Illini Split on Day Two at UNI Dome Tournament

Brittany Sanchez was 2-for-5 with a double, two runs and an RBI in the double header.
Brittany Sanchez was 2-for-5 with a double, two runs and an RBI in the double header.

Feb. 9, 2013

NDSU Box Score | Drake Box Score |  Photo Gallery 

Cedar Falls, Iowa. - The University of Illinois split a pair of games this morning at the UNI Dome Tournament, defeating North Dakota State, 6-3, but falling to Drake, 3-2. Illinois put up a huge 6-0 lead before Pepper Gay allowed the first hit of the day in the top of the sixth, as the Illini cruised to a 6-3 victory over the Bison. The Orange and Blue scored two runs in the bottom of the second against Drake, but the Bulldogs took a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh, to earn the comeback victory. The Illini are now 1-2 on the season.

Freshman Kylie Johnson had a stellar day at the plate, hitting .714 with four stolen bases, including going 4-for-4 with a school-record three SB against NDSU. Pepper Gay, who had nine strikeouts in a complete-game against the Bison, broke the all-time career strikeouts record in the third inning, finishing the day with a total of 477 K. As a team, the Illini put together four extra-base hits and nine stolen bases on the day, while allowing just three earned runs.

"In our first three games, we have had some individuals do good things," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "Shelese Arnold has pitched well in relief and as a starter, and Alex Booker and Kylie have been tough outs at the top of the order.

"We have experimented with some different lineups and our team is working together well. Tomorrow, we want consistency on offence and defense."

Game 1: Illinois 6, North Dakota State 3 | Box Score (PDF)

Freshman Kylie Johnson dazzled at the plate against the Bison, going 4-for-4 with a run and  became just the third Illini in history to steal three bases in a single game. Alex Booker went 1-for-3 with two runs, an RBI, a walk and two stolen bases. Jess Perkins was 1-for-4 with two RBI, Brittany Sanchez had a double, a walk and a run, and Stephanie Cuevas belted her first career triple, adding a run and an RBI.

Pepper Gay held the Bison hitless through the first five innings, before allowing five hits, three runs and seven walks with nine strikeouts in the complete-game victory. Krista Menke allowed all six runs, three earned, on seven hits and two walks in the first 3.2 innings, and Tabby Bayers gave up a hit and a walk in 3.1 scoreless innings of relief.

Booker started the game with a leadoff walk, and Johnson followed with a bunt single. After a pair of outs, Booker made a dash for third, and a muffed throw by the catcher brought her home for the first run of the game.

The Illini put together a two-out rally in the top of the second. Katie Repole led off the inning, and got on base due to an error by the third baseman. The next two batters went out, but Cuevas drilled a two-out triple to the base of the wall in left field to drive in Repole. Booker followed with an RBI base rip up the middle, and Johnson picked up her second hit of the day, before Perkins struck out to end the inning, Illini leading 3-0.

Aggressive base-running and clutch hitting led to three big runs in the top of the fourth. Sanchez led off with a double to deep left center. She advanced to third on a wild pitch, and Jade Smith walked to make it first and third. Smith stole second, and in drawing the throw, Sanchez hustled in to score. Smith made it to third on a passed ball, but got thrown out at the plate on a ground ball to the pitcher. Booker stole second, and Johnson moved her to third on a two-out single. Johnson stole second, and Perkins ripped a hard-hit ball through the left side to bring in two runs and put the Illini ahead, 6-0, in the fourth.

Logan Moreland broke up Gay's no-hit bid in the bottom of the sixth, drilling a leadoff single off Jami Schkade at second base. Three walks led to NDSU's first run, and Ortega then singled to right, driving in Sobrero, to make it 6-2, before Gay got the final two outs of the sixth.

Isbel led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to center. Moreland struck out, but back-to-back singles loaded the bases for the Bison, and Grable patiently walked in a run. Gay, now facing a potential walk-off situation, reigned in her concentration and struck out the final two batters to earn the first victory for the Illini by a final score of 6-3.

Game 2: Drake 3, Illinois 2 | Box Score (PDF)

Five different Illini picked up hits against Drake, with Sanchez tallying a run and an RBI. Booker and Schkade each had doubles, Smith scored a run, and Jenna Mychko tabbed an RBI.

Hayley Nybo was the top performer for Drake, going 2-for-3 with a double and the game-winning RBI, while Jordan Gronewold scored twice on a pair of walks.

Shelese Arnold made her first career start in the circle, allowing three unearned runs through 6.0+ innings, giving up four hits and four walks while striking out six and taking the loss. Gay faced four batters in the seventh, striking out one.

Gronewold allowed a pair of earned runs in the second, giving up three hits and a walk in the first 4.1 innings, and Rebekah Schmidt threw 2.2 scoreless innings of relief, allowing two hits and earning the win.

Remeny Perez led off the bottom of the second with a walk. A sacrifice bunt by Jessica Davis moved pinch runner Smith to second, and Sanchez slammed her second RBI of the day with a single up the middle. Sanchez stole second, and Mychko drove in her first run of the year on a single to left to put Illinois ahead, 2-0.

Drake's Gronewold walked to start the third and advanced to second on a passed ball. After Silliman struck out, Nybo singled to center, making it first and third. Pierce put Drake on the board with an RBI single to center, but the Illini got a key out, catching Nybo off second, and Arnold struck out Randel to end the inning with the Illini still leading, 2-1.

After retiring seven straight batters, Arnold allowed a ground-rule double to right by Nybo to start the sixth. Pinch runner Dubois advanced to third on a passed ball, and Pierce walked and stole second to make it second and third with nobody out. However, Arnold turned on the heat, striking out Schmidt and drawing popups from Wood and Brewer to get out of the jam with the Illini still on top, 2-1.

Lindsey Vande Wall smoked a ball at Repole to open the seventh and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Sam West hit a shallow infield popup out of reach of a diving Repole, and made it to second as the Illini focused on keeping the runner at third. Gay then relieved Arnold in the circle, throwing to Cuevas. Gronewold grounded to short, but a muffed throw by Davis allowed Vande Wall to score. Davis threw out West at home on the following play, but Nybo drove in the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly to left field, before Gay struck out Pierce for the final out.

Jami Schkade began bottom of the seventh with a double to right center. However, the Illini were unable to bring her home, as Drake came away with the comeback victory, 3-2.

The Illini close out the UNI Dome Tournament on Sunday, when they face Green Bay at Noon, followed by host UNI.