Third baseman Shanna Diller belted two home runs to move into second in the school's record book with 34 career home runs.
March 30, 2008
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Fighting Illini softball team (17-17, 1-1 Big Ten) belted six home runs on the day, topping the No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes (22-8, 2-2 Big Ten), 4-3, in their Big Ten opener before dropping an 11-10 decision in game two of the doubleheader at Buckeye Field. Five different Illini homered overall, with third baseman Shanna Diller leading the way with two long balls as she moved into second place in the school's career record book with her 33rd and 34th home runs.
Diller finished the day 4-for-5 with four RBIs and four runs scored in addition to a home run each game. Shortstop Angelena Mexicano homered in the first game for her team-leading 11th of the season, while catcher Lana Armstrong, leftfielder Hollie Pinchback and centerfielder Sarah Bryers also went yard in the second game.
"It was big to get that first Big Ten game on the road and put runs on the board," head coach Terri Sullivan said. "In Big Ten games you have to have both offense and defense working if you want to come out on top. Give a lot a credit to our whole lineup for seeing the all well and playing aggressively, but more importantly going to the plate with great confidence against a quality pitcher in (OSU's) Kim Reeder. Our defense made some good plays and got out of a couple jams with good pitching in the opening game."
Claire DeVreese (12-11) earned the win in game one, tossing a complete game and allowing two earned runs on five hits while fanning seven batters. The righthander suffered the loss in game two after entering the game in the third and giving up three earned runs on one hit and five walks. Ashley Wright, the game two starter, combined with Vicky Brown to give up four earned runs on six hits and six walks through two and two-thirds innings.
Ohio State got on the board first in game one after loading the bases and taking a walk to go up 1-0 in the second. The Buckeyes knocked three consecutive hits to open the inning then followed with a fielder's choice, but the Illinois' defense stepped up as Diller made a play at the plate and Mexicano picked up a force at third to get out of the inning.
The Illini took a 2-1 lead in the third thanks to Diller's two-run shot over the wall in left-centerfield. It marked the fifth homer of the season and 33rd long ball of Diller's career, moving her into a tie for second place in the record book with former Illini All-American Jenna Hall.
Mexicano added to Illinois' lead in the fifth with a two-run shot of her own to make it 4-1. Second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz reached on an error to lead off the inning before Mexicano took a 1-1 pitch deep for her team-leading 11th home run of the season. The San Jose, Calif., native continues to set the mark for the school's career home run record with 38 longs balls.
DeVreese retired eight Buckeyes in a row heading into the sixth when Ohio State battled back to cut Illinois' lead to one run. After back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, OSU used two walks and an error to put a pair of runs across. With the bases still loaded, DeVreese worked out of the jam with strikeout to end the inning and preserve the Illini's one-run lead.
"Claire did what she needs to do as a senior leader of our pitching staff," Sullivan said. "When she challenges batters with her best pitches and locates her pitches, she's very tough to beat."
Ohio State moved a baserunner to scoring position after a walk and sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the seventh, but first baseman Audrey Gallien took an easy pop up to end the inning as the Illini held on for the 4-3 win.
Illinois warmed up the bats again in the second game, collecting four home runs. Leftfielder Hollie Pinchback busted the Illini onto scoreboard with a two-out three-run shot in the first inning. Diller knocked a single and Armstrong walked before Pinchback blasted a 3-2 pitch over the left-centerfield wall for her third of the season.
The two teams continued to seesaw back and forth through the entire game, as the Buckeyes were able to take advantage of 11 walks from three Illini pitchers and six Illini errors to keep pace with the Orange and Blue's multiple home runs.
The Illini put up another three-spot in the second on Mexicano's RBI-single and Diller's second homer of the day, which moved her into sole possession of second place in the record book, to regain the lead, but the Buckeyes chipped away at it with another run in the bottom of the second before a bases loaded error in the third would prove costly, allowing the Buckeyes to take a 7-6 lead.
The Orange and Blue refused to go down easily though, battling back in fourth to take a 9-7 lead. After Mexicano reached on a two-base error, Diller was intentionally walked to make way for Armstrong. The catcher made them pay, as Armstrong cleared the left-center fence for her fifth home run of the season. Bryers tacked on a run in the next inning with a solo shot to give Illinois a 10-7 advantage.
The Buckeyes then reeled off four unanswered runs over the fifth and sixth innings thanks to four walks and three errors, sealing the 11-10 win.
"Our team has to take a lesson from that game because we can't complain about the offense," Sullivan said. "We did some good things at the plate an a lot of different people came through, but you're not going to win a game with that many walks and errors, especially not against last year's Big Ten champs. We need quality performances on both sides of the ball and know this team is capable of doing that."
The Orange and Blue open the home portion of their season on Wednesday with a doubleheader against Eastern Illinois beginning at 4 p.m. at Eichelberger Field at Martin Stadium. Illinois then continues Big Ten play on Friday as the Illini head to Penn State for a 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT matchup against the Nittany Lions, then wrap up the series on Saturday at noon ET/11 a.m. CT. The Orange and Blue will travel to No. 6 Michigan for a doubleheader on Sunday beginning at noon ET/11 a.m. CT.