Illini find a way to win again
April 15, 2003
Urbana, Ill. - Illinois softball moved up another spot in the rankings this week, checking in at No. 23. With that news coming earlier in the afternoon, the Illini went out and swept a doubleheader from Loyola, winning 1-0 and 5-2. The Illini also extended their winning streak to seven games heading into a crucial home Big Ten weekend.
"Tonight we won two hard-fought games, which will only make you stronger as a team," said Illini Head Coach Terri Sullivan afterward.
The first game was a pitcher's dual between Illinois' Amanda Fortune and Loyola's Mia Pangere. The teams combined for seven hits, four by the Illini. Fortune tossed her seventh shutout, striking out seven and walking two in the process.
Illinois (31-8) finally broke through on Pangere for a run in the sixth. Lindsey Hamma reached on an infield single and advanced to second on the throw, setting the stages for a clutch RBI single to center field from left-handed hitting Jenna Hall. For Hall, that marked her second game winning RBI in five days. On Friday Hall broke a 2-2 tie with a sole home run in the sixth against Purdue.
"What we were most pleased with as a coaching staff was the fact that we didn't press because we hadn't scored," Sullivan said. "Amanda did a nice job. Between games we decided we wanted to take it to them offensively."
That's exactly what the Illini did in the second game with ten hits and five runs. While it took them six innings to score in the opener, the Illini scored in the very first inning of game two. Coriddi, who went 4-for-4 on the game, led off with a single to center, was sacrificed to second, advanced to third on a Lindsey Hamma single, and scored on a Jenna Hall ground ball when the Loyola fielders tried unsuccessfully to throw Coriddi out at the plate. The next batter Erin Montgomery singled to center, scoring Hamma and making it 2-0.
Loyola bounced back with a solo home run from Erin Cunningham in the third, then added one more run in the fifth and threatened to take the lead. That's when Sullivan went to the bullpen to bring Fortune in the game in relief. After intentionally walking the first hitter to load the bases with one out, Fortune retired the final two batters of the inning, including one by strikeout. Fortune (21-5) allowed one base runner in 2.2 innings pitched and struck out five of the nine batters she faced in game two. That gave her 12 strikeouts for the night in 9.2 innings pitched.
"I thought Amanda actually pitched better in the second game," Sullivan said. "She was so confident even though she inherited a tough spot. She had the look in her eye that she was going to get the job done."
The Illini wasted little time in regaining the lead, scoring two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Erin Montgomery drove home her team-leading 27th run with a double, plating Lindsey Hamma, and scored later in the inning on a passed ball. The Illini added one more run in the sixth when Erin Jones roped a triple to left, scoring Coriddi from first.
Illini takes their 23rd ranking into home games with Minnesota (6 p.m. Friday and Noon Saturday) and a doubleheader with Wisconsin on Easter Sunday (Noon). "We're happy that we moved up (in the rankings)," Sullivan said. "We think it's deserving, but we want to keep focused on our goals of moving up in the conference and making it to the post-season. If we do that the ranking takes care of itself."