Quiet bats at end of game doom Illinois softball

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  • Illinois’ Brandi Needham pitches the ball during the match against Omaha at Eichelberger Field, on Saturday. The Illini won 6-1.

Silent bats at the end of the game doomed the Illinois softball team in its lone loss over the weekend against North Dakota State.

“In the beginning of the game, we knocked in a couple of runs,” sophomore Allie Bauch said. “But towards the end of the game, our bats were silent. Toward the end of the game, they picked it up, which is what set the difference.”

The Illini scored four runs in the first three innings but failed to add on to the lead. They also only had three hits after the third inning, failing to support junior pitcher Shelese Arnold, who allowed one run through six innings and was replaced in the top of the seventh after allowing a leadoff home run.

Following a six run seventh inning from North Dakota State, the Illini were down 7-4 and lost the game by the same score after failing to score in the final frame. Illinois reached base on a walk but failed to record a hit to advance the runner into scoring position.

On a weekend when Illinois scored 23 runs on 28 hits, the lack of offense in the second half of the game was a surprise to many of the Illini. Sophomore Kylie Johnson believes the lack of offense was due to the lack of intensity and the desire to win late in the game.

“We kind of just shut it down after the first couple innings of scoring,” Johnson said. “You just need to keep on scoring and winning innings, especially when you see zeros across the board in the later innings.”

Defense helps motivate offensive play

The Illini defense continued to build upon a strong season, converting 57 putouts, 26 assists and two errors over three games. Sophomore Remeny Perez led the Illini with 27 putouts while freshman Ruby Rivera tallied eight assists.

Illinois also made many impressive diving plays on groundouts and flyouts, three of which were made by senior Alex Booker. Booker made two impressive diving catches in left field, while also making it in time to make one in foul territory.

Impressive catches helped motivate the rest of the team to take advantage on the offensive end of the game.

“Ruby played a terrific short (stop) as usual,” head coach Terri Sullivan said. “Booker made some key catches that our team fed off of. The enthusiasm from those catches led the team to hotter bats, which was key.”

 

First home weekend of the season

Last weekend’s games marked the first home games for Illinois at Eichelberger Field this season. Illinois traveled across the country for the first part of the season, playing in places such as Tampa and Boca Raton, Fla., Arlington, Texas, and Long Beach, Calif.  

Even though the east-central Illinois weather was not typical softball weather, it was warm enough to draw a crowd of 672 people to all three Illini games, which all the players enjoyed for the first time this season.

“It’s always exciting to be home for games,” junior Jess Perkins said. “After traveling for five weekends, we were really excited to get some nice weather out here and finally play on our home turf and be able to pull wins.”

Michal can be reached at [email protected] and @bennythebull94.