Illinois blanks Drake twice

Sherri Taylor stuck out seven in shutting Drake out in Game 2
Sherri Taylor stuck out seven in shutting Drake out in Game 2

March 24, 2004

Game 1 Box Score
Game 2 Box Score

Urbana, Ill. - Illinois pitching was dominant on Wednesday in a doubleheader sweep of the Drake Bulldogs. The Illini swept Drake, winning game one 1-0 and game two 2-0. The Illini got timely hitting and great pitching in the sweep, while the Bulldogs managed just six hits combined in the two games.

Illinois pitching has been solid in the past five games, giving up four runs in the past 35 innings. In fact over the past three games, opponents have scored in just one inning - and that was by #1 Arizona. The Illini team ERA has dipped to 1.54.

Sherri Taylor posted the win in Game Two, raising her record to 5-4. In the process, Taylor ran her scoreless inning streak to 14 and posted her second straight shutout. Taylor entered in relief vs. Arizona State and struck out three, in 2.1 innings, then fanned five in a five-inning shutout of DePaul on Saturday. In game two vs. Drake, Taylor tossed a four-hitter and struck out seven. That gives Taylor 15 strikeouts in the last 14 innings. She set the tone early in the game by striking out the side in the first inning.

Drake's Katie Shimon matched Taylor until the fifth inning when the Illini scored twice. The bench has proven that it can get the job done. That was evident in the fifth. With two outs, Julie Balicki came to the plate in a pinch-hitting role and drove a single into the left field. Lindsey Hamma (2-for-3, 2B) reached on an infield single, and both runners advanced on a throwing error. Rachelle Coriddi followed by beating out an infield grounder for an RBI single, scoring pinch runner Laura Zobrist with the game-winning run. Jenna Hall, who had four RBI in the win over Arizona State on Friday, was 2-for-3 on the game, including a subsequent single to left, scoring Hamma and making it 2-0 Illinois.

"Pinch hitting is not an easy thing to do," Illini Head Coach Terri Sullivan said of Balicki getting the inning started. "In order to be successful at it, you need to be mentally in the game and focused at all times and know the situation. We have 23 players, and they all are needed for us to be successful."

Amanda Fortune threw a gem as well in the opener, tossing a two-hit shutout. Fortune retired 13 of the last 14 batters in the game, including 11 in a row at one point while striking out five and allowing just three base runners for the game.

LeeAnn Butcher was 2-for-2 in the opener and helped Illinois manufacture its only run in the third inning. Katie O'Connell led off with a sold single to center. Butcher beat out a bunt, putting runners on first and second and no outs. Janna Sartini successfully sacrificed both runners into scoring position, and Rachelle Coriddi's infield single accounted for the only run Illinois would need.

"Lindsey Hamma was our MVP defensively," said Sullivan. "She had a lot of chances and came through with some big players when we needed them. When you have two shutouts, obviously the pitching and catching stands out. Both and Amanda and Sherri were focused and gave us some great innings."

The Illini were coming off a weekend in which they played five ranked teams in five days at the Kia Classic. "We always say you can't be too high or too low," Sullivan added. "We have to be in the moment. We had some breakdowns even tonight, but our players responded by making some great plays the next time around. That's what we want."

Illinois takes an 18-9-1 record into this weekend's Stanford Classic. The Illini meet BYU, Hawaii, UC-Riverside, and 12th-ranked Stanford in the tourney. Drake falls to 14-11.