Illinois to face Western Illinois in last midweek game

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Illinois' Allie Bauch (21) attempts to hit the ball during the softball game vs. Purdue at Eichelberger Field on Sunday. Purdue won 8-7.

By Cole Henke

As the regular season comes to a close, the Illinois softball team has one last non-conference game against visiting Western Illinois on Tuesday.

The game comes between two weekend series for the Illini. Head coach Terri Sullivan said the midweek games are very beneficial for the Illini (24-24, 13-7 Big Ten), who have their sights set on beating the Leathernecks (16-20, 6-9 Summit League).

“We always want to play more games,” Sullivan said. “The girls would always rather be playing a game then being out here practicing. The in-game experience is what will make us better now.”

The Illini have not lost a non-conference game since March 25th, and look to gain momentum heading into this weekend’s series against Nebraska.

The Leathernecks struggle on offense, scoring just over four runs per game, compared to Illinois’ average of 6.3. The Western Illinois pitching staff can hold its own, though, and are led by junior Kaycee Hart, who has an ERA of 3.23. 

 

Back to .500

With the win against Purdue in game two of Sunday’s doubleheader, the Illini got their record back to .500.

After a poor start to the season (8-16), nobody on the team could think of anything positive to say. Everyone was ready to put the first part of the season behind them.

Now as the regular season is coming to a close, the Illini have completely turned their season around. Since losing four consecutive games to start the conference season, the Illini are 16-4 and sit in fourth place in the Big Ten, and show no signs of slowing down.

Junior Allie Bauch basked in the glory of the team’s resurgence after the series victory against Purdue.

“It feels great to be back at .500,” Bauch said. “After the beginning of the season, we wanted to have a fresh start. We knew that we could play this way all season, and now that we are it just feels amazing.”

 

Flying under the radar

Sophomore Alyssa Gunther has been a big contributor to Illinois’ offense this season.

As the No. 2 hitter in the Illini lineup, Gunther has started every game this year, but she does not grab headlines like her teammates.

While the Illini offense has been bolstered by a lot of power and home run hitters, Gunther does her damage by getting on base and allowing her teammates to bat her in.

Gunther is not a power hitter. She and Junior Kylie Johnson are the only two Illini starters who have yet to hit a home run this season. Gunther has the second-highest batting average on the team at .380, and has scored the second most runs (40). She trails Bauch in both categories.

An underrated part of Gunther’s game is her ability to put the ball in play. She has struck out five times this season – Jess Perkins is second on the team in the category with 15.

Gunther is a player who does the dirty work, and while she may not hitting home runs, she plays her role perfectly.

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