Illini softball back on track after midweek sweep against Indiana State

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Caden Bargowski

The team meets on the mound during a game against Indiana State on Wednesday. Illinois won both games of the double header, with scores of 3-1 and 6-0, respectively.

By Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois softball (21-12) had its way in a doubleheader Wednesday evening, winning both games against the Indiana State Sycamores (17-14). Although competition in the midweek games wasn’t Big Ten caliber, the Illini got plenty of at-bats to go with new confidence and momentum heading into the weekend.

Offense was hard to come by in the first game, with each team’s ace pitching three scoreless to start the day. Senior third baseman Delaney Rummell finally got the scoring started with an RBI single in the fourth. Freshman first baseman Sydney Malott and redshirt senior right fielder tacked on with their own singles, extending the lead to 3-0.

Fifth-year pitcher Sydney Sickels only needed those three runs, taking a no-hitter into the top of the sixth. The righthander was impressive all night long, finishing with seven strikeouts in her complete game performance, setting the tone for the rest of the staff to dominate in game two.

“We’re feeling good,” Sickels said. “I think we needed some feel-good games, and we got those … We’re gonna break it wide open right here.”

Wednesday marked Sickels’ ninth complete game in 13 starts. No other Illini has more than two. It speaks volumes about her ability to give opposing hitters different looks, even when facing hitters for a third time.

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    “Yeah, I just kind of change the sequence a little bit,” said Sickels. “I lean on one pitch one time through the lineup, and I lean on another the next time to get outs.”

    Fans sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch of the first game. (Caden Bargowski)

    Facing a lineup more than once was not of concern in game two for the Illini, with a combined effort from sophomore Lauren Wiles, junior Tori McQueen and redshirt senior Addy Jarvis. The trio did not surrender a run, notching ten strikeouts and just two hits allowed.

    The offense was rolling in game two, with Rummell striking first once again. An opposite-field solo shot in the second put the Illini up 1-0, and an RBI double in the fifth added another to her solid day at the plate.

    “I feel good,” Rummell said. “I think we were able to kinda get back to the basics, get back to what we know we can do and just putting that to work here tonight. I feel confident going into this next weekend that we’re gonna bounce back.”

    An Illini squad wanting to work on their approach at the plate this week achieved their goal with Rummell leading the way. The cleanup hitter reached base in four of six plate appearances and had no strikeouts, noting she just wanted to help the team and get the ball in play.

    “Looking for a hittable pitch, making the defense work,” Sickels said. “Putting something in play, especially with runners on base. I’m looking to score them, looking to do anything I can to move them, put them in the best position for the next batter.”

    The Illini left seven on base but are still looking more confident at the plate in their approach over the three-game winning streak. With Big Ten play set to resume, the Illini are ready to get their first conference win against the Wisconsin Badgers (15-9) and build on a positive week.

     

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