First baseman Meredith Hackett went 4-for-4 with a home run to lead the Illini to a 6-5 win over No. 18/23 Southern Illinois.
March 6, 2009
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Illinois scored six runs over the final four innings, overcoming a three-run deficit to knock off the No. 18/23 Southern Illinois Salukis (13-2) in a thrilling 6-5 extra-inning contest on a beautiful Friday afternoon at Charlotte West Stadium. First baseman Meredith Hackett finished the day 4-for-4, including her fourth home run of the season.
"It took a little while to get in our zone, but our team had a lot of intensity and came from behind twice against a sold, well-respected team," head coach Terri Sullivan said. "Once our hitters got aggressive and trusted their swings, we were able to string some hits together. That's what our offense is about top to bottom and we had contributions from everyone, but Meredith was our big leader today. She used all field and I'm proud of the leadership she showed because she was a big reason everyone else got hot."
Illini pitcher Monica Perry (9-5) tossed eight innings, allowing five earned runs on five hits while striking out eight. The Orange and Blue roughed up three Saluki pitchers for six runs on 11 hits. SIU pitcher Katie McNamara (6-1) was charged with the loss after giving up the home run to Hackett, ending her streak of 33 innings without giving up an earned run.
"Monica is really pleasing to our coaching staff because she thrives under pressure," Sullivan said. "She's had some great experience in a young career against high quality opponents which is allowing her to learn and grow. She's come up with some big pitches when we need her to and made adjustments to handle the zone and stay composed."
The Illini (13-7) missed an opportunity in the second inning, as leftfielder Hollie Pinchback led off with a walk then Hackett followed with a one-out base-hit up the middle. A two-out walk loaded the bases for Illinois, but Saluki pitcher Danielle Glosson worked out of the jam with a strikeout to end the inning.
Perry returned the favor in the bottom half of the inning, as SIU threatened after the leadoff batter took a walk, stole second and made her way to third on a wild pitch. But Perry fanned three consecutive batters to strand the runner at third.
The Salukis broke up the scoreless tie in the third after a leadoff single then a two-out double plated a run to make it 1-0. Southern added to its lead in the next inning thanks to a two-run shot off the bat of designated player Chelsea Held, giving the Salukis a 3-0 cushion.
After getting just two hits through the first four innings, Illinois' offense caught fire in the top of the fifth, as the Illini battled back to tie the game at three. Pinch hitter Katrina Ross' one-out single got things going then shortstop Ashley Conrad re-entered to run and made her way to second on a passed ball. Second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz followed with a single through the left side, reaching second on the throw to put runners at second and third. Centerfielder Jamie Adishian plated a run on a grounder to short before rightfielder Hope Howell and Pinchback ripped back-to-back RBI doubles to make it 3-3.
SIU regained the lead in the bottom half of the inning, going up 5-3. A single and a walk put runners at first and second for the Salukis, then third baseman Katie Wagner knocked in a run with a base-hit. With a runner at third, rightfielder Katie Wilson's fly ball to left hit off Pinchback's glove as the runner likely would've scored on the sacrifice fly despite the error.
The seesaw contest continued as the Illini battled back with a run in each of the next two innings. Hackett led off the inning with a double and pinch runner Katie Lutes eventually scored on catcher Linnea Detrick's groundout, cutting Southern's lead to 5-4. The Orange and Blue tacked on the tying run in the seventh, as Zymkowitz slapped an infield single then ran to second on a throwing error. Two batters later, Howell drove Zymkowitz home with sacrifice fly to right field to tie it at five.
The Salukis had a chance to end the game in the bottom of the seventh, but Illinois worked out of a bases-loaded jam to send it to extras. Perry hit the leadoff batter, then a passed ball and sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third. With two outs, Perry walked the next batter and an intentional walk loaded the bases for the force out. The McDonough, Ga., native didn't need it, though, as she delivered a clutch 3-2 strike for the final out of the inning.
Illinois took a 6-5 lead thanks to Hackett's blast. Hackett took the first pitch of the inning over the leftfield wall to seal the Illini's third extra-inning victory.
Next up Illinois heads to Rock Hill, S.C., for the Winthrop/adidas Invitational beginning on Friday, March 13. The Illini open the tournament against UNC-Wilmington at noon (CT) and will also face North Florida, Syracuse and Winthrop over the weekend.