Illini softball drops 2nd game against Northwestern

By Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor

A battle of two Illinois teams took place Wednesday night, with the Illini (23-18, 2-9) searching for revenge following a heartbreaking loss a week prior. However, the Northwestern Wildcats (25-9, 10-1) would allow no such thing, and they completed the season sweep with a 6-1 victory.

As the losses pile up for the Illini, new tactics are brought out to try and flip the switch. Against the Wildcats, it was a new lineup featuring some changes. Sophomore left fielder Stevie Meade started just her second game in the leadoff spot, followed by senior designated player Kelly Ryono who usually bats cleanup. Former leadoff hitter fifth-year second baseman Avery Steiner was moved down to sixth.

The changes saw an improved performance from their last outing against the Wildcats, although that only meant the Illini got two hits and one run. After Meade walked, she came around to score on a single by junior shortstop Megan Ward to knot the score at 1-1 in the fourth inning. This would be the only run of the game for the Illini, despite loading the bases later in the inning.

Wildcat pitching ruled the day once again, allowing just five base runners and striking out nine. Across the diamond, sophomore pitcher Lauren Wiles got the nod for the Illini and produced her second quality outing in a row. Wiles went 2.2 innings and only allowed one run to start the day for the Illini before being replaced by fifth-year pitcher Addy Jarvis.

It was tough luck for the Illini after that, with the Wildcats putting pressure on the defense. After back-to-back infield singles to start the bottom of the fourth, the Illini committed two errors and eventually unraveled in a five-run inning for the Wildcats.

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    The Illini defense had been relatively clean for a couple of weeks, and these miscues couldn’t have come at a worse time. Even with three innings remaining, the game felt out of reach. The Illini couldn’t get anything else going with the Wildcats ace, graduate student Danielle Williams, in the game.

    The loss keeps the Wildcats atop the Big Ten and sinks the Illini deeper into the bottom three teams in the conference. With their backs against the wall, the Illini begin an eight-game homestand, desperate to string wins together. While the pitching staff has shown signs of improvement over the weekend and against the Wildcats, one inning seems to always get out of hand and be the difference maker in these tight conference games.

     

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