Illini split with Northwestern
April 4, 2004
Urbana, Ill. - There's a saying that timing is everything. For Illinois, embedded in a pair of pitchers duels Sunday afternoon against Northwestern, the difference came in getting the big hit in the right spot. The Wildcats and Illini split the twinbill with Illinois winning the first game 2-0 and Northwestern taking the second game 3-1. A season-best crowd of 667 enjoyed the sun-drenched Eichelberger Field on this first Sunday of April.
Both teams managed just seven hits on the day, three in the first game and four in the second game. Illinois' Amanda Fortune allowed just one run in 11.2 innings pitched, getting Wildcat hitters to pop out most of the day. While Fortune was masterful of her control, walking just one batter on the day while striking out six, Northwestern starters used power, posting a combined 17 strikeouts while walking eight.
Northwestern's Courtnay Foster showed why she can be one of the dominating pitchers in the Big Ten, striking out the first five batters she faced and six in the first two innings of the opener. Foster finished with 10 strikeouts for the day. Fortune, meanwhile, allowed three base runners in the first, but coaxed Sheila McCorckle to foul out to left to end the inning.
The Foster strikeout total reached eight before Erin Montgomery's quality at-bat led to a one-out walk in the fourth. Erin Jones then pulled a ball into the right-center field gap that went to the fence for a triple scoring Montgomery from first. Katie O'Connell, hitting from the right side, followed one out later with a double to right, plating Jones and accounting for the only scoring of the game. That was more than enough run support for Fortune (15-6), who recorded her 24th career shutout and eighth of 2004. She retired 13 of the last 14 batters she faced, including the last seven.
While Illinois got the big hit when it needed it in game one, that was not the case in the back end of the double dip. A pair of walks in the first resulted in two runners in scoring position and one out, but Wildcat starter Eileen Canney retired the final two batters of the inning. Illinois took a 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly from Janna Sartini in the second inning, but Northwestern responded with two in its half of the second on two walks, a hit, and an error to take a 2-1 lead.
The Wildcats added an insurance run in the third on back-to-back doubles by Garland Cooper and Eryn Manahan. Fortune, who relieved starter Sherri Taylor in the second, settled down after the doubles, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters of the game. Canney struck out seven Illinois batters, but failed to retire the side in any of the seven innings. Despite the base runners, Illinois wasn't able to string together enough hits within the inning to close any further.
Illinois splits its four-game opening Big Ten weekend and moves to 23-13-1 overall. The Wildcats are 16-11, 1-3 in the Big Ten. Illinois plays its next six games on the road starting Tuesday at Bradley and returns home April 14 for an exhibition game with Parkland College.