Panthers Pounce on Illini Pitchers in 12-1 Victory

Freshman Nicole Tobon went 1-for-2 in her start at DP.
Freshman Nicole Tobon went 1-for-2 in her start at DP.

April 9, 2013

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Urbana, Ill. - The Fighting Illini were unable to break out of their slump this afternoon, as nearby Eastern Illinois pounded UI for a 12-1 run-rule victory. Illinois once again surrendered an early lead, as a six-run third inning put the Illini a hole too big to come back from. With the win, Eastern improves to 26-10, while Illinois drops to 11-22.

"When you have failure, when you lose, you start pressing," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan, "and when you start pressing, it leads to more failure, and then you press more. We were pressing today even after we grabbed the lead.

"The team knows that, and now we have to show we know how to pick ourselves up, fight and dig our way out of a slump."

Eastern hurler Hanna Mennenga, who entered the game ranked fourth in the nation with an average of 11.1 strikeouts per game, tied up the Illini hitters for 12 Ks on the night, holding Illinois to one run on two hits and three walks. Those two hits were a pair of singles by Remeny Perez, who also had the Illini's lone RBI, and Nicole Tobon, tonight's starting designated player. For the second straight game, Allie Bauch led off the game with a walk and scored.

All three Illini pitchers took a crack at the EIU lineup, with Pepper Gay beginning the game in the circle. Gay allowed six runs, five earned, on four hits and two walks in the first 2.1 innings, before leaving the game with one out and the bases loaded in the third. Jackie Guy replaced her for the next 1.2 innings, and despite stranding two of her three inherited runners, she allowed six runs on seven hits in the fourth and fifth, leading to another call to the bullpen. Shelese Arnold faced four batters in the fifth, allowing just one hit and no credited runs in the full inning.

Illinois' defense ended two different innings with double plays, increasing the Illini's total to 13 on the year. They now average 0.39 DPs per game, which ranks 36th in the nation and third in the Big Ten.

Hanna Mennenga walked the first three Illini batters to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the first. Remeny Perez grounded to the shortstop, who could not handle the ball, driving in Bauch for the first run of the game. Mennenga then bared down and got herself out of the huge jam, striking out the next three batters to keep the Illini from doing any further damage.

Eastern broke the game open in the top of the third, scoring six runs on three hits, three walks, two hit batters and an error, scoring all six runs with one out in the inning. After five runs had been issued, Jackie Guy came in to relieve Gay. She walked the first batter on four pitches to bring in a run, but Brown then flied out to shallow right, and Brittany Sanchez fired a perfect throw to the plate, catching Hutchinson tagging up, to end the inning with a double play.

The Panthers tacked on four more in the fourth, as Cole started it off with a one-out single. Guy struck out Owens, but O'Dell followed with an infield single. Westover then drove in a run with a two-out single to left, and Hutchinson drilled an 0-1 pitch out of the ballpark to make it 10-1 Eastern Illinois.

EIU added a pair in the top of the fifth on three hits to take a daunting 12-1 lead, and Mennenga set the Illini down in order in the bottom half of the frame to secure a 12-1 victory in five innings.

Illinois hits the road for a Big Ten series at Minnesota this weekend. The Illini open the series on Friday, April 12, at 6 p.m., then play Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. All three games will be streamed live on Gophers All-Access.