Arnold Hurls Shutout to Complete Doubleheader Sweep

Shelese Arnold threw her first career shutout to lead Illinois to a 1-0 victory in game two.
Shelese Arnold threw her first career shutout to lead Illinois to a 1-0 victory in game two.

April 20, 2013


Urbana, Ill. - The Fighting Illini softball team picked up a pair of one-run victories this afternoon, using prolific offense to defeat Big Ten rival Indiana, 5-4, in extra innings, then capitalized on a two-hit shutout by Shelese Arnold to slide by the Hoosiers, 1-0, in the night cap. With the pair of wins, the Illini move past the Hoosiers in the conference standings, finishing the day at 13-23 (3-11 Big Ten), while Indiana drops to 19-26 (3-12 Big Ten).

"Winning the first game in extra innings and the second with a 1-0 shutout was big for our team," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "JD (Jessica Davis) and Remeny both came through with the long balls we have been looking for. Pepper was resilient and saved her best two innings for last, and Shelese was outstanding today using her defense and trusting her pitches. Mychko was a great leader behind the plate for our staff. We need to focus now on coming out for a big Sunday battle."

Booker's Near Cycle, Davis' Walkoff HR Lead Illini Past Indiana in Extras
Illinois 5, Indiana 4 (8 innings) | Box Score (PDF)

Illinois' offense cruised to an early 4-0 lead in game one, but the Hoosiers put up four runs in the fifth to tie the score. However, Pepper Gay held strong in the circle, stranding eight Indiana runners to keep Illinois from falling behind, and Jessica Davis drilled a walkoff home run in the bottom of the eighth to give the Illini a 5-4 victory in extras.

Alex Booker, batting third for the first time this season, had a fantastic game at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a single, a double and her first career triple, scoring twice and driving in a run. Allie Bauch went 1-for-3 with two RBI, and Jessica Davis walked and homered, as the Illini put up a total of eight hits in the game.

Jenna Mychko looked sharp on both sides of the plate, going 1-for-2 with a walk, while catching five popups and keeping the Hoosiers from stealing a base.

Pepper Gay threw a season-high 8.0 innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits and six walks, while striking out two in her school-record-tying 105th career start.

Brooke Boetjer pitched the first three innings, allowing four runs, two earned, on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Meaghan Murphy took over in the bottom of the fourth keeping the Illini off the board through regulation, but allowed the game-winning home run despite giving up just three hits without a walk and striking out three in the final four innings.

After leaving the circle, Boetjer's bat lit up, going 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI. Kesley Dotson was 2-for-3 with a walk and Michelle Huber hit the game-tying home run in the fifth.

The Fighting Illini offense was quick out of the gate, scoring two in the bottom of the first. Kylie Johnson started it off, grounding sharply to the shortstop who couldn't handle the hop. She stole second then went to third on a passed ball. Alex Booker then hit an RBI double down the left field line, sending Johnson home. Remeny Perez came up with two outs and a runner on second and hit a hard grounder straight over the bag at third. The third baseman misread the hop (or lack thereof) as the ball snuck under her into left, allowing Booker to score to make it 2-0 Illini after one.

Booker and Jess Perkins led off the bottom of the third with back-to-back singles. Perez laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt down the third base line, and Bauch came up with the two-out, two-run single just past the shortstop up the middle to give Illinois a 4-0 lead.

Kelsey Dotson led off the fourth with a double to the warning track down the line in left, however for the fourth straight inning, Gay stranded the leadoff batter, as Farmer popped up the bunt and Heyman lined into a double play to shallow center to hold the score at 4-0 Illini.

The Hoosiers tied the score in the top of the fifth with two big extra-base hits. Brannon started it off with a bunt to the left side. Perkins was in position, but Gay was a step closer, snagging the grounder but muffing the throw to allow the leadoff runner to reach base. Wagner followed with a walk, and then Boetjer, who move from the circle to DP in the bottom of the fourth, laced a two-run double to right center. Huber followed at the plate and drove the 10th pitch of her at bat over the wall in left for a two-run shot that tied the score at four.

