Illinois softball hosts Illinois State for midweek clash

Gabi+Robles+greets+her+team+as+they+run+by+during+a+game+against+Ohio+on+Saturday.%0AThe+Illini+will+be+facing+tough+competitor+being%2C+Illinois+State+on+Tuesday.+

Angel Saldivar

Gabi Robles greets her team as they run by during a game against Ohio on Saturday. The Illini will be facing tough competitor being, Illinois State on Tuesday.

By Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor

After another Big Ten series loss, Illinois softball (24-20) will stay home for a matchup with the Illinois State Redbirds (24-17). The game at Eichelberger Field will start at 5 p.m. on a chilly night in Champaign, Illinois, with the Illini looking to pull out a solid nonconference win.

The Redbirds have been hot, winning 15 of their last 17 games since the beginning of conference play. Before dominating the Missouri Valley Conference, the Redbirds had a rough start to the season in a loaded nonconference schedule.

Despite losing every nonconference game, Illinois State has played a couple of major conference opponents close and is capable of giving the Illini a run for their money. The Redbirds have done well with a balanced team, taking turns with pitching and the offense to help win games.

Senior catcher Dayna Kennedy leads them at the plate and is having her best season in college. The former First-Team All-Missouri Valley Conference catcher is batting .419 with five home runs and is getting on base nearly 50% of the time. The Redbirds have plenty of other hitters filling the lineup behind Kennedy, looking to take advantage of a pitching staff that allowed 29 runs in three games over the weekend.

The Illini are coming off of a rough weekend where they struggled to keep runners off the base paths, with everyone not looking their best. The Ohio State Buckeyes (27-14) have one of the best offenses in the Big Ten, but after a great four-game stretch for Illini pitchers, the performance was disappointing.

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    Nobody had their best stuff, and only fifth-year pitcher Sydney Sickels reached the fourth inning in her start. Shaking off the bad outings will be important because the Redbirds and remaining conference opponents won’t be forgiving.

    A rotation that has been consistent lately is the Redbirds, who mainly rely on two pitchers. Senior Hannah Ross has awakened for a career year with a 1.80 ERA for the pitcher, who has appeared six times in the last two weeks and boasts 52 strikeouts on the year.

    Ross has appeared in almost every midweek game this season, so the Illini needs to be ready for an appearance from the senior. The Illini scored 14 runs in three games against the Buckeyes, which isn’t horrible until considering that 13 were scored in a single game.

    Offensive inconsistencies have plagued the Illini all year long, and there have been no signs of fixing them. Senior first baseman Kailee Powell and sophomore second baseman Stevie Meade were the main producers on offense against the Buckeyes, but the Illini will need more contributions around the order to pick up a win.

    The Tuesday night affair marks the halfway point for the Illini home stand, with four more games after the final inning against Illinois State. Every win is critical at this point for the Illini, and they will look to take advantage of the extended time at home.

     

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