Angelena Mexicano hit her second home run of the tournament in Illinois' 8-4 win.
Feb. 10, 2008
TAMPA, Fla. - Designated player Hollie Pinchback launched her first career home run and shortstop Angelena Mexicano added her second long ball of the weekend to propel Illinois to an 8-4 victory over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles at the USF Wilson Tournament on Sunday morning. Mexicano finished the day 2-for-4 with three RBIs, while second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz went 3-for-4 with three runs scored.
The Illini finished their opening weekend of play 3-2, locking up third place in the tournament.
"We felt like we needed to work on some things that we learned about our team on Friday and Saturday, and I was really pleased that the things we talked about and focused on were things we accomplished in this game," head coach Terri Sullivan said. "We hadn't scored early and we did that today. We were more aggressive at the plate and that's the way our team needs to be."
Overall, Illinois collected 12 hits in the game, including the two home runs and a pair of triples. In the circle, righthander Claire DeVreese (3-1) took a two-hit shutout into the sixth before surrendering a pair of runs to the Eagles. FGCU had threatened in the fifth with runners at second and third and no outs, but DeVreese tossed back-to-back strikeouts before getting a routine grounder to end the inning.
"I thought Claire had one of the best pitching performances of her career," Sullivan said. "More than that, though, I thought she had one of the best innings of her career. In the past she may have let a couple things happen in that inning, but she bore down and got a strikeout."
Illinois got on the board in the second inning after first baseman Katrina Ross reached first on an error then scored on Pinchback's two-run blast that dented the scoreboard behind the rightfield wall. Pinchback, a freshman, finished the weekend 7-for-15 with a double, a home run and five RBIs.
"To put up the kind of numbers she did in the first weekend of her career, I'm really proud of her for that," Sullivan said. "But frankly, I'm not surprised at all because she's a hitter. She's hit to all fields, shown both power and the ability to hit for average, and she's also hit under pressure and gotten RBIs. She had a really balanced weekend at the plate."
Mexicano put the Illini up 4-0 on her two-run shot in the third. Zymkowitz slapped a single over the head of the centerfielder for triple before Mexicano took a 3-2 pitch deep over the leftfield wall.
Illinois added to its lead after Zymkowtitz led off the fifth with a bunt single then stole second and scored on rightfielder Hope Howell's triple down the rightfield line. Howell crossed the plate on Mexicano's RBI-single to make it 6-0. On the weekend, Zymkowitz led the Illini with eight hits, five runs scored and four stolen bases, while Mexicano delivered two home runs, five RBIs and four runs scored over the weekend.
"Zymkowitz, our leadoff batter and another first year player, had a very good opening weekend," Sullivan said. "She put the ball in play and in so many different ways set the table for us."
The Eagles battled back in the top of the sixth, scoring a pair of runs on a double by Cheyenne Jenks and a single by Samantha Waldron. FGCU cut Illinois' lead to four with two more runs on a Jenks single in the top of the seventh, but Illini pitcher Ashley Wright ended the Eagles' rally with grounder to third.
Up next for Illinois is the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas. The Illini take to the field on Friday at 3:45 p.m. (PT) to face Cal Poly then play again at 6 p.m. (PT) against UNLV.
Three returning Illini homered in their opening weekend of play. Shanna Diller and Lana Armstrong went deep in the opening game against Memphis, while Mexicano had blasts against Bethune-Cookman and Florida Gulf Coast.
Coming off an injury from last season, Katrina Ross wasted no time making an impact. She started all five games over the weekend and drove in three runs on five hits, including a double.
Claire DeVreese collected 21 strikeouts in 16.2 innings, finishing the weekend 3-1 with a 1.26 ERA.
Overall, the Illini outscored their opponents, 27-16. The Orange and Blue also out-hit their opponents, 46-25.