Booker Becomes First Illini to Hit for the Cycle in DH Sweep

Alex Booker became the first Illini ever to hit for the cycle in the 9-1 victory over Creighton.
Alex Booker became the first Illini ever to hit for the cycle in the 9-1 victory over Creighton.

Feb. 23, 2014

Box Score

Arlington, Texas – The Fighting Illini softball team closed out the UTA Hilton Invitational with a pair of victories over 2013 MVC Champion Creighton, 9-1, and tournament host UT Arlington, 4-2. Senior left fielder Alex Booker made history against the Bluejays, becoming the first Illini batter ever to hit for the cycle, and finished the day with five hits, four for extra bases, five RBI and three runs scored. The Illini pitching staff allowed just two earned runs over 14 innings, as Jade Vecvanags picked up her first career win against UTA and Brandi Needham registered a win and the first Illini save of the year. Following the morning’s competition, Illinois improves to 11-3 on the season, Creighton drops to 4-6, and UT Arlington falls to 9-6.

“We really got into an offensive rhythm today and had contributions up and down the lineup,” said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. “Booker had a special day, and Jade made great adjustments within her at-bats. Allie and Ruby continue to be our leaders on both sides of the game, and are real team players.

“With the help of our catchers, our pitching staff is working very well together, and I feel our offense is feeding off of our pitchers’ efficiency and our defense’s consistency.”

Booker Hits For the Cycle as Eight Extra-Base Hits Lead Illinois Past Creighton, 9-1 | Box Score (PDF)

Illinois senior Alex Booker made history this morning, becoming the first Fighting Illini softball player ever to hit for the cycle, going 4-for-5 with two runs and three RBI. Her double, triple and home run were three of the Illini’s eight extra-base hits in the game, as Allie Bauch and Remeny Perez both homered in the first inning, Ruby Rivera had two doubles, and Jade Vecvanags registered her third double in two games, going 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs and a stolen base. In addition to hitting a leadoff home run, Bauch walked three times and scored three runs, Brittany Sanchez singled and walked twice, and Katie Repole singled and drove in a run.

Freshman Brandi Needham went the distance for the Illini, improving to 6-1 on the year by allowing just one run on four hits and no walks with a personal-best six strikeouts to lead the Illini to victory.

Bluejay starter Alexis Cantu (2-1) allowed two home runs to the first three batters of the game and took an early exit, replaced by Becca Changstrom. She walked two batters but did not allow a hit over one inning, before leaving the game with an injury, at which point Brittany Telecky took over in the circle. Telecky allowed seven runs, five earned, on 11 hits and five walks, striking out two, over the final five and two-thirds innings.

The Bluejays scattered four hits among four different batters, with Blair Lowe and Kelsey Allender registering infield hits, while Liz Dike singled and scored on Alexis Cantu’s RBI double in the bottom of the sixth.

For the second time in eight days, Allie Bauch led off the game with a home run. In similar fashion to the Binghamton game, Remeny Perez then hit a solo homer in her first at-bat, but this time as the third batter of the game, and just like that the Illini led 2-0, chasing starter Alexis Cantu from the circle to be replaced by Becca Changstrom. She walked the first two batters she faced, but got the next two out to keep the Illini from scoring any additional runs.

Repole ripped a rocket come-backer which drilled Changstrom in the shin to start the second. The ball deflected right to the third baseman, who made the out, but Changstrom was unable to continue pitching, and Brittany Telecky came in to replace her. Telecky walked Bauch with two outs, and Booker laced an RBI double up the middle to make it 3-0 Illini. Perez kept it going with a hard grounder to the second baseman, who dropped the ball on her transition to making the throw, and heads-up running by Booker scored the Illini’s fourth run. A walk and a single by Vecvanags loaded the bases, and Rivera drove the ball to the gap in right center, but a great catch on the run by Cantu in right closed out the top of the second for the Bluejays without allowing the Illini to pull further ahead.

The Illini collected two extra-base hits over the middle innings, but it wasn’t until the top of the sixth that they added to their score. Sanchez and Vecvanags led off with a pair of singles. A passed ball put two in scoring position with two outs for Repole, who hit another come-backer to the pitcher. Telecky knocked it down, but Repole beat the throw, driving in Vecvanags, and the first baseman dropped the throw, allowing Rivera, who got on via fielder’s choice, to score an unearned run and make it 6-0 Illinois.

