Illinois softball continues to struggle in Big Ten play

Right+fielder+Danielle+Davis+hits+a+lead-off+double+to+left-center+field+in+the+bottom+of+the+third+inning.+

Jack Larson

Right fielder Danielle Davis hits a lead-off double to left-center field in the bottom of the third inning.

By Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor

There was more barking than usual at Eichelberger Field on a nippy Wednesday night. Illinois softball (22-15, 1-6) held a “bark in the park” night when hosting the Northwestern Wildcats (21-9, 6-1), and the dozens of dogs were undoubtedly the happiest animals in the stadium.

Aside from the canines that roamed, licked and sniffed about, the only other happy campers in Champaign were a small group of Wildcat faithful gathered down the first base line, as Northwestern was dominant all night, defeating Illinois at a final score of 12-0 after five innings. 

The Wildcats coasted to victory with six home runs and an absolute gem on the mound from Danielle Williams. Williams had the off-speed working on Wednesday, only allowing one hit and striking out 11.

The Illini’s sixth conference loss comes over a month earlier than it did in 2022, putting Illinois in a territory they did not want to be in. Still, head coach Tyra Perry believes there is reason to be positive following the loss.

“They kept their ace out there the entire game, which is pretty interesting,” Perry said. “They do know we can hit and what we can do. They could have put anybody else out there, you know, once they had the lead, so we have what it takes.”

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    The respect shown by the Wildcats will play a factor in next week’s matchup when these teams square off again in Evanston. The Illini are hungry for revenge, but will need to clean up parts of their game if they want to even the series in 2023.

    “We gotta stick together,” Perry said. “There’s parts of our game that, you know, show up in spurts. We haven’t had everything show up all together, and we’ve got to figure out how to get everything working together.”

    Step one in coach Perry’s game plan to get everyone to show up together is fifth-year pitcher Sydney Sickels. The rotation’s ace had an off night but persevered through all five innings, finishing the game on a high note by only allowing one run in the final two innings.

    “If we’re going to get to where we need to be, it’s going to be on Sydney’s back,” Perry said. “Sometimes people just don’t have their best stuff, but they have to keep grinding, keep pushing through.”

    The Illini need someone to step up on offense as well. Redshirt senior outfielder Danielle Davis got the only hit for the Illini on Wednesday and got on base in two of her three plate appearances. 

    The Illini head to Ann Arbor this weekend for a matchup with the Michigan Wolverines (17-14, 3-3), still looking to return to 2022 form.

     

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