Illinois reaches KIA semis
March 20, 2004
Fullerton, Calif. - In posting back-to-back wins at the KIA Classic, the Illini have used the formula that has been there in wins over four ranked opponents this year - score early and put pressure on the opposition. Illinois didn't stop scoring, however, in an 11-0 five-inning whitewash of DePaul on Saturday. The win, the first by the Illini in five tries against DePaul, sends Illinois into the semifinals of the 15-team KIA Classic, a tournament that features 10 teams in the Top 25.
The Illini have the table setters at the top of the order in senior Lindsey Hamma and sophomore Rachelle Coriddi. The duo combined to go 5-for-6 with five RBI and two runs scored.
"Our energy was definitely up today," said Coriddi. "Our goal is to score early and set the tone for the rest of the game. Lindsey does a great job of hitting the ball to all fields. Once she's on, my goal is make the defense have to make a play to get us out."
That pressure was part to blame for DePaul committing four errors on the day. Illinois scored two runs in the first, two in the second, three in the third, and four in the fifth, pounding out 15 hits, which ties for the fourth most in Illinois school history.
"Today's win was a total team effort," Hamma said. "Everyone contributed and did the little things that we needed to make it work. Coach Sullivan emphasized separating pool play from bracket play and we have a lot of momentum going right now."
Illinois (16-8-1) won its second in row after defeating #23 Arizona State last night. The Illini advance to meet #1 Arizona in the first semifinal at 11 a.m. CST. Arizona, who defeated #10 Louisiana-Lafayette 2-0, beat Illinois, 4-1 in pool play on Wednesday evening.
Hamma began the offensive explosion Saturday with a single to left. Coriddi then laid down a perfect bunt to reach base safely. Erin Montgomery's gap shot scored two and was good for a double.
Eight of Illinois' 11 runs were scored by the bottom half of the order. Senior Katie O'Connell went 2-for-2 with a walk and three runs scored. Sophomore LeeAnn Butcher was 3-for-3 with two bunt singles, an RBI, a stolen base, and three runs scored. Junior Julie Balicki started behind the plate for Janna Sartini, who has been under the weather, and singled and scored in the fifth inning. Freshman Molly Lawhead made her fourth start of the year at designated player and singled and scored in the third.
Senior Sherri Taylor improved to 4-4 on the season, pitching all five innings, striking out five. DePaul threatened to score in the bottom of the first, putting runners on second and third with one out, but couldn't execute a squeeze play. The Illini retired both runners trying to advance in the same play.
DePaul had two of its errors in the second inning, leading to two more Illinois runs. Lawhead got the rally in third started with an infield single. Katie O'Connell hit a shot into the left-field gap and bounced over the fence for a ground rule double. Butcher singled to right field sending one run home and later scored on a passed ball. Hamma beat out a slowly hit ball, driving in the third run of the inning.
Illinois put an exclamation point on the win with four runs in the fifth. Hamma drove in her third run of the day on a sacrifice fly. Coriddi followed by motoring around the bases for a triple on a ball hit to the right-center field gap driving home two runs, then scored when the second baseman's throw went wild.