Illini split games at Stanford Tournament
March 25, 2005
Palo Alto, Calif. - Illinois pitching and defense took center stage Friday at the Stanford Tournament. Sophomore Mary Miller had one of her strongest days, giving up just four runs while striking out ten vs. host Stanford and St. Mary's. The Illini lost to the #5 Cardinal 3-1 and came back to post a 4-1 victory over St. Mary's. The Illini are 14-11 on the season heading into the final game of the tournament vs. Northwestern at 11 a.m. CST Saturday. Ironically, the Illini open Big Ten play against the Wildcats April 1 in Evanston.
"I was pleased to see our pitching and defense come through after struggling on Thursday," said Illinois Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "Mary Miller shut down one of the best offensive teams in the country and kept some great hitters off stride."
Illinois has had trouble in the first inning as of late and Stanford kept up the trend scoring three in the first frame, but after that Miller kept the Cardinal at bay. The Illini got a solo home run from Jenna Hall, her fourth of the season. The long ball for Hall tied Shanna Diller for the team (4) lead this season and Janna Sartini (15) for second on the Illini's all-time list.
Miller (9-5) retired nine in a row at one point and gave up just two hits while striking out six in the final six innings. Unfortunately for the Illini, Stanford hurler Becky McCullough was equally as strong, allowing just four hits while striking out 11. Only one other Illini base runner - Molly Lawhead in the third - reached third base.
"You hate to see one inning beat you," Sullivan said. "Offensively we have had trouble swinging at some bad pitches. That is something we have to correct."
Miller continued her strong day in game two, scattering seven hits and walking none while striking out four in pitching the final 5.1 innings in relief. The Illini, who have struggled defensively, had a great day with just one error combined in the two games. That included a sparkling stab by third baseman Hall.
The Illini got all the offense they would need in the first inning with four runs. Rachelle Coriddi led off with a double to right center and LeeAnn Butcher reached on a Gael error. Both scored on ground outs. Jackelyn Diekemper hit her second home run of the year -- a line drive down the left-field line with Angelena Mexicano (who singled) on board to make it 4-0 Illini.
"We do have some players that can beat you with the long ball," Sullivan said. "We hope to continue that and expect all wheels to be spinning tomorrow."
St. Mary's left five runners on base in the first two innings and did not score. The Gaels punched a run home in the fourth on an RBI single by Shelly Taketa.