The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illinois softball wraps up sweeping fall action with intrasquad Orange & Blue World Series

Angel Saldivar
Senior Megan Ward gets ready to hit the softball against Wisconsin on May 10. Ward’s performance earned her MVP of the game.

It was an undefeated fall for Illinois softball. The Illini hosted eight teams from within the state for scrimmages in September and October and outscored them 61-17. With the dominant scrimmages and alumni weekend over, the Illini ended their season with three intrasquad matchups at Eichelberger.

The annual Orange and Blue World Series began on Oct. 10. A 9:30 a.m. start time resulted in a couple of players missing class, even though neither team was able to field a full squad. Still, they made do, alternating players in the field each inning for the opposing team.

As the coaches made their way behind home plate to watch the game from afar, acting coaches Kelly Ryono of the Blue team and Tori McQueen of the Orange team met at home plate with the umpire. The Blue team then ran onto the field as the visitors, with sophomore pitcher Juliana Hooker in the circle, as redshirt-sophomore outfielder Yazzy Avila got the orange team fired up.

“She’s unlike anyone I’ve ever met, in a good way,” said senior infielder Megan Ward of Avila. “She brings energy all day, every day. It’s so fun to play with her when she’s always communicating.”

The energy worked, as freshman infielder Eileen Donahue sent a rocket into right, her first of two hits in the inning. The bases were soon loaded for Ward, who geared up for her first of many plays that earned her MVP of the game. Ward sent a ball flying toward the wall in left-center, clearing the bases. As the senior reached third, an errant throw allowed her to score and put the orange team up 5-0 in the first. 

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    One more in the inning capped a 6-0 frame for junior pitcher Lauren Wiles on the mound. The Blue team only managed a single run through the first four innings that was unearned, although they threatened several times.

    Fifth-year outfielder Kelly Ryono laced a single in the first, and the next two reached as well. Wiles managed to escape the damage but threw many pitches in an inning that took over 35 minutes to complete. Her next inning was her cleanest, aided by a terrific play from Ward at short, fielding a short hop and throwing at Ryono by a step. 

    “I think on defense, I want to improve my range,” Ward said. “We executed today on offense and defense, had our pitchers back and scored a lot of runs early.”

    Hooker was also able to settle in against her own team, retiring six in a row, which were difficult to come by with the offense clicking. While the pitchers and offense had bright spots, errors were still being made.

    Avila reached on a bunt single in the second but was called out after the umpire ruled she made an attempt to turn to second. Sophomore infielder Reese Hunkins got thrown out at home in the following inning, ending the chance of a rally. The base running miscues, combined with multiple throwing errors in the field, led to a frustrated head coach.

    “I think it was a little sloppy,” said head coach Tyra Perry. “I was pretty disappointed because (base running) has been one of our strengths throughout the fall. We had accelerated aggressive base running, and to not see it today, it was a little disappointing.”

    With the fall schedule done, the Illini won’t see the field again until the spring season starts in March. There is plenty of time to get healthy, clean up errors and continue boosting the new offense before the 2024 season. 

    “I think we have a lot to grow from here,” Perry said. “When they bring the energy, and they stick together, I’ve seen them do great things.”



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    About the Contributors
    Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor
    Hello, I’m Ben! I’m a junior at Illinois and assistant sports editor at The Daily Illini. I’m majoring in journalism and minoring in communications and recreation, sport and tourism. This is my third year with The Daily Illini, and I can’t wait to produce some amazing work. Feel free to contact me at my email below with questions or concerns, or if you just want to talk sports!
    Angel Saldivar, Assistant Photo Editor
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