Illinois Moves to 9-1 On Season With Win Over Nevada
Feb. 21, 2010
STANFORD, Calif. - The Illinois softball team continued to roll at the Stanford Nike Invitational on Sunday, closing out the tournament with a 7-4 victory over Nevada. The Illini improve to 9-1 on the season, tying their best start in program history. Illinois also started the 2003 season with a 9-1 record.
Designated player Danielle Vaji continued to have a solid weekend for the Orange and Blue, going 2-for-2 with two runs scored against the Wolf Pack. Junior outfielder Hollie Pinchback was 2-for-4 with the Illini's first triple of the season, while senior outfielder Hope Howell was 3-for-4 and junior second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz had two hits.
In the circle, sophomore Monica Perry earned her fifth victory of the season, striking out six batters in 4.2 innings. Freshman Pepper Gay came on in relief in the fifth, earning the first save of her career.
"Nevada is a solid team," associate head coach Donna DiBiase said. "We came out and put some runs on the board early, which is what we needed to do. Monica held us steady through the first few innings, then Pepper came in and shut them down. That's what this staff is about and it's nice to have that. We're very proud of our offensive performance as well, as we were resilient. After they scored three on us, we came out and got one back right away."
As has been the case most of the season, the Illinois offense attacked Nevada (3-4) early, scoring three runs in the first inning. After Zymkowitz reached on a fielding error, Howell followed with a double to left field to put Illinois up 1-0. In the Illini's next at-bat, Pinchback tripled to left field to pick up an RBI in scoring Howell. Jessica Davis then hit a sacrifice fly that scored Pinchback, giving Illinois the momentum and a 3-0 lead.
Illinois tacked on another run in the second, as Vaji walked, advanced to second on a Zymkowitz single and then scored after Howell singled and Nevada made a throwing error.
The Wolf Pack came out strong in the top of the fifth, as Danielle Patrick led off with a homer to right field off of Perry, making the score 4-1. Nevada loaded the bases on a walk and a pair of Illini fielding errors, scoring two runs by being hit by a pitch and then on a wild pitch by Perry. Gay relieved Perry with the bases loaded, two outs and Illinois leading 4-3. The freshman stepped up to the pressure, striking out the next Nevada batter to get out of the inning.
Illinois took a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth, as sophomore first baseman Meredith Hackett hit a bases-loaded single to left field to drive home pinch runner Katie Lutes. The Wolf Pack cut the lead back to 5-4 in the top of the sixth, as Patrick reached on an error and came around to score after a Nevada double and ground-out.
The Orange and Blue offense responded again in the bottom of the sixth, adding two insurance runs to take a 7-4 lead and ensure their ninth win of the season. Vaji and Howell both singled and then scored after Pinchback reached on a fielder's choice and catcher Audrey Gallien hit an RBI single.
Illinois heads to Columbus, Ga. next weekend, playing its third consecutive tournament with five games at the NFCA Leadoff Classic from Feb. 26-28.