inning made up a chunk of the nine runners left on base for the Illini on the day.

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    However, Meade was not a part of this trend, as she drove in two of the team’s five runs in a one-for-three performance. Meade laced a single in her first plate appearance to put the Illini on the board first. Her sixth inning sacrifice fly, although sacrifice line drive might be a better way to phrase it, plated a key insurance run in the sixth before senior third baseman Delaney Rummell widened the gap.

    The cleanup hitter was also instrumental in the midweek victory, impacting both sides of the ball. Two hits, two RBI and one run scored for the senior gave the Illini some comfort late in the game, which may not have been possible if it weren’t for her defense.

    Bradley threatened in the third inning, moving runners to second and third with one out and the middle of the order coming to the plate. The three-hole hitter sent a rocket down the third baseline, but Rummell didn’t flinch. Before anyone in the bleachers could blink, the third basemen scooped the ball off the dirt, faked a tag to the runner on third and fired a dart across the diamond, getting a massive second out in the inning and saving at least two runs.

    “I know if that ball is going to anyone, they are getting an out,” Rummell said. “Just pre-pitch thought, expecting the ball. Knowing what to do, trusting my D and trusting my pitchers.”

    With a 5-1 win in the books, the Illini look ahead to their first Big Ten series this weekend, where they will host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Illini enter conference play with a better record than last year and are excited to get back to it.

    “So excited, it’s gonna be awesome,” Rummell said. “We’re more than prepared. We’re more than ready. Top to bottom, offense, defense, we’re ready for it.”

     

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