Indiana had a chance to take the lead in top of the seventh, as Boetjer led off with a double to left center. However, the Illini once again were able to strand the leadoff runner, as Gay drew a strikeout, a flyout and a pop up to send the Illini to the bottom of the seventh with the score still knotted at four.

Hoosier reliever Meaghan Murphy set the Illini down in order in the bottom of the seventh, sending the game into extra innings.

Gay threw a 1-2-3 top of the eighth, then Jessica Davis came up to lead off the bottom half. Davis ended the game with one swing, drilling her 25th career home run to give the Illini a walk-off 5-4 victory in eight innings.

Arnold Hurls Two-Hit Shutout to Propel Illini to Victory in Game Two
Illinois 1, Indiana 0 | Box Score (PDF)

Sophomore pitcher Shelese Arnold tossed the best game of her career in game two, hurling a two-hit complete-game shutout to lead the Illini to a doubleheader sweep. The Illini squandered several early scoring chances, but Arnold's composure in the circle kept Illinois from falling behind, and a solo homer by Remeny Perez in the sixth proved the only run necessary for victory.

Arnold walked the first batter of the game on full count, and that would turn out to be her only walk of the game, as the sophomore stud allowed just four base runners on two hits, a walk and a hit batter. She never allowed the Hoosiers more than one runner in an inning, nor did any Indiana player get further than second base.

Johnson led off the bottom of the first with a single that took a high hop well over the third baseman. Jade Smith bunted her over to second, and Booker made it first and third on an infield single. She stole second to put a pair in scoring position for Perkins, but she lined out on a well hit ball to short, and Booker was doubled up on the play to end the inning.

The Illini had two runners on again in the second, on a Davis single and a Bauch walk, but the centerfielder made a great play in right center to rob Schkade of an RBI hit to finish of the frame.

Wagner doubled down the left field line with one out in the third, but the Illini defense got the next two outs to keep Indiana from scoring.

That was the last hit Indiana would get, as Arnold retired 13 of the final 14 batters, just allowing Abraham to reach on an HBP, to keep Illinois in the game.

Mychko began the fifth on second base on a pair of errors by the third baseman, but her pinch runner Sami Estill was stranded on third, as the game remained scoreless after five.

Arnold continued to cruise with a perfect top of the sixth, then Remeny Perez finally opened the scoring, drilling a huge solo shot off the scoreboard in left center to put Illinois ahead 1-0.

Finally pitching with a lead to protect, Arnold was perfect in the top of the seventh, striking out the battling PH Meaghan Murphy for the final out of the game to put her first career shutout in the books.

Today's Notes

  • Pepper Gay made her 105th career start in game one, tying Amanda Fortune (2001-04) for the school record.
  • Alex Booker was a home run shy of the cycle, including her first career triple.
  • Jessica Davis hit the Illini's first walkoff home run of the season. It was Illinois' second walkoff win, after Jami Schkade scored the game-winning run against Loyola on Feb. 15 in the bottom of the ninth. It was also Davis' second career walkoff home run; Davis drilled a solo shot in a tie game in the bottom of the seventh on Feb. 26, 2010, to defeat No. 18 Florida State, 4-3.
  • Hollie Pinchback was the last Illini to hit a walkoff home run, going deep twice in the game on April 30, 2011, to lead Illinois past Northwestern, 5-4.
  • The last Illini to hit an extra-innings home run was Jess Perkins, capping a 5-run eighth inning that propelled Illinois to defeat No. 22 Michigan, 5-1.
  • The Illini are now 2-1 in extra innings and 2-0 at home.
  • Shelese Arnold threw her first career complete-game shutout. Her longest shutout appearance prior to today came on Feb. 8 against then-No. 1 Alabama, when she threw 3.0 scoreless innings of one-hit relief. Two hits is also the fewest she has allowed in a complete game; her previous CG low was three in 7.0 innings against Maine (W, 7-1)
  • The last Illini shutout came on Feb. 10, 2013, when Pepper Gay threw a six-inning no-hitter at UNI.
  • The last time Illinois won with only one run scored came on Feb. 19, 2013, against Pittsburgh in a 1-0 victory in Texas.
  • The Illini are now 4-5 on the season in one-run games. All three of Illinois' Big Ten victories have been decided by one run.