Softball’s offensive woes continue as Illinois falls to DePaul

The Illinois softball offensive struggles returned Thursday against DePaul.

The Illini have been plagued by inconsistent performances at the plate throughout the season and, one night after scoring eight and then six runs in a sweep of Iowa, failed to push any runners across and managed only three hits.

“I definitely think we weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be,” said senior left fielder Hollie Pinchback, who had two of the Illini’s three hits. “DePaul’s a really feisty team and you know, they’re never going to go away once they start scoring. We needed to jump on it a lot sooner than the seventh inning.”

Pinchback added that the Illini struggled against DePaul pitcher Lindsey Dean’s change-up.

“We just weren’t swinging at the strikes we needed to,” Pinchback said. “We kind of started swinging at her change-up a little too much and she definitely took advantage of it.”

DePaul (36-11) rolled into the matchup on a 15-game winning streak and then pushed the streak to 16 with a 2-0 win over the Illini (24-21, 11-7 Big Ten).

“Obviously it’s a really disappointing loss for us,” senior center fielder Ashley Conrad said. “They’re always a big rival … We’ve got to look at our next two games because the rest of our season is really important to us.”

Despite the offensive woes, the Illinois defense led by sophomore pitcher Jackie Guy kept the Illini in the game through the final inning. Guy pulled the Illini out of several jams as DePaul stranded eight runners on base.

“I’m glad we pitched out of it.” Sullivan said. “I think our pitchers are really doing a good job with their pitch by pitch concentration which we’ve preached all year, and just focusing on the moment. Jackie did what she needed to do, just offensively, obviously we need to score to win.”

Conrad came through in the outfield for the Illini, catching six fly balls.

“Jackie always produces fly balls,” Conrad said. “That’s our job. That’s the easiest play on the field, is to catch a fly ball.”

Audrey Gallien started at first base in place of Meredith Hackett for the second straight game. Sullivan said Hackett tweaked her hamstring in the first game against Iowa. However, Hackett made an appearance in the fifth inning, batting for Stephanie Cuevas.

“It’s nothing too bad,” Sullivan said of Hackett’s hamstring.

“Audrey has played for us (at first base) before. She did a great job over there yesterday in the second game against Iowa.”