Illini Improve to 3-0 with Walk-Off Victory in Extras
Feb. 8, 2014
Rosemont, Ill. – The Fighting Illini softball team once again took care of business this morning, defeating Eastern Illinois, 4-2, in eight innings to improve to 3-0 at the Rosemont Rumble. The game was tied at 2-2 for five full innings, before Illini senior Jenna Mychko broke it open with a bases-loaded ground-rule double in the bottom of the eighth to secure a walk-off victory for the Illini and keep the Orange and Blue undefeated to start 2014. EIU suffered its second walk-off loss of the weekend, falling to 1-2 on the season.
Catcher Jenna Mychko put up a strong all-around performance, going 2-for-2 with two RBI, a hit by pitch and a sacrifice bunt. Corner outfielders Alex Booker and Nicole Evans each had an RBI single and scored, and Allie Bauch and Jess Perkins represented the remaining two Illini runs.
The Panthers were led at the plate by second baseman Carly Willert, who was a home run shy of the cycle as she went 3-for-4 with a run scored, while cleanup hitter Hannah Cole went 2-for-4 with both of her team’s RBI.
Junior pitcher Shelese Arnold got the start for the Illini, surrendering two runs on four hits and two walks through 2.1 innings, before being replaced by freshman Brandi Needham. Needham got the final two outs of the third to exit the inning without falling behind, then went on to hurl 5.2 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and no walks while striking out two to pick up her second victory.
Hanna Mennenga tossed the full 7.0+ innings for the Panthers, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and two walks, tabbing one strikeout while hitting three batters.
The Illini started the scoring in the bottom of the first inning, as Bauch led off with a single up the middle that took a bad hop off the second baseman and allowed her to get to second. Remeny Perez put her on third with a flyout to deep center field, and Booker picked up the first RBI of the game with a single through the left side. Evans then drove her in with an RBI single to left to give the Illini a 2-0 lead after the end of the first.
Eastern Illinois tied the score in the top of the third, as Jennette Isaac led off the frame with a full-count walk. A failed sacrifice bunt attempt by Beck represented the first out, but Willert then drilled a double down the left-field line to put a pair in scoring position for Cole. Cole ripped the first pitch she saw up the middle to bring home a pair and tie the score at two, chasing Arnold from the circle. Needham came in to relieve her and got the next two batters out to end the third without allowing EIU to take the lead.
Both teams had several scoring chances over the next five innings, but at the end of regulation, the score remained tied at two. Needham used a pair of strikeouts in the top of the eighth to put the bats back in the Illini’s hands, and the Orange and Blue quickly took advantage of a tiring Mennenga, as she hit the first two batters of the inning to put a pair of runners on base. Brittany Sanchez squared up for a bunt, and as the catcher tried to get the lead runner at third, Perkins beat the throw to load the bases for Mychko with nobody out. The senior catcher then drilled the first pitch she saw deep to left field, driving in a pair of a Illini for the Orange and Blue’s first walk-off victory of the season with a final score of 4-2.
“Brandi did an exceptional job in relief,” said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. “It’s the little things that win games for you, and Sanchez laid down a perfect bunt to set up Mychko for the game-winning hit.”
Next Up: The Fighting Illini return to action today at 4:30 p.m. when they take on IUPUI in their fourth of five games at the Rosemont Rumble.