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

Error-filled weekend for softball leads to series loss

Angel Saldivar
Junior outfielder Stevie Meade walks up to bat at home against Purdue on April 12.

The 2024 softball regular season ended on Sunday, and it was not how the Illini (21-30, 7-15) envisioned. Illinois dropped the final series of the year, as the Iowa Hawkeyes turned a 16-game losing streak into a two-game win streak on their way out of Champaign. 

It wasn’t all bad for the Illini, who took the opener on Friday. The first of two extra-inning games in the series wasn’t for the faint of heart. 

If you enjoy pitchers duels, this was a game for you. Senior ace Tori McQueen went the distance per usual, although her performance was anything but usual. The right-hander only allowed eight hits and one run over 10 frameswhile tossing 182 pitches. The effort resulted in her 12th win of the year, and the offense needed every bit of it. 

Iowa sophomore pitcher Jalen Adams matched McQueen through nine innings, surrendering 10 hits and two runs on the day. The Illini finally pushed through in the bottom of the 10th inning when freshman third baseman Adisyn Caryl led off with a double. A couple of batters later, sophomore second baseman Gabrielle Debevec knocked her in and secured a 2-1 lead. 

Illinois took the good vibes into Saturday where it celebrated its seniors. McQueen, shortstop Megan Ward, utility player Abby Ryniec and graduate student right fielder Kelly Ryono had plenty of family in the crowd for their final games at Eichelberger Field. 

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“This has been the most rewarding experience of my life,” Ryono said.I am so proud to say that I did five years with this program. It develops not only strong softball players but strong, independent, capable women.”

Ryono has been a leader on the team for the last four years and ended her collegiate career with a long speech to the team following the series’ final two games. 

The Hawkeyes took command early in game two, taking a 2-0 lead on a couple of singles in the second inning. Both teams traded runs in their following at-bats, taking a 3-1 Iowa lead into the bottom of the fifth inning. 

Ward managed one of a couple of big hits during senior weekend, driving in Ryono to make it a one-run ballgame. The double put her in scoring position as well, but the Hawkeyes managed to escape further damage. Iowa went on to win 5-3, for its first win in over a month. 

The Illini shortstop picked up where she left off in the finale, as Ward sent a ball back up the middle to put them up 1-0 in the third. After Iowa responded with three of its own, Illinois junior catcher Paige Berkmeyer came up clutch. A double mashed to the left field wall tied the game at three, and the catcher came around to score on a double, giving them the lead. 

Two massive Illinois errors in the seventh and eighth innings allowed Iowa to tie and take the lead for goodin what was a very winnable game. 

“We better figure it out because we have those moments,” head coach Tyra Perry said after the game. “We need to eliminate those moments and keep outs, outs. Or we need to figure out how to have the passion and energy to recover.”

Following the loss, Illinois received the No. 12 seed in the Big Ten tournament which begins this week. It will play No. 5 Minnesota on Wednesday, May 8. 



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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
My name is Angel Saldivar and I'm nearing the end of my Journalism degree at the University of Illinois and currently serve as the Assistant Photo Editor at the Daily Illini. When I'm not out taking photos, I'm diving into filmmaking with my film club (shoutout Illini Film and Video) or playing the drums. Got questions or just want to connect? Don't hesitate to email me!
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