Staff ace Pepper Gay held Southern Illinois to two runs, lowering her season ERA to 2.54 in the process.
March 23, 2011
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Fighting Illini softball pitching staff continued its recent supremacy with a 5-2 victory at Southern Illinois University on Wednesday afternoon. Pepper Gay shut down the Salukis for the second consecutive season, holding Southern Illinois to six baserunners on three hits, two walks and one hit batter in the complete game performance.
"Pepper pitched a solid game today and really worked hard," Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan said. "She seized an opportunity where she was able to shut Southern Illinois down and prevent them from gaining momentum following a mistake by us. It was a great game and road win against a great team."
The Orange and Blue opened scoring during the bottom of the first inning when Danielle Zymkowitz earned her fourth triple of the season, scoring from third during the play on an error by Southern Illinois shortstop Haley Gorman. The Illini extended their lead to 3-0 in the third frame with another triple, this one off the bat of Danielle Vaji, to start the inning. Meredith Hackett followed with a walk and was replaced at first by pinch runner Nikki Simpson. Two batters later, Kelley Wedel singled through the right side of the infield to plate Vaji and double the Illinois lead. Simpson, who stole second and advanced to third on Wedel's single, scored on a wild pitch by Southern Illinois' starting pitcher, Danielle Glosson, during Jessica Davis' at bat.
The Illini added a single run each in the sixth and seventh frames to prevent the Salukis from inching closer to tying the game. Davis opened the sixth with a home run, her second leadoff homer of the season, while Hackett scored as a result of a Salukis' fielding error in the final inning.
"That is something teams that are good routinely do, they strike back," said Sullivan of the Illini answering Southern Illinois with a run in the seventh inning. A good team takes punches and gives them right back and I thought we did that well today."
Southern Illinois (16-10) tallied individual runs in the sixth and the seventh on a wild pitch that plated Mallory Duran and a home run by Chelsea Held, respectively, to reach the final score.
The Illini made use of an all-around offensive performance to secure the victory, spreading eight hits and two walks over seven batters. Vaji and Booker recorded two-hit performances while Zymkowitz, Wedel, Davis and Erin Bradarich each earned one base knock off of Glosson. Hackett accounted for both walks issued to the Illini during the game.
Up Next: The Illini (12-12) head to Charleston, Ill., to face off with the Eastern Illinois Panthers (16-5) on Thursday, March 24 at 3 p.m. CT. Live stats and audio will be available on FightingIllini.com.