Seven Home Runs Lead Illini To Pair Of Wins
Feb. 29, 2008
BOCA RATON, Fla. - Illinois' potent offense came out in full force on the opening day of the Miken Classic at Florida Atlantic, as six different Illini smashed home runs to lead the Orange and Blue to an 11-1 win over Rutgers and 7-3 win over Central Michigan. Shortstop Angelena Mexicano's launched her 33rd career long ball, tying the school record set by former All-American Jenna Hall.
"It was nice to see our offense do what we know it's capable of doing," head coach Terri Sullivan said. "Our team was due to really light it up offensively top to bottom and I'm especially proud of the bottom half of the lineup. I had talked this week about how they needed to get things going and they responded in that first game. That gets contagious."
In the first game of the day against Rutgers, Illinois went deep five times, tying the team record for home runs in a game. It marked just the second time in school history that five different Illini have homered in a game, with the last occurring against Liberty in 2003.
Third baseman Shanna Diller led the Illini with two home runs, five RBIs and four runs scored while centerfielder Sarah Bryers finished the day 3-for-4 with a home run and four runs scored. In addition to home runs from first baseman Katrina Ross and leftfielder Makenzie Smith, Mexicano and catcher Lana Armstrong each went deep and drove in four runs.
Ashley Wright (2-3) picked up the win in game one and Claire DeVreese (8-4) took the second game. Wright gave up no earned runs and didn't walk a batter through six innings, while DeVreese gave up one earned run on two hits and struck out four.
In game one, the Illini took a 1-0 lead in the third after Bryers reached on a fielder's choice then scored on a two-base error by Rutgers third baseman Shantai Dixon. The Scarlet Knights responded in the bottom half of the inning, putting a run across after an error and RBI-double to tie the game 1-1.
The Orange and Blue then reeled off 10 unanswered runs. Diller began the onslaught, putting the Illini back on top in the fourth with a solo shot to lead off the inning.
Illinois piled on three more runs in the fifth after back-to-back home runs from Ross and Bryers. Ross took the first pitch of the inning and hammered her second homer of the season, then Bryers went deep on a 1-0 count for her first of the season.
"That shows (Bryers') commitment to working hard," Sullivan said. "She put in extra time this past week on her own and that paid off. She stayed in the moment and all hitters come around if you stay confident. She has tremendous work ethic and she's going to stay accountable and make things happen. Today, she did just that."
The Orange and Blue offense blew the game open in the sixth, igniting for six more runs, five of those coming with two outs in the inning. Smith cleared the fence for her second homer of the season before the Illini pounded five hits in a row, capped off by Armstrong's two-run blast as Illinois finished off Rutgers in the sixth with the eight-run-rule.
Illinois continued its offensive explosion in the second game of the day against Central Michigan. Diller went yard for the second time of the day to give the Illini a 2-0 lead in the first inning. She is just two shy of Mexicano and Hall's record, with 31 career long balls.
Armstrong drove in her fourth run of the day with a one-out double in the third, then scored on an RBI-single by rightfielder Hope Howell. Mexicano tacked on another run for the Illini in the fourth with an RBI-single before blasting her team-leading sixth home run of the season in sixth inning.
The Chippewas scattered three runs through the seven innings, but Illinois' combination of solid pitching and powerful offense shut down Central Michigan for the 7-3 victory.
The Illini look to extend their three-game winning streak on Saturday in day two of the Miken Classic. Illinois will face Bethune-Cookman at 4 p.m. (ET) and conclude the day against host Florida Atlantic at 8 p.m. (ET).