Junior catcher Stephanie Cuevas totaled a career-best three RBIs, totaling one each on a single, groundout and sacrifice flyout.
March 28, 2012
URBANA, Ill. - Illinois softball stifled Indiana State on Wednesday evening, securing a 7-2 victory over the Sycamores under the lights at Eichelberger Field in the process. Senior third baseman Kelley Wedel went 4-for-4 with two runs scored while junior catcher Stephanie Cuevas totaled a career-high three RBIs to go with scoring once.
"Initially we weren't swinging at great pitches, but then we got some offensive sparks," Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan said. "Kelley Wedel getting the extra-base hit was really big for us, as doubles are a bit more of a momentum-stealer than a single. Danielle Vaji also had good at bats that got the offense going, and what was strong today was our ability to respond."
The Orange and Blue opened scoring in the fourth with two runs to take a 2-0 advantage. Wedel led off with her ninth double of the year and followed with a steal of third base during redshirt-junior Jessica Davis' at bat. One batter later, Cuevas drove a full-count, looping single through the middle of the infield to put Illinois ahead, 1-0.
"I felt it was really important for me to just get on base so my teammates could hit me in," Wedel said. "Especially bringing that to the middle of the lineup, it was very important."
Junior designated player and relief pitcher Jackie Guy drew a walk as the next batter and freshman outfielder Brittany Sanchez moved both runners up one base with a groundout. Sophomore outfielder Alex Booker followed with a run-scoring single that traveled less than one foot into play. With a 1-1 count, Booker grounded a pitch inches in front of home plate. The ball slowly spun back toward Indiana State catcher Olivia Andres, who attempted to wait on the play to roll into foul territory. However, the ball came to rest on the line, forcing Andres to quickly field it and toss to first base. Booker beat the throw down the line for a single as Cuevas hustled home for the second Illinois run.
Indiana State (11-14 overall) answered by tallying twice in the top of the fifth to tie the contest at 2-2. With two away, second baseman Ashley Dickerson singled to Wedel at third base. Shortstop Megan Stone followed with a single between third and shortstop, with Davis' off-line throw to first allowing Dickerson to score and Stone to move to third. As Sanchez raced in from right to field the errant ball as it caromed down the line in foul territory, the freshman's relay throw back into the infield was low and bounced away from Cuevas, enabling Stone to rush home safely to tie the game.
The Orange and Blue rallied with five unanswered runs over the fifth and sixth to create the difference in the contest. Freshman outfielder Jess Perkins led off the fifth with a double through the left side of the infield, with senior Nikki Simpson replacing Perkins at second as a pinch runner. Wedel added her third hit of the game, a single to shortstop, before both runners advanced on a passed ball. After Davis drew a walk to load the bases, Cuevas tallied her second RBI of the game with a groundout to third, extending the lead to 3-2.
Two batters later, Sanchez stepped to the plate with two away and runners on second and third. After falling behind in the count, 0-2, Sanchez delivered a triple over the head of center fielder Ashli Scott, scoring Simpson and Wedel to create a 5-2 lead. Booker followed with a hard-hit bouncing ground ball to pitcher Lindsey Beisser, who was unable to field the play cleanly, which allowed Sanchez to score from third from the sixth Illini run.
Illinois reached the final score as senior first baseman Meredith Hackett walked to lead off the sixth before Simpson singled to relief pitcher Kristen Felker. Two batters after Wedel added her fourth hit, another single, Cuevas earned a sacrifice flyout to left field, with Simpson sprinting home for the seventh and final run.
"It [Cuevas' performance] speaks to how a player just needs to be in the moment and play the next game," said Sullivan of her catcher's 1-for-2, three RBI, one run scored evening. "You never know when you are going to be the player to get the big hit or make the big play. You have to always keep things in perspective and she does a great job of that, she is a very composed player."
Junior starting pitcher Pepper Gay improved to 11-4 on the season with five innings of work, only allowing two unearned runs while striking out eight Sycamores against issuing three walks. Guy tossed two innings of relief, holding Indiana State to one hit while setting down a pair on strikes.
"We wanted both of our pitchers to throw tonight," said Sullivan of bringing in Guy in the sixth to replace Gay. "Pepper really stepped up when she needed to and was a leader for our team. Jackie came in and was a different look and threw some of her pitches that kept them off-balance. They teamed up to put together a victory, and that is what matters in the end."
Beisser took the loss for Indiana State, falling to 5-8 with six runs allowed - five earned - on nine hits and third walks over five innings. Felker closed the game in the circle for the Sycamores, allowing one run on two hits and one walk while pitching the sixth frame.
Illinois (16-11, 2-1 B1G) continues its season at the University of Iowa (11-17, 1-2) with its second three-game conference series of the year. The Illini and Hawkeyes meet twice on Saturday, March 31, with first pitch of game one at 1 p.m. CT and the second half of the doubleheader approximately two hours later. The Orange and Blue wrap up the series with the third contest on Sunday, April 1 at 2 p.m. CT.