Freshman third baseman Jess Perkins 4-for-6 (.667) with two runs score, two doubles and a home run over the previous two contests.
April 14, 2012
URBANA, Ill. - The Illinois softball team dropped the first of three weekend games against Wisconsin on Saturday evening, falling to the Badgers, 8-0, at Eichelberger Field. Freshman Jess Perkins went 2-for-3 with a double, while the No. 2 through No. 6 spots in the Illinois order finished 6-for-13 (.462) on the evening.
"The key today was we didn't make great defensive plays at critical times," Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan said. "We had some early momentum and I liked our approach at the plate. I thought we were aggressive early and we were keeping them off-balance. They didn't get their style of game going too much, which is a lot of stealing for runs, but we need to make plays."
Wisconsin scored a pair of runs in the third inning to go in front, 2-0. With Badgers on first and second and two away, Whitney Massey doubled off the left field wall, plating Kendall Grimm and Maria Van Abel to put Wisconsin ahead by two.
Illinois' initial scoring opportunity came in the bottom of the first inning, as the Orange and Blue placed a pair of runners on with two away. Perkins totaled the Orland Park, Ill., native's eighth double of the season, sending the ball to the right-center field wall. Redshirt-junior Jessica Davis was struck with a pitch during the following at bat and junior designated player and relief pitcher Jackie Guy followed with a single in between first and second base. Wisconsin first baseman Michelle Mueller shifted toward second to make the play and Badgers pitcher Cassandra Darrah failed to cover first base, allowing Guy to hustle down the line for a single. However, Perkins took a wide turn when rounding third and slipped as she headed back to the bag, allowing Mueller to throw to third baseman Shannell Blackshear, who tossed home to catcher Maggie Strange to tag Perkins out and end the threat.
The Badgers added to their lead in the fifth, tallying two for a 4-0 advantage on a throwing error by Illini starting pitcher Pepper Gay.
The Illini added another chance to plate runners in the bottom of the fifth as freshman center fielder Brittany Sanchez led off the frame with a single through the left side of the infield. Back-to-back ground outs by freshman second baseman Jami Schkade and sophomore pinch hitter Jenna Mychko moved Sanchez to third; however, senior right fielder Nikki Simpson sent a ground ball to Blackshear, who threw to Mueller at first to end the frame.
Illinois continued to battle in the sixth, with Perkins adding her second hit of the day, a single to left field, before Davis totaled a base knock to second to place two runners on with two away. However, Guy followed with a fly out to left field to send the contest into the seventh inning.
The Badgers tallied four runs in the top of the seventh to reach the final score of 8-0. Wisconsin went ahead 5-0 on a dropped catch by first baseman Danielle Vaji, with Grimm scoring from second on the play. Blackshear followed with an RBI-double, advancing to third on the throw before Peace singled Blackshear in as the next hitter. Mueller added a run-scoring double two batters later to reach the final.
In the bottom of the seventh, Sanchez drew a full-count walk as the leadoff hitter before Simpson totaled a four-pitch base on balls two batters later to place Illini on first and second with two outs. However, Booker stepped to the plate and struck out swinging to conclude the contest.
Gay pitched five innings for Illinois, dropping to 12-11 on the season with four runs allowed - two earned - on four hits and three walks while striking out four batters. Guy took over in the circle at the start of the sixth, allowing four runs - two earned - on three hits and two walks while adding a pair of strikeouts. Darrah earned the win, improving to 15-6 with a complete-game effort, allowing six hits and two walks, setting down a pair on strikes.
Illinois and Wisconsin will complete a doubleheader on Sunday, April 15, to finish out the three-game series. First pitch for the opening contest of Sunday will be at Noon CT, with the start of game two scheduled for 20 minutes after the completion of the first game.