Rightfielder Hope Howell turned on the first pitch she saw in the 11th to lead Illinois to a 7-4 win over Loyola.
March 24, 2009
URBANA, Ill. - Junior rightfielder Hope Howell hit a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift Illinois to a 7-4 win over Loyola (Ill.) (13-9) at Eichelberger Field on Tuesday. Howell's blast finished an inning in which seven Illini went to the plate, the Ramblers made two errors - including a dropped foul ball - and Illini designated player Katrina Ross saw at least a dozen pitches, finishing Illinois' fifth win in its last at bat this season.
"We played with a lot of heart and had to keep believing in ourselves," Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan said. "Hope had a great hit but the key to that inning was Katrina Ross fouling off all those pitches.
It tied for the second-longest game with another 11-inning affair against DePaul in 2004, and the longest game in school history is a 15-game contest against Minnesota in 2001. The Illini (16-7) are now 3-0 all-time in games lasting 11 innings or more.
"I wasn't having a very good day at the plate and my teammates kept picking me up the whole time," Howell said. "So I'm happy that I was able to come through for them."
Loyola got on the board first with a third-inning solo homer by pitcher Amy Solava (5-6), which broke up Illini hurler Monica Perry's (12-5) no-hitter.
But the Illini took the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Jamie Adishian singled up the middle and second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz singled to left. Howell walked to load the bases with none out. Leftfielder Hollie Pinchback then ripped a single to left to plate Adishian and catcher Lana Armstrong's sacrifice fly to center brought home Zymkowitz for a 2-1 lead.
Loyola tied the score in the top of the sixth, though, when third baseman Angie Funston pulled a home run to left. The Illini couldn't muster a run in the sixth or seventh and the game went to extra innings.
The Ramblers took advantage in the 11th when first baseman Kristen Medrud drew a leadoff walk and was safe at second when Illini third baseman Kelley Wedel tried to make the force play on a sacrifice bunt. Perry recorded her seventh strikeout of the evening but gave up an 0-2 triple to the base of the wall in left-center that brought home both runners for a 4-2 lead.
First baseman Meredith Hackett sent a single back up the middle to start the bottom of the 11th and moved to second when Solava bounced in the 2-2 pitch to DP Katrina Ross. Ross eventually coaxed a walk from Solava after an extremely lengthy at bat. Hackett moved to third on a flyout and scored on Conrad's groundout. Adishian singled off Solava's glove, moving pinch runner Nikki Simpson to third, and Simpson came home when Zymkowitz's soft grounder to the third baseman rolled under her glove, tying the game at 4. Howell then laced the first pitch she saw over the fence in right-center for a three-run walk-off homer and a 7-4 victory.
Zymkowitz broke the school record for at bats in a game, going 3-for-7 with two runs and a stolen base. Hackett was 3-for-5 with a walk and a run, and Pinchback went 2-for-4 with two walks and an RBI. As a team, the Illini drew nine walks against just five strikeouts and pounded out 13 hits
Up Next: The Illini face in-state foe and 24th-ranked DePaul Thursday at Eichelberger Field at 6 p.m. before opening a Big Ten series at home against Michigan State on Saturday at 5 p.m.