Illinois softball looks to stay hot against Penn State

By Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor

The Illini (28-21, 6-11) ride a four-game win streak into their matchup with the Penn State Nittany Lions (26-14, 7-10) this weekend, who are a single game above them in the conference standings. After a super rough start, Illinois has made up some ground and is looking to continue winning in its final road series of the season.

While the sample size is small, everything has come together in the last couple of weeks for the Illini. Hitters throughout the lineup are stringing together hits, and the rotation has been much more consistent.

Sophomore left fielder Stevie Meade’s average is up to .315 now, and she leads the team with 10 doubles. She’s been consistent, and freshman infielder Sydney Malott has joined her in the north of .300 average club. Despite her inexperience, the freshman is second on the team with five home runs and a .495 slugging percentage.

The Nittany Lions will counter with a superb pitching staff that has a 2.85 era. Led by fifth-year pitcher Bailey Parshall, they not only don’t allow many runs, but they don’t even allow other teams to reach base. The Southpaw has a whip of .76, making it easy to see why she already has 12 complete games in 2023.

Parshall and their number two pitcher, fifth-year Kylee Lingenfelter, are as experienced as it gets in the Big Ten. The Illini have struggled when facing opposing aces this season, but with how they’ve hit lately, there is reason for optimism.

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    In the circle for the Illini, two pitchers have also emerged as reliable arms. Fifth-year Sydney Sickels has been the star and just recorded her 700th strikeout on Tuesday. Sickels has been good during the Illini’s streak, but she has had a lighter load due to the re-emergence of sophomore Lauren Wiles. The two arms give the Illini the ability to compete with the Nittany Lions and maybe get their first series road win.

    The Nittany Lions have a high-powered offense, mashing 33 home runs and a superb .27p average. They are one of the best teams in the Big Ten at getting on base, but they can get in trouble, leaving runners stranded. Capitalizing on this and playing clean defense will be critical for the Illini.

    If the Illini can win the series, they will be in a good position for the Big Ten tournament and potentially setting themselves up to make another run at the NCAA tournament.

     

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