Illinois offense explodes against Purdue
April 11, 2003
West Lafayette, Ind. - The 24th-ranked Illinois softball team pounded out 12 hits in a 6-3 win over Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., on Friday afternoon. Illinois broke open a 2-2 game with a four-run rally in the sixth. The Illini (26-8, 4-3) and Boilermakers conclude the two-game series Saturday at Noon. The win was crucial for Illinois in the tight Big Ten race. The Illini (4-3) trail first place by just one game in the standings.
Purdue, who came into the game as the top hitting team in the Big Ten (batting .319 as a team), struck first when Andrea Hillsey tripled home Tricia Lilley in the first. Hillsey went 3-for-3 on the day to improve her conference-leading batting average to .500 for the year.
Erin Montgomery, one of the hottest Illini hitters over the past couple of weeks, picked up right where she left off by going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI. Montgomery got the Illini on the board with a two-run home run just inside the foul pole in left in the second inning.
"Erin Montgomery is hitting with a lot of confidence," said Illinois Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "Hitting is a difficult thing to do, but when you're bat, it's as simple as seeing the ball, and she is doing that very well right now."
Purdue tied the game with an unearned run in the fourth. Diana LaRiva relieved Purdue starting pitcher Leighann Burke in the fifth after Illinois tagged Burke for six hits in four innings.
A pair of freshmen were instrumental in Illinois pulling out the tight game. Freshman first baseman Jenna Hall led off the sixth inning with her fourth home run of the season, a shot to the deepest part of the ballpark in straightaway center field. Erin Montgomery lined a single down the third base line and Janna Sartini, known for her power at the plate, played team ball with her second sacrifice in as many at-bats, setting the stage for another freshman to deliver. Katie Bradley came off the bench to deliver a two-out pinch-hit single to left, scoring Montgomery from second and giving Illinois a 4-2 lead.
The Illini weren't done. Rachelle Coriddi singled over the drawn in infield and advanced to second when Purdue tried unsuccessfully to throw out Katie O'Connell at third. LeeAnn Butcher followed with a two-run single to make it 6-2. Purdue (26-18, 3-4) did manage to get seven hits on the day and added a run in the sixth.
Illinois junior Amanda Fortune got some big outs when she needed them, striking out Purdue's power hitter Heidi Foster in the sixth and retiring the side in order in the second, fifth, and seventh. Fortune also posted five strikeouts.
"To win the first game in a four-game weekend is exciting," added Sullivan. "Purdue swings that bat as well as anyone from the top to the bottom of their order. To respond each time they scored showed a lot of maturity on our part. We want to carry this momentum into the rest of the weekend."