Illinois softball falls in Ann Arbor

The+Illini+softball+team+wipes+their+softballs+during+a+rainy+game+against+Rutgers+on+Mar.+24.+%0AThe+Illini+traveled+to+Michigan+where+they+took+on+an+unfortunate+loss.+

Angel Saldivar

The Illini softball team wipes their softballs during a rainy game against Rutgers on Mar. 24. The Illini traveled to Michigan where they took on an unfortunate loss.

By Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor

Another weekend brought more heartbreak for the Illini (23-17, 2-8). A warm weekend in Ann Arbor, Michigan, saw the Illini come one run away from a Big Ten series win, but they were denied by the Michigan Wolverines (19-15, 5-4). With 13 games remaining in conference play, the Illini have surpassed their loss total from 2022 and remain without a series win in the Big Ten.

Each game was low scoring, starting with Friday evening, an Illini victory. The Illini started fast, as freshman first baseman Sydney Malott singled in the first inning to take the lead. Senior designated player Kelly Ryono provided insurance in the third with a two-run homer to left for the game’s final runs.

Fifth-year senior Sydney Sickels dominated the Wolverines, allowing only four hits in seven innings. It was a rebound game for Sickels, who returned to form over the weekend. The righty threw 11.2 innings, only surrendering one run, in her best effort to get the Illini their first series win.

Game two was almost a reversal from game one, with the Wolverines leading 3-0 entering the seventh inning. Ryono made it a one-run game with a double, bringing up senior third baseman Delaney Rummell. The cleanup hitter knocked a single to left field, but Ryono was held up at third. With the go-ahead run at first, Malott popped it up to end the game 3-2.

The final game of the series came down to the wire as well, but the Wolverines pulled it out. A Malott solo shot put the Illini up, but scoring was hard to come by on Sunday. The Illini left seven runners on base, including the bases loaded in the seventh. A 2-1 extra innings loss ended the series and sent the Illini back to Champaign.

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    While another series loss hurts, the Illini looked much improved in their last two series. Both series came down to a rubber match, where the Illini lost by a single run. Pitching also sparked confidence against the Wolverines, led by Sickels. Sophomore pitcher Lauren Wiles had her best stretch of the year, working 4.2 innings and one run over two games. If Wiles can build off of these performances, Illinois can position itself to win almost every game.

    The Illini now have a rematch with their in-state rival from a week ago and then have two home series in a row. Momentum is critical late in the season, so with the Illini returning to Eichelberger Field, they can try to pick up some wins in front of the home crowd as they head down the stretch.

     

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