Late Heroics By Illini, Huskers, Lead To DH Split

Brittany Sanchez made several huge plays in center field, adding an RBI single and a run at the plate in game two.
Brittany Sanchez made several huge plays in center field, adding an RBI single and a run at the plate in game two.

March 30, 2013

Game 1 Box Score | Game 2 Box Score |  Photo Gallery

Urbana, Ill. - The University of Illinois softball team hosted No. 24 Nebraska in a Big Ten double header this afternoon at Eichelberger Field. Illinois jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in both games, but Nebraska came back to snatch the lead twice. A big top of the seventh led Nebraska past Illinois, 6-2, in the first game, but the Illini would not allow history to repeat, forcing back ahead in the bottom of the sixth to take game two, 5-4. At the end of the day, Illinois was 11-16 (1-4 Big Ten) while the Huskers came in at 24-7 (3-1 Big Ten).

"The first game was a tough loss for us," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "We went into the seventh with a lead, and we've been in that situation quite a bit throughout the year, and we just didn't get it done.

"So you go into the club house and you have to regroup. Shelese (Arnold) really was a great leader for us. She wanted that challenge and she threw at some very tough hitters really well. I thought her and Jenna Mychko worked really well together, and some ex-factors, I think, were some great defense in the outfield by Brittany Sanchez and our middles, Jessica Davis and Jami Schkade."

Sanchez, who only played two innings in the field in the first game, got the start in center in game two and had a fantastic outing. The sophomore flashed some leather in the outfield, making multiple diving catches, while going 1-for-3 with a single and an RBI.

"I think we did really well," said Sanchez. "Even though in the first game we came up short, I thought we definitely improved. The second game was certainly a team win, which was much needed."

Allie Bauch had a strong day on the base paths, tallying four walks, a hits, a run and two RBI, reaching base all four times in the first game. Jessica Davis had three hits on the day, including her second career triple, tabbing two RBI and a run, and Remeny Perez singled in both games, scoring of Davis' triple in the first inning of the day.

The Nebraska base runners were unable to get away with a steal, going 0-for-2 on the day with Linnea Detrick and Mychko each throwing out a runner a game. The Illini defense remained solid, marking four straight games without an error.

Game 1: Nebraska 6, Illinois 2 | Box Score (PDF)

Illinois put up two runs in the bottom of the first, and maintained its lead into the seventh inning, but a five-run final frame put Huskers ahead, taking game one, 6-2.

Jessica Davis was the star at the plate for the Illini in the first game, going 2-for-3 with a two-RBI triple in the top of the first. Allie Bauch and Remeny Perez each singled and scored in the game, and Bauch walked three times to reach first in all four plate appearances.

Nebraska's Alicia Armstrong went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs, and Taylor Edwards was hit by a pitch three times and had a three-run double for a four RBI day.

Pepper Gay and Tatum Edwards each threw complete games in the circle. Gay allowed six earned runs on five hits, 10 walks and five HBP, tabbing one strikeout, while Edwards gave up two unearned runs on four hits and three walks, striking out nine.

Bauch got the Illini started in the bottom of the first, drawing a one-out walk. Tatum Edwards struck out Jess Perkins, but Perez then grounded sharply to the shortstop, who muffed play and allowed the pair to reach safely. Jessica Davis then stepped up to the plate and drove a 1-2 pitch over the head of the leftfielder for a two-out, two RBI triple, the second of her career, to give the Illini a quick 2-0 lead.

The Huskers put together a threat in the top of the fifth, as Banda walked and Taylor Edwards was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Thomason put them on second and third with one out on a ground out to the right side, but Gay came up big, drawing a pop up and a lineout on a great snag by Katie Repole at third, to escape the jam.

The Illini were less fortunate in the top of the sixth, as the Huskers finally cashed in on their free bases. Gay hit Tatum Edwards to start the frame, then got Decker to pop up to shallow left for the first out. Armstrong ripped a line drive to left for her second hit of the day, and Stokes walked to load the bases. Banda grounded to short, as Davis threw home for a key second out, but Taylor Edwards was hit by a pitch for the third time, forcing in a run. Gay then got Thomason to ground out back to her for the third out, maintaining the Illini lead, 2-1.

Tyson was hit by a pitch to lead off the seventh. Tatum Edwards then nailed a one-out double to left to put the pair in scoring position. Courtney Breault came in to pinch hit, and despite hitting .105 on the year, she picked up her second RBI of the season with a bloop single to shallow right center. Armstrong walked to load the bases, and Stokes put the Huskers on top with a full count walk. Taylor Edwards then solidified the Nebraska lead, with a two-out, bases-clearing double off the wall in straightaway center, putting NU up 6-2.

