Freshman pitcher Monica Perry broke the school's single-season strikeout record after fanning a combined 20 batters in a pair of wins over the Hoosiers.
April 16, 2009
URBANA, Ill. - Illini freshman pitcher Monica Perry fanned a combined 20 batters to set the school's single-season record in Illinois' 5-0 and 3-2 wins over the Indiana Hoosiers (7-30, 3-9 Big Ten) on Wednesday night at Eichelberger Field. Perry's 186 strikeouts surpassed Amanda Fortune's record of 182 set in 2004. Additionally, Perry's 12 strikeouts in the nightcap against the Hoosiers are the second-most in a single game, one behind Fortune's record of 13, set in 2001.
"It's an outstanding achievement," Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan said. "For Monica to do it in her first year is an amazing accomplishment and, more importantly, to do it against a conference opponent shows her toughness. She's matured so much just in the past couple of weeks and that's critical this time of year. She just keeps getting better and she's still got so many great things ahead of her."
Besides the fact that Perry has attained the record in her first season in the Orange and Blue, what's more impressive is that she achieved the milestone in 184.1 innings, compared to Fortune's 287.1 during the 2004 season. With an average of 7.06 strikeouts per seven innings, the McDonough, Ga., native also is on pace to break Sherri Taylor's record of 5.00 per inning set in 2004.
Perry (19-10) was on fire in the first game, tossing a one-hitter and blanking the Hoosiers while fanning eight through seven innings. The lone hit came in the first inning, as Perry shut down Indiana through the final six.
Illinois (24-12, 7-4 Big Ten) scored one in the second thanks to Gallien's RBI-single, then added three in the third when Armstrong doubled to the left-center gap and Wedel smoked a single up the middle to plate a run each. Wedel later scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-0. The Illini tacked on the final run in the sixth thanks to another base-knock off Armstrong's bat.
Perry was the story again in game two. After giving up a solo home run in the second and an unearned run in the third, Perry blanked the Hoosiers through the remaining four innings, registering eight strikeouts in the span.
The Illini tied the game in the fourth thanks to back-to-back long balls from first baseman Meredith Hackett and shortstop Ashley Conrad. Hackett's team-leading sixth home of the season cleared the fence in left-center, while Conrad's smashed her second of the season off the scoreboard.
The Hoosiers had a chance to take the lead in the sixth, taking advantage of an Illini miscue and a pair of singles to load the bases. But an un-phased Perry breezed through the heart of the IU lineup, striking out the side to work out of the jam.
"Monica just took things in her own hands and that's what good players do under pressure," Sullivan said. "Her focus and how she bared down to get the strikeouts was big. She managed that inning extremely well and it's probably the best inning she's had the entire season."
Still tied at two in the bottom of the seventh, leftfielder Hollie Pinchback led off with a single and Armstrong followed with a base-knock before Wedel laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners. A fielder's choice left runners at first and second for the Illini with two outs, and Indiana elected to walk Hackett to load the bases. It paid off for the Orange and Blue, as Conrad worked the count full before taking ball four to walk in the game-winning run and seal the seep of the Hoosiers.
The Illini continue conference action this weekend with a two-game series against No. 8/5 Michigan. Before Saturday's 5 p.m. contest against the Wolverines, fans are invited to the sixth annual World's Largest Softball Tailgate. Parking lots open at 10 a.m. and St. Louis Cardinals emcee Tod Thomas will be on hand to get the festivities rolling. In addition to a home run derby featuring other Illini athletes beginning at noon, fans can enjoy games, inflatables and tailgate contests in the area surrounding Eichelberger Field. The Orange and Blue cap off the weekend with the series finale against Michigan at 2 p.m. on Sunday.