Jessica Davis Leads Illinois Softball to Victory
April 9, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The University of Illinois softball team earned a convincing win over Ohio State in the opening game of the weekend series in Columbus, Ohio, downing the Buckeyes, 8-0 in five innings. Jessica Davis totaled two homers on the day to go with five RBIs, while Ashley Conrad added a three-run homer as part of a six-run third inning.
"I liked how we scored right away and set the tone," Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan said. "We were seeing their pitches very well all game, while Jessica [Davis] had an outstanding offensive day after coming in with the frame of mind that she was going to produce like that. In the circle, Pepper [Gay] was spinning her pitches and hit her spot all game as well."
The Illini (17-14 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) took an early advantage, 2-0, in the first inning. With one out, Hollie Pinchback reached with the first of two walks issued to the Katy, Texas, native on the game while, one batter later, Davis drilled a line drive over the left field fence.
"Coach Sullivan told us to come out fighting today and to throw the first punch," redshirt sophomore left fielder Jessica Davis said. "I stayed zoned in at the plate all game and drove the ball well."
In the third Davis plated three more runs on her second home run of the day, putting Illinois in front, 5-0. After Pinchback and Meredith Hackett drew consecutive walks, Davis stepped in and sent another Karisa Medrano pitch over the fences, this time to straightaway center field.
"I was trying to crush pitches today but I wasn't looking to hit home runs specifically," Davis continued. "I wanted to hit line drive in this game and they just happened to go over the fences."
Davis previously totaled multiple homers in a game once in her collegiate career, drilling two out of the park against Temple during the ESPN Citrus Classic on March 4. The Zephyrhills, Fla., native's second home run increased her team-leading total to eight on the season.
"Jessica brought confidence to the plate today," Sullivan said. "She is a powerful, strong hitter. When she is confident and seeing the ball well, you know she is going to contribute for the team. She is stepping up as a leader right now and that type of attitude goes with her approach at the plate and is spreading to the rest of the team."
The Illini padded their lead, 8-0, with another three-run homer in the third. Audrey Gallien reached on a single to the left field wall before Danielle Vaji walked to put runners on first and second. Conrad followed with her second home run of the season, a fly ball well over the wall in center field.
"We had all of the parts of our game working today," Sullivan said. "Ashley [Conrad] delivered a big hit for us and it's great to see everyone in our lineup contribute towards the win."
Pepper Gay started in the circle for Illinois, going five innings to earn the shutout victory. Gay improved to 11-9 on the season by holding Ohio State (10-22, 2-3) to three walks and two hits while striking out three.
"Pepper is an outstanding pitcher and a mature player," said Sullivan of Gay's ability to respond on the mound after a rough start against Illinois State on Wednesday, April 6. "She is always going to come back stronger from any minor setbacks like Illinois State. She pitched great today against a good team at their ball park and her two-hit performance with a few clutch strikeouts was big for us today."
Up Next: The Illini continue play at Ohio State with a 2 p.m. CT game on Sunday, April 10. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network, the first of five Illinois contests set to appear on the BTN during the 2011 season.