Bauch drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the seventh to reach base for the fourth time, but Edwards retired Perkins for the final out of the game, as the Huskers came away with the come-from-behind, 6-2 victory.

Game 2: Illinois 5, Nebraska 4 | Box Score (PDF)

The second game of the day began much like the first, as the Illini soon put up a 2-0 lead. Once again, the Huskers came back late to take that lead, but unlike the first game, Illinois pushed right back, scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth to defeat Nebraska, 5-4, and capture its first Big Ten victory of the season.

The Illini put together seven hits in the game, with two each by Jenna Mychko and Katie Repole. Jessica Davis and Brittany Sanchez each singled and scored, and Allie Bauch tallied two RBI.

Five different Huskers had a hit in the game, including a key three-run homer by Taylor Edwards, which gave Nebraska the lead in the fifth.

Shelese Arnold earned her fifth win of the season in a complete game in the circle, allowing four earned runs on five hits and six walks, striking out two. Emily Lockman started the game for the Huskers, allowing two runs on four hits and four walks in the first four innings. Tatum Edwards returned to the circle in the bottom of the fifth, hoping to preserve the newly-acquired Nebraska lead, but instead allowed the final three runs, two earned, to snap her 8-game winning streak and register her first loss since March 2 against No. 1 Oklahoma. The Illini tallied three hits and a walk in Edward's two innings, with five strikeouts.

For the 11th time in 22 leadoff appearances, Alex Booker began the first inning on first, drawing a leadoff walk. Bauch popped up into a double play, but the Illini followed with a two-out rally, loading the bases on two walks and an HBP. Brittany Sanchez then roped a ball to the left side. The third baseman dove and got a glove on the ball, but couldn't hang on, as Perkins came in to score the first run of the game.

"I just went up there thinking, `attack the ball, be aggressive,'" said Sanchez. "She was throwing strikes, so I figured if I put it down on the ground, I could poke it through somewhere."

The Illini kept it going in the bottom of the second, as Repole led off with a single just fair down the third base line. Schkade drew a full count walk, and Booker put the pair in scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Bauch lined out to shallow center, but the speedy Danielle Trezzo, running for Repole, hustled in to score on the sacrifice fly, making it 2-0 Illinois.

Perez led off the third with a single to right center. Johnson came in to pinch run for her, but despite her trademark speed, was unable to swipe a base. Sanchez moved her to second with a ground out for the second out, and Mychko came up with a well-timed single to right field; however, Thomason rocketed the ball back home, nailing Johnson at the plate a few steps up the third base line.

Armstrong hit a line drive to center with one out in the top of the fifth. Sanchez dove for it, trapping the ball in her glove, but struggled to get it back out and Armstrong slid in just safe at second for a double. Stokes walked, but Banda's attempt at a sacrifice bunt hit her in the foot for a dead ball out. It would not matter, however, as Taylor Edwards drilled a 2-0 pitch over the wall in left for a three-run homer, giving the Huskers the lead, 3-2.

Once Nebraska had the lead, Tatum Edwards returned to the circle in the bottom of the fifth, looking for a save.

The Huskers tacked on a fourth run in the top of the sixth, as Tyson led off with a single to center. Sanchez made a spectacular play on a line drive to left center, but Edwards walked to put pinch runner Bettiol in scoring position for Decker. She smoked one up the middle, driving in Bettiol, for a 4-2 Husker lead.

Determined not to let the Huskers take another game from them, the Illini came out swinging in the bottom of the sixth. Davis led off with a hard-hit ball to the left side. Armstrong got a glove on it at deep short, but could not throw across in time. Sanchez grounded back to short, but Armstrong rushed the flip to second and everyone was safe. Mychko followed with her second hit of the day to load the bases, and Repole came up with an RBI on an infield single to second base. Booker was hit by a pitch on a 2-2 count to drive in the tying run, and Bauch walked in the go-ahead run to put the Illini back on top, 5-4.

For the second-straight game, the Illini had a one-run lead heading into the top of the seventh. Facing 2-3-4 batters in the lineup, Arnold had a tough task ahead, but needed just six pitches to get the final three outs of the game, as Illinois captured its first Big Ten victory of the season with a one-run defeat of No. 24 Nebraska.

"Coming away with that one-run victory after a loss where we had the lead in the seventh inning was huge for this team. They are very resilient. It's about sticking together and playing good softball. You have to make the plays and get those clutch hits at this time of the year."

The Illini return to action Sunday for the rubber match of the series, taking on Nebraska at 11:30 a.m. The game with be broadcast with a tape delay on the Big Ten Network at 2 p.m.