Kelly Ryono leads Illinois softball to victory over DePaul for 4th consecutive win


Candice Zhou

Senior outfielder Kelly Ryono hits a ball to straightaway center in the game against Ohio State on April 15 to give the Illini a 2-0 lead.

By Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor

With multiple little league softball teams in the stands on Tuesday night, senior right fielder Kelly Ryono put on a show, hitting two home runs. The Illini (28-21) took the contest 5-0 over the DePaul Blue Demons (12-29) to extend their winning streak to four.

Ryono jumped on the first pitch she saw in the bottom of the first, sending a no-doubter to left. Her second of the night was not hit as far, but it might’ve been harder. With a 2-1 count, Ryono rocketed a ball to straightaway center. It only got about 10 feet off the ground, but it just carried over the fence, giving the Illini a 2-0 lead.

“Oh my gosh, I knew I hit it hard,” Ryono said. “I didn’t know if it was high enough to get out, so I was busting my butt down to first, and then I got to jog the rest of the way.”

Ryono has been the most consistent hitter for the Illini throughout the season and was rewarded after the game. A swarm of little leaguers gathered along the left field line, with Ryono in the thick of it, signing autographs and talking with the kids.

“It means everything,” she said. “I just remember being that age and looking up to college players so much. It’s just so crazy to me that, like, that’s me now. I’ll do anything to just give back and help grow the sport.”

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    Now the right fielder is the best hitter on a D1 softball team, trying to get back to the postseason. The Illini are piecing together wins at the right time, but they need to stay hot to make it happen.

    Sophomore pitcher Lauren Wiles is contributing in the circle, finding her groove lately. The righty went two innings allowing no runs and no hits on Tuesday night, showing once again why she has been the go-to arm in the last two weeks.

    “I think we’re feeling good,” she said. “We’re getting consistent and doing the things we need to do. I think we got to stay hungry and win this series against Penn State.”

    The rest of the run support was provided via a three-run bomb off the bat of senior third baseman Delaney Rummell. A five-run lead was enough for the Illini, with senior pitcher Sydney Sickels closing out the final three innings.

    Tuesday marked the final nonconference game for the Illini in the 2023 regular season. With six games remaining, all against Big Ten opponents, the Illini are presented with a big opportunity to build a decent resume heading into the conference tournament.



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