Illini Drop a Pair of One-Run Games in Tampa

Leadoff batter Alex Booker went 4-for-6 with two runs on the day.
Leadoff batter Alex Booker went 4-for-6 with two runs on the day.

March 1, 2013

Kentucky Box Score | USF Box Score

Tampa, Fla. - The University of Illinois Fighting Illini softball team had early leads in both games today, but dropped a pair of one-run games to top-30 competition. Illinois took a 2-0 lead into the third inning against No. 19 Kentucky, but the Wildcats proved victorious in extras, defeating Illinois, 5-4, in the eighth. The Illini carried a 1-0 lead into the fifth against host USF, but a three-run homer put the Bulls on top, who would go on to win, 3-2. The Orange and Blue falls to 5-11, Kentucky improves to 12-3 and USF becomes 7-10.

Game 1: Kentucky 5, Illinois 4 (8 innings) | Box Score (PDF)

The Illini led early, then trailed, then sent the game to extras, but the Kentucky Wildcats improved to 3-0 in extra innings, coming out on top, 5-4, in eight innings.

Alex Booker went 3-for-4 with a run at the leadoff spot, Remeny Perez went 2-for-3 with an RBI double, and Jessica Davis drove in the game-tying run as a pinch hitter. Kylie Johnson singled, scored and stole two bases, to increase her lead over the Big Ten to nine steals on the season.

Shelese Arnold allowed the four runs of regulation on five hits and two walks with a  strikeout in the first five innings. Pepper Gay allowed just one hit in regulation, but allowed the unearned game-winning run on an RBI single in the eighth to get the loss. She did not walk a batter and struck out two in three innings in the circle.

Kelsey Nunley improved to 8-0 after eight solid innings in the circle, allowing seven hits, four runs, two earned, and a walk while striking out five in the complete game. Griffin Joiner was 2-for-3 with a walk, a two-run homer and the game-winning run, and Ginny Carroll also went deep, going 1-for-3 with a two-run shot.

Booker led off the bottom of the first with a single through the left side, and Johnson put her on second with a sacrifice bunt. Perkins made it to first on a misplayed ball by the second baseman, and Booker sped around the basepaths to score the first run of the game. Perez then ripped a line drive to the warning track in left-center for an RBI double, to put the Illini on top 2-0.

Kara Dill singled up the middle with one out in the third for Kentucky's first hit. Griffin Joiner then crushed it over the wall in right center for a two-run shot to tie the score at two.

Johnson's speed created a run in the bottom of the third. The freshman beat out an infield single to get on base with one out. She stole second and third, then Bauch laid down the suicide squeeze down the third base line. The throw was on target, but Johnson slid around the tag to put Illinois back ahead, 3-2.

Maisie Steed led off the top of the fourth with a single up the middle. Ginny Carroll then drilled a fly ball over the left field fence to give Kentucky its first lead of the game, 4-3.

Dill walked on four pitches to lead off the fifth, and Joiner slugged a double to the wall in right-center to make it second and third with nobody out. Arnold got O'Brien to pop up to the catcher for the key first out. Cumbess then grounded into an unorthodox double play. She hit the ball to Repole at third. She threw home to Mychko, who tossed to Bauch, who made the tag for the second out. She then fired behind the runner to Schkade, who flipped it to Booker, in from left to cover third, for the third and final out of the inning, getting Arnold out of the jam.

The Illini had a similar threat in the bottom of the fifth, as Booker singled down the right field line with one out. Johnson reached first on an error by the shortstop for two on with one out. However, Bauch struck out and Johnson was picked off at first on the final pitch to end the inning still trailing, 4-3.

Jess Perkins drew a full count walk to start the bottom of the sixth. Jade Smith came in to pinch run, and Perez earned her second hit of the day, a single to left. Sanchez popped up the sacrifice bunt attempt, but Jessica Davis came through with a pinch hit RBI single up the middle to tie the score at four.

