Designated player Katrina Ross drove in four runs against No. 8/5 Michigan.
April 18, 2009
URBANA, Ill. - The Illinois softball team suffered a pair of Big Ten losses to the No. 8/5 Michigan Wolverines (32-9, 8-2 Big Ten), 8-2 and 8-3, in a doubleheader Saturday evening during the sixth annual World's Largest Softball Tailgate in front of 1,028 fans at Eichelberger Field, the third largest crowd in history. Senior designated player Katrina Ross delivered four RBIs on the day to lead the Illini, going 3-for-6 at the plate, including her fifth home run of the season.
"The best part of the day was the environment," head coach Terry Sullivan said. "We had a great turnout and other athletes really supporting our team, so that was something really special that you can't find in too many places. The day was great, but I just wish we would have done a little better on the field for our fans."
In game one, Ross went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and rightfielder Hope Howell went 1-for-2 and added a run for the Illini, who were held to two runs on five hits.
Monica Perry (19-12) took the loss, allowing seven hits, six earned runs, and striking out five in six innings of work. Nikki Nemitz (19-5) went the distance for Michigan, allowing five hits and one run.
Illinois' (24-14, 7-6 Big Ten) scored a pair of runs in the fourth inning thanks to Ross' double with the bases loaded, driving in second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz and Howell. After walking in game one and getting a base-knock in game two, Zymkowitz has now reached base in 36 of 38 games.
Michigan would eventually score at least one run in the final six innings to capture the 8-2 win.
"I have to say we just got beat by a better team today," Sullivan said. "Clutch hitting obviously is really key this time of year. They had it and we didn't. We had the situation we wanted a few times, with the heart of our order up, but we weren't able to get that hit today. The hits were fairly close between the two teams in both games, but the clutch hits weren't."
Game two provided better results offensively for the Orange and Blue, as they pounded out nine hits and drove in three runs. First baseman Meredith Hackett scored first for the Illini in the third inning when she drilled a deep shot off the scoreboard to put Illinois up 1-0.
The fifth was the difference for Michigan, as the Wolverines tacked on five runs on four hits in the inning.
The Illini would get on the board once more when Ross came up with another big play, driving a home run to left-centerfield that would bring in Howell, but the Wolverines hung on for the 8-3 win.
Illinois will be back in action Tuesday evening as they head south on I-57 to Charleston, facing off against in-state foe Eastern Illinois. The first pitch for is scheduled for 6 p.m. (CT).