’We’re not gonna let you have it’: No. 12 Illinois softball upsets No. 5 Wisconsin in 1st round of Big Ten tournament

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Angel Saldivar

Illinois softball gathers around home to cheer after redshirt senior outfielder Danielle Davis hit a grand slam in the top of the third inning.

By James Kim, Sports Editor

It’s postseason time, and the stage was set at Eichelberger Field as the Illini faithful poured into the stands for the Big Ten tournament in Champaign. No. 12 Illinois battled against No. 5 Wisconsin in an entertaining first round clash, a game that will go down as one of the team’s most memorable victories of the season.

“The crowd was great,” said head coach Tyra Perry. “If we could get this every time that’d be awesome. The team played great. I know the team was really focused on executing the game plan, playing without fear or hesitation and we saw that today.”

The Illini struggled to get going early in the contest, getting shutout in the first inning and giving up an early run to the Badgers’ Kayla Konwent. At the top of the second, Illinois managed to get runners on base after redshirt senior outfielder Danielle Davis and senior utility Delaney Rummell were hit by pitches on back-to-back plays. The Illini were unable to take advantage, however, as the Badgers only continued to heat up.

Wisconsin’s Molly Schlosser nailed a home run to sink Illinois into a two-run deficit. With the energy in Eichelberger Field draining quickly, the Illini needed to make something happen.

The momentum began to swing in Illinois’ favor starting with a single hit by fifth-year infielder Avrey Steiner. The Illini were able to get runners on base shortly after and in the blink of an eye Steiner bolted past Badgers catcher Angelopul to put the Illini on the board.

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    The sea of orange in the stands wasn’t done celebrating, as a miscommunication by Wisconsin’s outfield on freshman infielder Sydney Malott’s hit allowed freshman outfielder Alaina Miller to tie the ball game at two apiece.

    Hits, hits and more hits. Illinois’ quiet start to the game quickly became a thing of the past as the ball continued to find the Illini bats time and time again. With bases loaded and a rampant crowd on their feet, Davis stepped up to the plate with a prime grand slam opportunity awaiting her.

    Ding!

    With ice in her veins, Davis wasted no time in sending the ball soaring out of the park, causing the stands to erupt into a chaotic frenzy. Illinois, with four additional runs added to its total, found itself leading the way on the scoreboard 6-2 at the bottom of the third.

    “We know if they’re gonna throw a punch, we’re gonna swing back with two,” Davis said. “That’s our goal. Throw punches and celebrate the little things. That’s what we did to keep the momentum and control the momentum all at the same time.”

    Things quieted down in the fourth inning. Despite acrobatic defensive plays from Rummell and fifth-year utility Kailee Powell, Wisconsin secured another homer to cut its deficit to three.

    The Illini began regain some of that magic from the third inning, quickly loading the bases yet again. Davis stepped up and grounded out to allow sophomore utility Zoie Howard to score Illinois’ seventh run of the night. The Badgers were able to respond, and both teams split the inning at one apiece heading into the sixth.

    Steiner scored the Illini’s eighth run of the evening in the sixth, with Rummell closing out the inning with an impressive one-handed snag. Heading into the seventh, Illinois itself found on the right side of an 8-4 scoreline.

    Redshirt senior pitcher Addy Jarvis and junior pitcher Tori McQueen closed out the game in the final inning, completing the Illini’s upset and sending the underdogs through to the next round. Final score: Illinois 8, Wisconsin 4.

    The Illini will have 24 hours to rest before it’s time to suit up again, with reigning champions No. 4 Nebraska awaiting Illinois for a 7 p.m. CDT quarterfinal matchup.

    “I really think we took them on,” Davis said. “And were, like, ‘We’re not gonna let you have it.’ It was all guts and a lot of heart, a lot of confidence and a lot of energy. I think we brought it out today, and we’re gonna bring it out tomorrow. Just bring it on, day at a time, day by day, keep stacking days.”

     

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