Illinois drops double header to Missouri Tuesday

By Gabby Hajduk, Staff Writer

Over the weekend, Illinois softball lost its second Big Ten series against No. 15 Minnesota, 2-1, in Champaign. The Illini hoped to return with a mark in the win column during the Braggin’ Rights doubleheader against the University of Missouri on Tuesday but dropped both games.

Illinois’ record drops to 24-13, with six of those losses within the last 11 days. Head coach Tyra Perry believes the recent losses haven’t been a result of skill level but inconsistency.

“We know what to do in order to make the pitcher make adjustments at the plate,” Perry said. “We know what to do in order to make their hitters have to make adjustments, from the pitching standpoint and we’re just not doing those things consistently.”

The Illini began their series against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Friday with a 5-0 loss. Senior Taylor Edwards gave up four runs, one unearned, on four hits in almost four innings of play. Junior Akilah Mouzon and senior Emily Oestreich also saw action in the circle.

Minnesota attacked the Illinois defense early, recording three runs in the first inning. After a walk and a double off a fielding error, Minnesota sophomore Hope Brandner homered to left center to earn the early 3-0 lead.

Neither team registered another hit until the fourth inning when Minnesota struck again. A home run from junior Katelyn Kemmetmueller gave the Golden Gophers a 4-0 lead.

The Illini had their first hit in the bottom of the fifth inning off a double from sophomore Bella Loya. Freshman Kailee Powell got walked in the inning, but the rest of the Illini couldn’t get the bats going, leaving the two on base.

Kemmetmueller hit an RBI single in the top of the seventh to extend Minnesota’s lead to five. Despite one hit for Powell in the seventh, the Illini still struggled to hit, taking the loss with only four hits on the day.

After the Friday loss, the Illini recovered for Saturday’s doubleheader against the Golden Gophers with a 4-3 walk-off win in extra innings. However, the Illini lost the series in a 10-3 contest later in the afternoon.

Freshman Sydney Sickels earned her 16th win of the season in a complete game performance, giving up one unearned run on six hits. The Illini defense committed one error in the contest.

The Illini held a 2-0 lead until Minnesota grabbed a pair of runs between the sixth and seventh innings to send the game into extra innings. After the Golden Gophers picked up a run in the eighth inning to take the lead, sophomore Katie Wingerter hit a two-run homer to pick up the Illini’s fourth Big Ten win.

Illinois’ first two runs came from redshirt senior Annie Fleming’s RBI double in the third inning and a sacrifice fly from redshirt senior Carly Thomas in the fifth inning.

Following the dramatic finish in the first contest, the Illini fell behind early in the second game and failed to produce the comeback, falling 10-3.

Minnesota opened up the game with another big first inning, this time recording five early runs led by two two-run homers. The Golden Gophers picked up another run in the second inning off an RBI single to create a 6-0 lead.

The Illini struggled with consistency from the bats again, recording six hits but scored their only runs off two home runs. Thomas hit a two-run homer in the third inning followed by a solo shot from Powell in the fourth inning.

Minnesota grabbed its next four runs off three homers in the fourth, sixth and seventh inning.

Sickels took the loss after pitching less than an inning but giving up five earned runs. Edwards pitched the majority of the contest, with Oestreich and Mouzon pitching an inning each.

“We’ve shown some really strong attributes as far as what we teach on the offensive side and the defensive side,” Perry said. “At times we’ve also been really lacking. (Saturday) we showed both. In the first game, I thought we played a good game up until the top of the seventh where the pressure was on and we cracked a little bit. But. we stayed strong and fought back so that was great. In the second game, it was a lack of focus.”

Hoping to fix their focus, the Illini headed to Lindenwood University for a neutral-site doubleheader against the Mizzou Tigers. However, Illinois dropped both games, 2-0 and 3-2.

Neither team found an offensive flow in the first contest, though Mizzou scored their two runs off RBI’s in the third and fifth inning. Each team also had plenty of scoring opportunities, but the Illini left five runners on base opposed to the Tigers’ eight.

Sickels took her second-straight loss after pitching four innings, giving up one earned run on six hits. Edwards came in for relief and struck out three batters, but she gave up an earned run and two hits.

The second game saw more action from both teams, with nine hits coming from Mizzou and eight coming from Illinois. The Illini picked up an early run in the first inning off an RBI single to center field from Loya, who scored Thomas.

Mizzou fired back in the third inning with a pair of runs to take a brief 2-1 lead. The Tigers scored an a sacrifice fly followed by an RBI single.

The Illini quickly returned in the bottom of the third with an RBI from senior Veronica Ruelius to score Fleming and tie the score at two.

The Tigers picked up the go-ahead run in the seventh inning off a sacrifice fly that was a result of a previous fielding error. Thomas picked up a double in the bottom of the seventh inning to put a runner in scoring position, but the Illini could not capitalize.

Now on a three-game losing streak, Illinois will head to Iowa this weekend for three games in search for their second Big Ten series win.

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