Pepper Gay, who came in in the top of the sixth, set down the Wildcats in order in the top of the seventh, giving the Illini the chance at a walkoff victory in the bottom of the seventh. Booker did her job with a leadoff single to left. However, Nunley got the next three outs to send the game to extras.

As per international tiebreaker rules, Joiner, who had made the last out in the seventh, was placed on second base to start the top of the eighth. Alice O'Brien laced an RBI single up the middle to quickly put the Wildcats in position to win, up 5-4.

Perkins began the bottom of the eighth on second. Perez laid down a sacrifice bunt to move her to third. However, Nunley got Sanchez to ground out and Davis to fly out on a shallow pop to center field to finish the game in Kentucky's favor, 5-4. With the win, the Wildcats improve to 3-0 in extra innings this season.

Game 2: USF 3, Illinois 2 | Box Score (PDF)

The Fighting Illini jumped out on top, 1-0, in the bottom of the first, a lead which they carried into the fifth inning, but a three-run homer by Ashli Goff led USF past Illinois, 3-2.

Booker, Perez and Bauch each had a hit in the game; Booker was 1-for-2 with a walk and run, Perez had an RBI double, and Perkins walked, scored, and drove in a run. Gay hurled the full six innings, allowing three runs on six hits and six walks while striking out six.

The Goff twins provided the majority of USF's offense, as Ashli was 1-for-3 with a three-run homer and Courtney went 2-for-3. Erica Nunn allowed two earned runs on three hits and three walks in the first 5.1 innings, striking out four and tabbing the win. Sara Nevins picked up her second save of the year with a perfect 1.2 innings of relief.

For the second straight game, Booker began the first with a hit. She beat out an infield single to short, then snuck over to second, capitalizing on the infielders not watching her. Johnson moved her to third with a ground out, then Perkins hit a deep fly ball to foul territory in right, picking up the sacrifice fly, to give the Illini a quick, 1-0 lead.

Courtney Goff made it to first with one out on a swinging bunt that stayed fair down the third base line, but Stephanie Cuevas threw a perfect strike to Davis to catch her stealing second during the next at bat.

Davis led off the top of the third with a walk. After a flyout, she stole second and third with Booker at the plate, who also then walked. She stole second to put a pair of runners in scoring position. Johnson struck out for the second out, but Perkins was then hit by a pitch to load the bases. However, Nunn drew a popup from Perez to strand the bases loaded, holding the score at 1-0.

Monica Santos opened the bottom of the fifth with a single to the base of the wall in left. Pinch hitter Kourtney Salvarola walked, and Ashli Goff, a typical slap hitter, roped a line drive over the wall in right field to put USF on top, 3-1.

Perkins drew a one-out walk in the top of the sixth. Perez laced her second RBI double of the day to left center, bringing Perkins all the way in to score from first. Pinch runner Danielle Trezzo made it to third with two outs, but Bauch could not quite beat out a grounder to short, leaving Illinois trailing, 3-2.

Medina walked in the bottom of the sixth. Santos laid down the sacrifice bunt, and Salvarola followed with a walk. Spivey roped a liner off Perkins at third to load the bases with one out, but Perkins tracked it down quickly to keep a run from scoring. Ashli Goff flew out to shallow right, and Sanchez got the ball back to the infield fast enough to stop the sacrifice fly. Pinch hitter Kenshyra Jackson drilled the next ball up the middle. Bauch got the back of her glove on it, and just when it looked like it was going to get past her, she scooped it up and flipped to Davis at short for the final out, keeping the score as is, 3-2.

Sara Nevins, who came in during the sixth inning, finished off her perfect relief appearance in the top of the seventh, setting the Illini down in order to pick up the save with a final score of 3-2.

The Illini return to action on Saturday morning, when they take on Maine and Toledo at the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater, Fla. Opening pitch of the first game is at 9 a.m. CT (10 a.m. ET).