No. 8 California Tops Illini, 5-0
Feb. 23, 2013
Palm Springs, Calif. – The University of Illinois softball team took on No. 8 California this evening in the third day of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. The Illini allowed just one earned run in the game, but the offense was unable to put together a rally, falling to the Bears, 5-0. With the win, Cal improves to 10-2, while the Illini drop to 5-8.
"What an awesome challenge this tournament has been for our team,” said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. “Today versus Cal, I felt we finally decided to step up to the challenge and compete hard for seven innings.”
Tonight’s game marked the fourth time this season the Illini have faced a top-10 opponent. In addition to 2012 Women’s College World Series participant Cal, the Illini faced No. 22 Washington in their Palm Springs opener, followed by Oregon State, who received votes in this week’s NFCA poll. The Illini complete the tournament on Sunday against Georgia Tech, who was No. 24 in the ESPN.com poll last week and received votes in both polls this week.
Facing the tough schedule is an incredibly young Illini team, featuring eight freshmen and four sophomores. Eight of the 10 Illini starters tonight were underclassmen, with a ninth (Jade Smith) coming in to play center halfway through the game.
Sophomore Brittany Sanchez and freshman Remeny Perez each went 2-for-3 in the game. The pair hit #4 and #5 in the lineup and hit back-to-back singles in the fourth and seventh innings. Katie Repole had the first hit of the game, going 1-for-3 on the night.
Shelese Arnold pitched the full seven innings, allowing just one earned run on eight hits and surrendering just one walk in the game.
“Shelese has arrived. She pitched with a purpose and trusted our defense. Every player on this team now gets the bigger picture, and we know where we are going."
Jolene Henderson dazzled in the circle and at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two runs and a three-run homer, while tossing seven shutout innings, allowing five hits and no walks while striking out eight.
After two perfect innings by both pitchers, Jolene Henderson led off the top of the third with a single through the left side. The Illini got the next two outs, but Cheyenne Cordes roped a single down the right field line to score Henderson, giving Cal the first run of the game.
Victoria Jones reached first base with one out in the top of the fourth on a dropped popup due to miscommunication between Bauch and Repole, and Ziegenhirt hit a single up the middle. Danielle Henderson flew out to right in foul territory for the second out, but Jolene Henderson hit a bomb to center for a three-run homer. Alvarez followed with a double to the wall in left, and Tayler drove her in with a single to left, before Allie Bauch made a diving catch on a shallow popup to end the inning, trailing 5-0.
Sanchez and Perez hit back-to-back two-out singles in the bottom of the fourth, but the Illini were unable to get the third straight hit, remaining scoreless.
Arnold handled a pair of Cal runners in the top of the seventh, drawing three comebackers in the inning to keep the Bears from adding to their lead.
Sanchez led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a single through the left side. Perez followed with a single up the middle. Smith, in her first at bat, drilled the ball to the left side, but Cordes made a great play at short, getting the lead runner at third. The runners advanced on a wild pitch to make it second and third with one out. Jenna Mychko saw nine pitches in the ensuing at bat, fouling off four pitches, but popped up to the first baseman. Henderson turned up the heat for the last batter, striking out Repole for the final out of the game.
The Illini complete the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic on Sunday morning, taking on Georgia Tech at 11 a.m. CT (9 a.m. PT).