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Illini anything but golden versus Gophers

Illinois%E2%80%99+Ruby+Rivera+hits+a+ground+ball+to+second+base+during+game+one+of+the+doubleheader+against+Nebraska+at+Eichelberger+Field+on+Saturday%2C+March+26.+The+Illini+won+game+one+8-3+and+game+two+10-2.
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Illini anything but golden versus Gophers

Illinois’ Ruby Rivera hits a ground ball to second base during game one of the doubleheader against Nebraska at Eichelberger Field on Saturday, March 26. The Illini won game one 8-3 and game two 10-2.

Illinois’ Ruby Rivera hits a ground ball to second base during game one of the doubleheader against Nebraska at Eichelberger Field on Saturday, March 26. The Illini won game one 8-3 and game two 10-2.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Ruby Rivera hits a ground ball to second base during game one of the doubleheader against Nebraska at Eichelberger Field on Saturday, March 26. The Illini won game one 8-3 and game two 10-2.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Ruby Rivera hits a ground ball to second base during game one of the doubleheader against Nebraska at Eichelberger Field on Saturday, March 26. The Illini won game one 8-3 and game two 10-2.

By Drake Pena

[email protected] struggle in conference series with Minnesota. #Illini 

After dominating Illinois State last week, Illinois softball struggled this weekend when it faced arguably its biggest challenge of the
season.

The Illini squared off with Minnesota in a three-game series
that may prove to be pivotal in the already competitive Big Ten conference.

The Illini lost all three games to the Golden Gophers, dropping their conference record to 3-6, and moving them down to tenth in the Big Ten standings. ag

Minnesota currently sits in first with an 8-1 conference record with only a month remaining before the Big Ten tournament.ag

Four teams from the conference have received votes to be
within the Top 25 according to USA Today, including No.1
Michigan. Thus far the Wolverines have only lost four contests.ag

The Illini’s weekend opened with a
double-header on the Gophers’ home turf. The two games were the first Minnesota
had played at home all season.

Illinois was blown out in its first matchup, shut-out 13-0. 
Minnesota set the tone early, scoring nine runs in the first inning
alone, following that up with four more runs three innings later.ag

Junior Jade Vecvanagsag gave
up five runs in only two-thirds of an inning, marking her shortest, and statistically worst outing of the season.

Game Two started better for
Illinois, as the score was tied at two until the fifth inning. Minnesota
responded with two home runs in the fifth and one in the sixth that proved to be the nail in Illinois’ coffin.

The Illini had a small rally in the final inning, but came up short in the end and took their second loss of the weekend.ag

With one game remaining on the weekend, quiet bats once again proved to be the teams downfall as the
Gophers completed the sweep with a 6-2 victory.ag

Illinois was hitless until
the fourth inning, and was kept to only three total. In the
game, the Illini had as many errors as they did hits.

Although the team struggled
on the weekend, Ruby Rivera continued her excellent play after returning
from an early season suspension.

Rivera is currently second on
the team with a .596 slugging percentage.ag She has also come around to score 16
times on the season while only appearing in 21 gamesag. She has helped lead an already impressive Illinois offense, which is first in the the Big-Ten in
doubles, triples, and total bases.

Up next for the team is in-state rival Northwestern who travel to Eichelberger Field for a
late-night doubleheader this Wednesday.ag

Game One is set to begin at
5p.m., with game two scheduled for a 7p.m. start, the latest of the
season for the Illini.ag

Northwestern currently sits
in fifth in the Big Ten with a 5-4 record.ag The Wildcats’ pitching will be a main focus, as the Illini offense will look to get going. The
Northwestern pitching staff currently has the most wild pitches and third worst
ERA in the conference.

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