Meredith Hackett went 5-for-6 during the Tiger Invitational-opening doubleheader against Missouri and Illinois State.
March 12, 2011
COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Fighting Illini softball team dropped a doubleheader slate against #18 Missouri, 4-3, and Illinois State, 10-7, during the first day of competition at the Tiger Invitational. Meredith Hackett pushed her 2011 batting average to .455 on the day, going 5-for-6 with a double, home run and five RBIs across both games.
Game One: #18 Missouri 4, Illinois 3
The Illini fell to 18th-ranked Missouri, 4-3, in the opening game of the Tiger Invitational. Hackett led Illinois at the plate, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs and one run scored. Pepper Gay and Jackie Guy pitched in the circle for the Orange and Blue, holding Mizzou to five hits and three walks while combining to set down nine batters on strikes.
"In our first game, Pepper [Gay] came out throwing well and then missed some of her spots," Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan said. "We needed her to stay in command of her pitches for seven innings because we needed to play a complete game against Missouri in their own ball park. We had chances with runners on early but didn't put the game away. We were right there knocking on the door and now we get a chance tomorrow. [Playing Missouri twice] is a great challenge and a great opportunity. I know our team is ready for the challenge."
Illinois scored first, taking a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Ashley Conrad walked to open the frame and Danielle Zymkowitz followed with a bunt single to put runners on first and second with no one out. Two batters later, Hackett plated both runners with a single up the middle to earn the 2-0 advantage.
"She [Hackett] was outstanding, carrying us in the first game and giving us a ton of momentum in the second game," Sullivan said. "I'm asking her to bring that leadership on the field in all she does and she is really stepping up to do that. I know she will continue to be as consistent as she has been but we need more consistency from the rest of the lineup. "
The Tigers followed with two runs each in the fourth and fifth innings to go ahead, 4-2. Catherine Lee connected for a two-run homer in the fourth to tie the game, while Jenna Martson doubled in two runs in the next frame to account for Missouri's final runs.
Hackett cut the deficit in half for the Illini in the sixth frame, depositing a solo home run over the left-center field fence to pull Illinois within one, 4-3. The Orange and Blue continued to fight in the sixth, moving the winning run into scoring position with two outs. Following Hackett's home run, Kelley Wedel was hit by a pitch and Danielle Vaji doubled through the left side of the infield two batters later; however, Guy grounded out to end the rally attempt.
Game Two: Illinois State 10, Illinois 7
Illinois closed out the first day of the Tiger Invitational with a 10-7 loss at the hands of the Illinois State Red Birds. Hackett, Wedel and Zymkowitz all finished with two hits against the Illinois pitching staff, combining to go 6-for-10 with five RBIs and three runs scored.
"In the second game, we weren't throwing great pitches; Illinois State came out swinging, hit the ball and scored runs early," Sullivan said. "I liked the fight we had. We knew it would be a bit of a slug fest; we missed opportunities early and needed those runs. We believed we could come back and earned some big hits to put us back in the game. We could have rolled over and had it end early, but we fought to make the game go the full seven innings. Now we need to regroup, have short term memory and be ready to go tomorrow."
The Illini struck first, scoring one run in the top of the first inning without recording a hit. Zymkowitz led off with a walk, stole second base, advanced to third on a ground out by Hollie Pinchback and scored on a sacrifice fly ball by Hackett.
Illinois State responded with two runs in the bottom of the first to take a 2-1 advantage. Abby Olson reached on a fielder's choice before Liz Andrews homered to right-center field. The Red Birds added to their lead in the third inning, plating five runners for a 7-1 lead on a three-run home run by Laura Canopy and two-run shot by Lauren Kellar.
Jessica Davis slugged a solo home run in the top of the fourth to cut into the Red Birds' lead. Illinois State extended its advantage to 10-2 in the fourth on a three-run homer by Elizabeth Kay; however, Wedel answered with a three-run homer of her own in the top of the fifth to pull Illinois within five, 10-5.
The Illini continued to fight in the sixth, scoring two more runners to move within three runs of tying the game. Zymkowitz singled home Conrad before Meredith Hackett doubled Zymkowitz in to make the score 10-7; however, the Orange and Blue could not complete the improbably comeback.
Up Next: Illinois (9-8) closes Tiger Invitational play on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. CT with another contest against the Missouri Tigers (14-3).