Softball Splits Day One Action At The NFCA Leadoff Classic

Illinois redshirt-junior shortstop Jessica Davis earned her fifth RBI of the season on a single to left field against Hofstra.
Illinois redshirt-junior shortstop Jessica Davis earned her fifth RBI of the season on a single to left field against Hofstra.

Feb. 24, 2012

Illinois-South Florida Box Score | Illinois-Hofstra Box Score

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Illinois softball split a pair of games at the NFCA Leadoff Classic on Friday, falling to South Florida, 8-0, in five innings before shutting out Hofstra, 2-0. Against the Bulls, sophomore designated player Jenna Mychko tallied her first hit of the season, a single, in her first at bat upon returning from injury, while senior first baseman Meredith Hackett and junior catcher Stephanie Cuevas totaled a base knock each. Against the Pride, junior starting pitcher Pepper Gay held Hofstra to one hit during a complete game shutout effort, while redshirt-junior shortstop Jessica Davis provided the deciding RBI single in the second.

"In the first game, nothing went right for us as the team has set goals for this weekend and didn't hit any of them in that contest," Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan said. "However, we came right back against Hofstra and showed the quality this team has, its resiliency, and regrouped. In-between games I asked everyone, `Who wants to go out and win this one?' Pepper raised her had immediately, she wanted the ball and she delivered. We got a clutch hit early from Jessica Davis and I liked our at bats better, despite only scoring the two runs, because I felt we were seeing the ball better. We stayed focused on the game and put together a win against a solid program."

Game One: South Florida 8, Illinois 0 (5 innings)
South Florida (7-1 overall) scored a trio of runs in the second and third innings and two more in the fourth to secure the win. In the second, an error by freshman right fielder Jess Perkins allowed one run to score while Ashli Goff followed with a two-RBI single two batters later to stake USF to a 3-0 lead.

Illinois' best scoring chance came in the top of the third inning as Cuevas led off with a single through the middle of the infield. After pinch runner Nikki Simpson replaced Cuevas at first base, Davis drew a one-out walk two batters later to put runners on first and second. However, when Hackett followed with a sharp lineout to shallow right field, Davis was caught off first base to end the threat.

For the Bulls in the third inning, with two out, Gina Kafalas sent a single to right field, scoring a pair of runs to put South Florida in the lead, 5-0. During the play, Perkins misfired on the throw back into the infield, striking Kafalas at first base with the relay to allow the sixth run to score. USF added the final runs in the fourth with a pair of RBI singles by Kenshyra Jackson and Laura Fountain.

Gay went 2 2/3 innings against the Bulls lineup, while giving up six runs on seven hits and four walks. Classmate Jackie Guy took over in the third inning, allowing the final two runs on two hits and two walks while striking out a pair.

Game Two: Illinois 2, Hofstra 0
Gay rebounded from the loss to South Florida immediately, limiting Hofstra to a single hit over the complete game effort while striking out six Pride batters in the process. The lone hit Gay allowed came with one away in the second inning off Jess Hirschbuhl's bat. After Krista Thorn followed with a walk, the Avondale Estates, Ga., native set down Nicole Osovski on strikes before inducing a Rachael Senatore groundout to end the frame.

With the game locked in a pitcher's duel between Gay and Hofstra's Olivia Galati, the Orange and Blue broke the scoreless tie in the third with a two-run frame. Senior third baseman Kelley Wedel reached first on an error by Pride shortstop Rebecca Bigler, as Bigler was unable to corral a bouncing grounder cleanly. During Davis' at bat that followed, Wedel raced to second on a passed ball before Davis delivered an RBI single to left field, giving the Illini a one-run lead.

After Davis moved to second on the throw home from Hofstra left fielder Tessa Ziemba, Hackett stepped to the plate and delivered a line drive to left. Ziemba rushed in to attempt a sprinting catch; however, the ball bounced off the outside of her glove and dropped to the ground to allow Davis, who was running on the play, to score safely as a result of an error.

Gay limited the Pride (0-5) to only one more runner in scoring position following Illinois' difference-making third inning. With Hofstra batting in the top of the seventh, Gay struck out Hirschbuhl before Thorn reached on a walk. Ashley Ainbinder pinch hit for Osovski, grounding out to Wedel to move Thorn to second. Down to the last at bat, Senatore grounded out to Gay, who threw over the Hackett at first to end the contest.

Illinois (4-6) continues play at the NFCA Leadoff Classic on Saturday afternoon with a 2:30 p.m. CT contest against Winthrop (5-5) before facing Massachusetts (4-3) at 5 p.m. CT.