Illini Split With No. 14 South Alabama, Hofstra in Extra Innings

Jess Perkins hit a two-run homer in the top of the eighth to defeat Hofstra, 2-0.
Jess Perkins hit a two-run homer in the top of the eighth to defeat Hofstra, 2-0.

March 9, 2014

USA Box Score (html) | Hofstra Box Score (html)

Boca Raton, Fla. - The Fighting Illini used late-inning offense to send a game with No. 14 South Alabama into extra innings, then scored two runs in the eighth inning against Hofstra to finish the weekend with a split of eight-inning games to finish out the FAU Tournament. The Jaguars topped Illinois, 5-2, to improve to 19-3 on the season, while Hofsta's 2-0 loss drops the Pride to 9-3. After the split, Illinois returns home carrying a 12-6 season record.

Alex Booker led the Illini at the plate on the day, going 4-for-7 with a double and a walk. Booker's three hits against Hofstra closed out a fantastic weekend, where she hit .533 with eight hits, a double, two stolen bases and three runs scored.

Ruby Rivera was 3-for-7 with a double and a run, slugging .615 on the weekend after hitting a home run on Saturday. Kylie Johnson came through with the game-tying RBI single in the bottom of the seventh against No. 14 South Alabama, while Jess Perkins crushed a two-run bomb to left center in the eighth inning to push Illinois past Hofstra, 2-0.

"Our win today was the biggest we have had all year, a true testament to the strong will of this team!" said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "After an extra-inning loss to a talented and mature South Alabama team, we had a big challenge in facing Hofstra. Coach Edwards is one of the coaches who I have the most respect for in the game, and his teams are just tough. Bee (Brandi) gave us a big-time performance today and contained their explosive offense. Ruby and Crash (Repole) gave us solid and smart defense and Perk, in extra innings, put us on her back ... What a clutch homerun!

"We really learned some critical things at the right time of the season about what it takes to win in different ways, manage distractions, and to bounce back from adversity or failure."

Late Inning Heroics Not Enough to Upset No. 14 South Alabama | USA 5, ILL 2 (8 inn.) | Box Score (PDF)

No. 14 South Alabama scored two runs in the top of the first, but Illinois pitcher Shelese Arnold shut down the Jaguars for the remainder of regulation, and with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Kylie Johnson came through with a game-tying RBI single to send the game into extra innings. However, a two-out, two-run triple by Alyssa Linn in the top of the eighth put the Jaguars back on top, as USA bounced back to defeat the Illini, 5-2, in eight innings.

Arnold (4-4) went the distance for the Illini, allowing four earned runs on 10 hits and four walks with four strikeouts.

South Alabama pitcher Farish Beard (12-1), already a two-time Sun Belt Pitcher of the Week in 2014, entered the game having allowed just one earned run over 61.1 innings pitched, posting a 0.11 ERA and a .080 opponent batting average. She carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning, but in the bottom of the seventh, the Illini tripled her runs allowed for the season, as the junior gave up two earned runs on four hits and two walks while striking out seven in the eight-inning victory.

Alex Booker, Ruby Rivera, Katie Repole and Kylie Johnson accounted for the Illini's four hits, as Johnson and Repole had back-to-back RBI in the bottom of the seventh, driving in Rivera and Perkins. Repole saw the ball well all game, going 1-for-1 with a walk and a sacrifice fly.

Seven different Jaguars hit safely in the game, and Amanda Minahan, Blair Johnson and Kaitlyn Griffith each had two. Alyssa Linn and Minahan both tripled in the game, as Linn, staying in at left field after pinch hitting, gave the Jaguars the win with a two-out, two-RBI triple and scored in the eighth.

The Jaguars got on the board quickly in the top of the first, as Minahan drew a one-out walk, and Johnson and Chloe Rathburn followed with a pair of singles up the middle to take an early 1-0 lead. Arnold got Griffith to fly out, but Amanda Herron followed with another RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0 USA.

Katie Repole represented the Illini's first base runner with a one-out walk in the bottom of the third, then broke up Beard's no-hitter with a single through the left side in the fifth.

Rivera led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to right center. Perkins was hit by a pitch, and Jade Vecvanags put the tying run on second with a sacrifice bunt. Repole hit a fly ball deep to center field, allowing Rivera to score on the sacrifice fly. Down to the last out, Johnson came through with a game-tying RBI single to drive in Perkins and send the game to extras.

Herron popped up the bunt to start the eighth, and after Rodgers walked, Bowen popped out to third for the second out; but Linn smacked a two-out, two-run triple to left center to put South Alabama back ahead, 4-2, and an RBI single by Stephanie Pilkington gave USA some added insurance.

Remeny Perez was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the eighth to bring the tying run to the plate with one out, but Beard finished off the Illini to capture her 12th victory of the season by a final score of 5-2.

Perkins' Two-Run Shot Lifts Illini to Victory in Extras | Illinois 2, Hofstra 0 | Box Score (PDF)

The Fighting Illini collected eight hits off the defending CAA Champion Hofstra Pride, but it wasn't until extra innings that the Orange and Blue were finally able to cross the plate, as a two-run homer by Jess Perkins gave the Illini a 2-0 lead in the top of the eighth.

Brandi Needham (7-2) tossed an eight-inning shutout, limiting the Pride to just four hits and a walk while striking out three. Hofstra starter Morgan Lashley allowed three hits, including two doubles, but did not give up a run with one strikeout over the first two innings. Taylor Pirone (3-3) hurled the final six quality innings, allowing one earned run on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts, taking the loss.

Alex Booker continued to swing a hot bat, going 3-for-3 with a double and a walk. Ruby Rivera was 2-for-3 with a double, and Jess Perkins was perfect at the plate, getting hit by a pitch and smashing a two-run homer. Danielle Trezzo scored on the home run, pinch running for Perez who started the inning on second due to the international tie-break rule.

Four different Hofstra batters had hits in the game, as Kim Smith and Chloe Fitzgerald singled in the third, and Becca Bigler and Lacey Clark singled in the bottom of the seventh, but all were left on base.

The Illini had a runner on base in every inning, but it wasn't until the top of the eighth that the Illini finally got on the board, as Perkins jacked a two-out, two-run homer to plate the first two runs of the game.

Rivera made a big play in the bottom of the eighth, getting the tie-break runner on her way to third for the first out, and Needham shut down the final two Pride batters to seal up an eight-inning, four-hit shutout, 2-0.

Next Up: The Orange and Blue host the Fighting Illini Classic on March 14-16 at Eichelberger Field, as North Dakota State, Nebraska-Omaha, Saint Louis and Western Michigan will come to Urbana for a 12-game tournament. The Illini's home opener is scheduled for Friday, March 14, against NDSU beginning at 5 p.m.