Clutch Two-Out Hitting Leads Illini Past IUPUI, 5-3
Feb. 8, 2014
Rosemont, Ill. - In a back-and-forth battle early on, both teams took and subsequently lost the lead twice before a pair of key two-out hits by junior Brittany Sanchez put the Fighting Illini on top for good to lead Illinois past IUPUI, 5-3. Shelese Arnold allowed just two hits over the final five innings in relief to secure the win for the Illini, while Alex Booker and Nicole Evans hit back-to-back home runs to get things going in the first. With the win, Illinois improves to 4-0 on the season, while IUPUI falls to 1-3.
Booker and Sanchez each had multi-hit games, as Booker went deep for the first time in her career in her first at-bat and finished the day at 2-for-3 with two runs and a stolen base. Sanchez also went 2-for-3, with a pair of run-scoring two-out singles that drove in the final three runs of the game and brought the Illini back from down 3-2 to take the lead. Evans followed Booker's solo drive to right-center with a homer to left for her first career bomb, and Allie Bauch and Ruby Rivera both doubled in the game, as Bauch added a run and stole third. Kylie Johnson represented the go-ahead run in the third inning, as she pinch ran and stole a base before scoring.
Freshman Jade Vecvanags made her first start in the circle for the Illini, but struggled early, allowing three runs on seven hits over 2.1 innings. Arnold then picked her up midway through the third, where she went on to allow just two hits, neither of which left the infield, and no walks over the next 4.2 innings, while striking out four. When the Illini took the lead in the bottom of the fifth, Arnold picked up the win to improve to 2-0 on the year.
"It's good to see our team winning in different ways," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "Yesterday, we showed our teeth; today, we showed our will. Shelese was very strong in relief, and (San)Chez carried us on her back with crucial two-out RBIs. I thought IUPUI battled, and Ruby and Allie's solid defense up the middle was key."
IUPUI matched the Illini offense with eight hits in the game, led at the plate by Sarah Lawrence, who went 3-for-4 with a run scored, and Roni Patterson, who hit 2-for-3 with a triple and all three RBI. Leadoff batter Alyssa Neff also performed well, going 2-for-4 with a run, and Morgan Schlobohm picked up the remaining hit, going 1-for-3 with a run scored.
Emili Escamilla got the start in the circle for the Jaguars, giving up four runs on four hits and two walks over the first 2.0+ innings, taking her first loss. Jocelyn Oppenhuis pitched four solid innings in relief, allowing one run on four hits and a walk.
Neff led off the game for the Jaguars with a single to center, but Ali Mosier flew into a double play in center to empty the bases. Lawrence kept the inning alive with a single down the line off the first-base bag, and Patterson then drilled a gapper to right-center for a run-scoring triple to give IUPUI a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
The Jaguars did not lead for long, as Booker and Evans cranked back-to-back homers with two outs in the bottom of the first to put the Fighting Illini on top 2-1.
IUPUI regained the advantage in the top of the third, as Schlobohm and Neff led off with a pair of singles. Vecvanags got Mosier to fly out, but Lawrence loaded the bases with a single to center, and Patterson put the Jaguars back on top with a two-run single to left-center. Arnold then replaced Vecvanags in the circle and got the final two outs of the inning.
Bauch took it to the Jaguars in the bottom of the third, opening the frame with a double down the right-field line. She stole third, Remeny Perez walked, and pinch runner Kylie Johnson stole second to put a pair in scoring position. Sanchez then got the job done with two outs, nailing a two-run single to right to plate a pair and return the lead to Illinois, 4-3.
Sanchez came up big again for the Illini in the bottom of the fifth, driving in Booker with another two-out RBI to give the Orange and Blue a key insurance run.
Arnold then held the Jaguars scoreless through the final two frames to seal up the win for the Illini with a final score of 5-3.
Next Up: The Illini close out the Rosemont Rumble on Sunday, Feb. 9, with a matchup against Central Michigan at 9 a.m.