Ashley Conrad hits a walk-off homer to top #20 Ohio State (photo by Cary Frye)
April 10, 2010
URBANA, Ill. - Centerfielder Ashley Conrad gave No. 18 Illinois a 3-2 walk-off win over No. 20 Ohio State on Saturday, with a home run to center in front of 611 fans on a windy day at Eichelberger Field. The Illini and Buckeyes were knotted at a 1-1 tie for most of the game before the Orange and Blue were able to pull out the win. Illinois improves to 27-4 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten while Ohio State is now 21-11 and 2-1. Today's game was aired live on The Big Ten Network, and tomorrow's game will also air live at 2 p.m.
"I definitely wasn't trying to do that, I was only trying to get on base because we had our one-two-three hitters coming up," Conrad said of her home run. "I knew if I get on base that (Danielle) Zymkowitz and Hope (Howell) are going to get me over with no problem. I probably looked foolish running around the bases because I was so surprised, but really excited."
Sophomore Monica Perry pitched the entire game, striking out five batters and giving up seven hits to improve to 14-4 for the year, while Melanie Nichols (11-2) took the loss for OSU. Junior Danielle Zymkowitz earned her 23rd stolen base of the season in the second inning, tying the Illinois school record for bases stolen in one season. Saturday marked the Illini's second walk-off win over a ranked opponent this season, as they also beat No. 22 Florida State 4-3 on a walk-off homer by Jessica Davis.
"It was a great game," Sullivan said. "It was a little bit different than the games we've had this year that have high scoring and a lot of offense. You have got to know that you can win these type of games if you want to make it deep into the postseason."
Zymkowitz scored the first run of the game after an RBI single by outfielder Hollie Pinchback in the first, giving Illinois a 1-0 lead. Ohio State designated player Courtney Pruner quickly tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the second, sending the first pitch she saw from Perry over the center field fence for a solo home run.
Neither team got anything going until the fifth, when the Illini and Perry worked out of a jam. OSU started the inning with back-to-back singles by Megan Coletta and Brittany Goodchild, and Whitney Cooper reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases with one out. Ohio State had its best hitters up to bat in shortstop Alicia Herron and catcher Sam Marder, but Perry forced fly-outs from both to get Illinois out of the inning.
The Illini took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth on clutch hitting and strong baserunning. After first baseman Meredith Hackett was hit by a pitch, pinch runner Kate Lutes was sacrificed to second by third baseman Kelley Wedel. Pinch hitter Linnea Detrick then came through with a single up the middle to bring home Lutes.
OSU got a run back in the seventh, loading the bases on a walk, hit batter and an intentional walk to Marder. With two outs, Pruner singled to right field to score a run, but Cooper was caught on the base paths for the third out of the inning.
First to bat for the Illini in the bottom of the seventh, Conrad answered with a homer to left field on the fourth pitch she saw to give Illinois the 3-2 win. It was the outfielder's fifth long ball of the year.
Up next, the No. 18 Illini will go for the sweep over No. 20 Ohio State at Eichelberger Field tomorrow at 2 p.m. The game will be airing live on the Big Ten Network.