Junior starting pitcher Pepper Gay pitched a complete game against UNLV, limiting the Rebels to a pair of first inning runs while striking out eight.
March 3, 2012
LAS VEGAS - Illinois softball rallied from a tough loss to Seton Hall earlier in the day to secure a come-from-behind win over Eller Media Stadium Classic host UNLV, 3-2. Junior starting pitcher Pepper Gay tossed a complete game, earning eight strikeouts to secure her sixth victory of the season. Freshman second baseman Jami Schkade tallied a two-run double while sophomore designated player Jenna Mychko plated the eventual game-winning run with a sacrifice flyout in the fifth inning.
"Pepper came through with a great pitching performance and kept the top of their lineup off-balance," Sullivan continued. "We got a clutch hit from Jami [Schkade], who has really been itching to get a hit for us, and had a key sac fly from Jenna [Mychko]. We played team softball and it was a tight contest all the way through. Our pitchers have been the heart and soul of what we are doing as we are getting into the season and we need to get more consistent while playing good, solid softball."
To open the Illini half of the fifth frame, redshirt-senior shortstop/left fielder Danielle Vaji and redshirt-junior pinch hitter/shortstop Jessica Davis connected for back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second with no one out. After senior first baseman Meredith Hackett replaced Davis at first following a fielder's choice, advancing Vaji to third, Mychko stepped to the plate. With a 2-2 count, Mychko sent a fly ball to center field, deep enough for Vaji to race home in front of the throw back into the infield.
UNLV (9-9) scored a pair of runs in the first innings after Stephany Valention drew a walk and Tayler Aleman followed with a home run two batters later. However, Illinois answered immediately, tying the contest by scoring two in the top of the second.
Mychko reached as the leadoff batter with a base hit back to UNLV starting pitcher Amanda Oliveto and advanced to second when Perkins followed with a single through the middle of the infield. After Sanchez tallied the third single in as many batters, junior catcher Stephanie Cuevas reached on a fielder's choice, with Mychko out at home. With Schkade at the plate, Cuevas was caught off first base, resulting in the second out of the inning. Now with two away, Schkade connected for a double to left-center, scoring Perkins and Sanchez to knot the contest.
Illinois starting pitcher Pepper Gay outdueled Oliverto to earn the 42nd win of the junior's career - putting her alone in fourth all-time for career victories. Gay finished with eight strikeouts against only three hits and three walks. The Illinois bats connected for 10 hits while also drawing one walk against Oliverto, UNLV's staff ace, who falls to 6-5 on the season.
Illinois closes out play at the Eller Media Stadium Classic with an 11 a.m. CT rematch with Florida Atlantic (6-12) on Sunday.