No. 7 Oklahoma downs Illinois at KIA Classic
March 18, 2004
Fullerton, Calif. - What has separated Illinois from the elite teams in the country this week has been clutch hitting. Illinois has played right with both top-ranked Arizona and #7 Oklahoma, but the Illini have not been able to come up with the big hit when they needed it. That was especially evident in a 5-2 loss to Oklahoma Thursday morning. The meeting between the Sooners and Illini was the third of the season. Okahoma is 2-0-1 in those three meetings.
Illinois (14-7-1) had ten base runners in the first four innings, but managed only one run. In all Illinois left 13 runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded in both the first and second innings. Illinois chased Sooner starter Nicole Denes (3-1) from the game after giving up four hits and five walks in 3-plus innings.
"When you play a worthy opponent, it is important to score early," Illinois Head Coach Terri Sullivan said. "We had several good opportunities with the right batters up at the right time, but unfortunately left too many runners on base."
All but one of the runs scored in the contest came on home runs. Oklahoma out-hit Illinois 8-7 and had two home runs in the contest. Jamie Fox connected on a three-run blast in the second off Illinois starter Sherri Taylor (3-4). After Taylor walked the lead-off hitter in the third, Amanda Fortune entered the game in relief. The first batter she faced, , Mariee Mena, laced a line-drive home run just inside the right field pole. That was all the scoring OU would have on the day.
Lindsey Hamma (2-for-3) and Rachelle Coriddi (2-for-4) each had two hits on the day for Illinois. The Illini scored their first run of the day in the bottom of the third on a pair of walks and a pair of ground outs, the latter off the bat of Sarah Baumgartner plated Erin Montgomery, who led off the inning with a walk.
Fortune gave up just three hits and two walks in her five innings of work. Oklahoma relief pitcher Kami Keiter struck out seven in four innings, including the first four she faced. In he bottom of the seventhmErin Montgomery tagged Keiter with her third home run of the season, a shot the cleared the left field fence by plenty. Keiter retired three of the next four batters to complete OU's 25th victory over the season (25-6-1).
"This tournament has a Regional or even a College World Series feel to it," Sullivan added. "This a great learning experience for us. We want to do more than learn, though, we want to win."
Sullivan and the Illini get another opportunity to do just that on Friday afternoon against another ranked opponent, #17 Fresno State, at 5 p.m. CST on Friday afternoon. That is the final game of pool play. Single elimination bracket play begins Friday evening.