After the Mavericks had mustered just one hit, an infield single, through the first five innings, Dike finally found the outfield with a single through the left side with one out in the bottom of the sixth. Cantu then followed with a double off the wall in left, plating Dike to put the Bluejays on the board, down 6-1.

Booker made Illini history in the top of the seventh, following Bauch’s leadoff walk with a two-run shot to right to become the first Illinois player ever to hit for the cycle. The extra-base hit parade continued with two outs in the inning, as Vecvanags and Rivera ripped back-to-back doubles to make it 9-1 Illini.

Needham completed the victory in the bottom of the seventh as Illinois took the first game of the day by a final score of 9-1.

Illini Staff Combines for Just Three Hits Allowed in 4-2 Victory Over UTA | Box Score (PDF)

After a slow start to the Illini offense, the Orange and Blue put together nine hits against UT Arlington, scoring four runs in the top of the fifth to defeat UT Arlington, 4-2. Allie Bauch led the Illini at the plate, going 3-for-4 to finish he weekend batting .615 with a .923 slugging percentage over four games. Ruby Rivera went 2-for-4 with her second home run of the season, and Alex Booker gave the Illini the lead with a two-run double in the fifth, then scored the Illini’s fourth run. Katie Repole doubled in the top of the second, going 1-for-3 in the game.

All three Illini pitchers saw action in the game, started off by junior Shelese Arnold. She allowed one earned run on two hits and three walks over the first two innings, with one strikeout. Jade Vecvanags moved from designated player to pitcher to begin the bottom of the third, and was nearly flawless, allowing one unearned run on one hit and no walks with three strikeouts over four innings, picking up her first career victory. Brandi Needham then finished out the game by tossing a perfect seventh inning, striking out the final batter of the game to record her first career save.

UT Arlington’s Brittany May (1-1) started in the circle and pitched the first four-and-a-third innings. Callie Collins replaced her with two runners on in the top of the fifth, where she allowed a single and a two-run double before shutting down the Illini for a line of just one unearned run on two hits and no walks with one strikeout over one and two-thirds innings. May returned to the circle to pitch the final inning, finishing the day with a total of three runs allowed on seven hits and no walks to go with two strikeouts over five-and-a-third innings.

At the plate, UTA put together just three hits, led by designated player Mallory Foster, who was 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI double. Jolene Schaefer represented the remainder of the Mavericks’ offense, tabbing a bunt single in the second and scoring an unearned run in the sixth.

Rivera singled with one out in the top of the second, and Repole followed with a double down the left field line to put a pair in scoring position for Jess Perkins. A pitch got away from the catcher, but as Rivera came in to try and score, Everett recovered and flipped to May who made the tag and kept the Illini off the board.

Schaefer got things going for the Mavericks in the bottom of the second, laying down a bunt single. Foster followed with a single through the left side, and Everett walked to load the bases. Arnold got Sikes to ground out right back to her, as she threw home to get Schaefer at the plate. However, a wild pitch to the next batter allowed Foster to come home and give UTA a 1-0 lead before a ground out ended the inning.

Rivera tied the score in the top of the fifth with a leadoff home run off the scoreboard just right of center. Jenna Mychko kept things going with a single down the left field line, and consecutive singles by Kylie Johnson and Bauch loaded the bases for Booker. The senior kept her hot bat going with a two-run double to left center to put the Illini on top, and after stealing third, she scored an unearned run to make it 4-1 Illini on an error by the second baseman.

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Schaefer skied one to right center. Johnson got under it but dropped the ball, allowing Schaefer to reach second base safely. Foster then made the Illini pay, ripping an RBI double to left center, the first hit Vecvanags allowed after entering the game in third inning, to drive in an unearned run and cut the Illini lead to two. Everett came close to driving in another run, ripping a liner to the left side, but Repole made a diving catch to end the inning.

Brandi Needham came in to pitch for the Illini in the bottom of the seventh and needed just 11 pitches to retire the Mavericks, recording her first career save with a perfect 1-2-3 final inning to seal up the 4-2 Illini victory.

Next Up: The Illini head to the West Coast next weekend to participate in the Long Beach Louisville Slugger Invitational. The Illini will face Oregon State at 9 a.m. PT and Utah Valley at 2 p.m. in Long Beach, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 28. They then head to the campus of Cal State Fullerton to face Nevada at 10:30 a.m. PT and CSUF at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 1, an finish out the weekend with a game against nationally-ranked UCLA on Sunday at 11:15 a.m. PT in Longwood, Calif.