The Daily Illini

Ninth-seed Illinois prepares for Big Ten tournament

Head+coach+Tyra+Perry+speaks+with+Annie+Fleming+%2899%29+during+a+Purdue+Pitching+Change+on+Sunday.+The+Illini+won+12-4.
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Ninth-seed Illinois prepares for Big Ten tournament

Head coach Tyra Perry speaks with Annie Fleming (99) during a Purdue Pitching Change on Sunday. The Illini won 12-4.

Head coach Tyra Perry speaks with Annie Fleming (99) during a Purdue Pitching Change on Sunday. The Illini won 12-4.

Jonathan Bonaguro

Head coach Tyra Perry speaks with Annie Fleming (99) during a Purdue Pitching Change on Sunday. The Illini won 12-4.

Jonathan Bonaguro

Jonathan Bonaguro

Head coach Tyra Perry speaks with Annie Fleming (99) during a Purdue Pitching Change on Sunday. The Illini won 12-4.

By Gabby Hajduk, Staff Writer

After a tough conference stretch, the Illinois softball team ended the regular season in the win column with a sweep at home against Big Ten opponent Purdue. The Illini showcased their offensive power in the series with wins of 7-2, 11-9 and 12-4. Illinois made comeback efforts Friday and Saturday to secure the series.
“This weekend, this sweep means a lot to this team,” said head coach Tyra Perry. “It means a lot of our senior class. They like to win and they expect to win, so I think it is great that they were able to put together a strong offensive and defensive showing.”
In the final series before the Big Ten Tournament, Illinois’ nine seniors went out on a positive note. Each Illini contributed in at least one contest over the weekend.
“It’s been an emotional weekend for a lot of people. The senior class (and) our underclassmen kind of realized that it’s dwindling down,” said redshirt senior Annie Fleming. “It’s been emotional but I know and our seniors know that we aren’t done yet.”
The Illini’s top hitters and seniors Fleming, Kiana Sherlund, Carly Thomas and Veronica Ruelius lit up the weekend, making their last moments at Eichelberger Field count.
Ruelius led the Illini against the Boilermakers with six hits and seven RBIs on the weekend. The Marengo, Illinois, native hit her ninth home run of the season and 12th of her career.
Thomas had a consistent weekend with five hits, five RBIs and five runs. Sherlund recorded four hits and six runs along with her 12th career home run. Fleming totaled five hits, seven runs and two RBIs.
Seniors Stephanie Abello and Alexis Carrillo also contributed against Purdue. Abello recorded a hit on Friday and threw out a runner stealing second on Sunday. Carrillo hit her fourth career home run on Saturday and knocked in two runs on Sunday with a single.
Senior pitchers Taylor Edwards, Emily Oestreich and Danielle Brochu showcased their talents in the circle one last time in Champaign.
Edwards started the weekend off with the win Friday night. The Arcolla, IL native pitched nearly five innings and allowed just two earned runs on five hits.
Brochu earned her first win of the season on Saturday, entering in the fifth inning. Oestreich got her first save of the season on Saturday, pitching the last two innings and striking out one.
Junior Akilah Mouzon and freshman Sydney Sickels also worked in the circle this weekend. Mouzon earned her second win of the season, coming in as relief on Sunday.
During her first season, Sickels already made her mark on the Illini program, setting the season saves record on Friday. Sickels earned her fifth save by pitching a scoreless two and a third innings.
While the Illini closed out their regular season this weekend, they will continue on in the Big Ten tournament as the ninth seed. Illinois will face eighth-seed Nebraska on Thursday afternoon in Bloomington, Indiana.
Fleming believes the Illini got back on track this weekend but will use the postseason as a fresh start, hoping to earn a place in the NCAA tournament.
“We’re just starting fresh, flushing the good and the bad from the past,” Fleming said. “The Big Ten is wide open this year, and we see ourselves at the end.”
@gabby_h11

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