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 travels west for Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic

Angel Saldivar
Graduate student outfielder Kelly Ryono takes the plate before batting against Maryland on May 6.

The Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral, California, marks the midway point of the 2024 nonconference schedule for the Illini and their third road trip in as many weekends. The Classic has attracted top teams from around the country, all gathering to play in remembrance of Nutter.

Mary Nutter was a prominent figure in the softball community as a two-time ASA First Team All-American during her career with the Laurel Lansings before coaching young softball players around the country. Nutter created this tournament as well as many clinics and scholarships, which the softball community has continued to honor her following her passing in 2012.

The tournament has grown over the years, with the 2024 field boasting an impressive collection of the countrys finest. Nine of ESPNs top 27 ranked teams are attending the event, with a chance to play at a unique place.

A collection of fields modeled after MLB ballparks can be found at the complex, providing the softball-sized versions of Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. The Illini have one game at Wrigley but start at one of the lesser-known fields on Friday morning.

Game one starts at 12:30 p.m. CT on Friday, where the Illini will face off with the No. 26 California Golden Bears. They are undefeated in seven career matchups against the Illini, putting more on the line for Illinois than just the chance at an upset.

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California is led by its ace — junior Anna Reimers. Following a sophomore breakout, Reimers has continued her success through five games. The righty has allowed just 10 hits and 3 runs in 18 innings so far and is a tough matchup whether she starts or closes.

Illinois has the night off on Friday before a Saturday doubleheader. Cal Poly will sit in the opposing dugout for an 11:30 a.m. CT game. The Mustangs are riding a 7-2 start to the year behind a strong offensive output. Nearly six runs a game and a .318 team average have been their strength, which theyll look to utilize early against the Illini.

After a short break, the Illini will walk over to Wrigley Field at the complex for a 5 p.m. CT game against the No. 19 UCLA Bruins. Its been a slow start for the 3-4 Bruins, who earned the No. 2 overall seed in last years NCAA tournament. They are sure to be looking for a rebound weekend and get back on track.

The final game of the weekend features a 1-4 Hawaii squad. A pitching staff that has allowed 33 runs in five games has limited them, but the offense has a couple of solid bats to watch out for. Junior catcher Isabella Martinez is hitting .545 with a 1.303 OPS through five games, giving the Illini something to consider during their matchup.

For the Illini, its about finding consistency. They find themselves at 1-4, although five games have been rained out, which certainly could have helped their record. Two of their losses also came with the go-ahead run at the plate, showing the Illini just need to finish.

We havent lost confidence in ourselves, Wiles said. Its just a matter of executing at this point. I think we are on the right track.

Wiles has taken over the ace role of the Illinois staff, putting in a lot of work this offseason. She says she hasnt pitched like this before, throwing in four of five games thus far.

I changed stuff up, but really just bought into coach (Verduns) process, she said. I worked on my mechanics specifically, making them better so I could be more sustainable.

The junior knows it is far too early to be concerned with the Illini start, but they do have to show some intensity this weekend. All games can be streamed on FloSports and tracked on the Illinois Athletics website.


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About the Contributors
Ben Fader
Ben Fader, 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
Hey there, you might recognize me as the photographer who's often at community events in Champaign-Urbana with a camera in hand. I'm currently finishing my Journalism degree at the University of Illinois. Since my first year in 2020, I have been capturing moments for the Illini Media Company, and I've recently become the Assistant Photo Editor. Filmmaking is another passion of mine – shoutout to my film club Illini Film and Video! Keep an eye out, as you could see me filming the next big hit on campus. When I am not using the camera, I am usually playing the drums. Should you have any inquiries, please don't hesitate to send me an email!
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