Senior first baseman Meredith Hackett became the second Illini to record more than 40 doubles and 40 home runs with the Orange and Blue.
April 21, 2012
URBANA, Ill. - Illinois softball split a Saturday afternoon doubleheader at Eichelberger Field, with the Illini securing game one, 3-1, before the Boilermakers used a seventh-inning rally to take the second contest, 4-2. Sophomore left and center fielder Alex Booker finished 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored on the day, while senior first baseman Meredith Hackett launched a two-run home run and drew four walks.
"Every time there is a challenge there is an opportunity and I thought we had some great pitching on the day and solid defense," said Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan on facing Purdue, the second place team in the Big Ten entering the doubleheader. "Again, we earned a couple timely hits and got the job done in game one.
"In game two, I think we took a lot of momentum Purdue is known to steal, as they lead the Big Ten in nearly every offensive category, and I felt really good going into the seventh. I give a lot of credit to their leadoff batter in the inning [Maia Monchek] - she had two strikes on her and just got a really good hit. We expect the team to be at their best all the time, especially in the seventh. We didn't make some plays we needed to. We had the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but Purdue just made the plays they needed to in order to get the outs."
Game One: Illinois 3, Purdue 1
Illinois struck first with a run in the bottom of the first inning to go ahead, 1-0. With one away, redshirt-junior Jessica Davis knocked a double to the left-center field wall, the fourth of the season for the shortstop. Two batters later, freshman third baseman Jess Perkins grounded a bouncing ball to Purdue shortstop Molly Garst, with Garst's offline throw to first allowing Davis to hustle home to break the scoreless tie.
In the third, Hackett added two more runs to the Orange and Blue lead with the senior's eight homer of the season. Three batters after Booker singled up the middle, Hackett sent a 2-2 offering from Purdue's Lexy Moore 20 feet over the fencing to stake the Illini to a 3-0 advantage. With the long ball, Hackett's 40th as an Illini, the four year starter at first base becomes the second player in program history to connect for 40 home runs and 40 doubles, joining Angelena Mexicano (2005-08; 51 home runs and 46 doubles).
Starting pitcher Pepper Gay made the early run support stand with another dominant performance in the circle, showing her maturity as the staff ace during her 102nd collegiate appearance. On two occasions Purdue was able to load the bases only to have Gay settle in to hold the Boilermakers scoreless in each frame.
With two outs in the second inning, Ashley Burkhardt singled up the middle and Tori Chiodo sent a base knock to second before Garst was hit by a pitch; however, Gay struck out Lindsey Rains swinging to end the threat. Four frames later, Ashley Courtney walked with one away and Erika Petruzzi reached on a throwing error by Davis before Monchek singled to right field to put Boilermakers at every base. Gay responded by fanning Ashley Burkhardt before inducing a fly out to center field off Ciodo's bat to end the frame.
Gay improved to 15-11 in the circle for the Illini with the junior's 16th complete game of the season. Gay only allowed one earned run on five hits and four walks while striking out seven Boilermakers. Lexy Moore dropped to 18-6 with the loss, giving up three runs - two earned - on six hits and a walk while throwing six innings.
Game Two: Purdue 4, Illinois 2
The Boilermakers broke through for three runs in the top of the seventh to secure game two, 4-2. With one out and the bases loaded, Garst sent a two-run single to right field to put Purdue in front, 3-2, while Varsho followed with a run-scoring base hit to third to reach the final score.
Illinois tallied individual runs in the second and third to go ahead of the Boilermakers early, 2-0. To tally the first, freshman second baseman Jami Schkade singled through the middle of the infield with one away and advanced to second when junior pitcher Jackie Guy reached on a fielder's choice to shortstop. Senior Nikki Simpson moved each runner up one base with a ground out to second before Booker singled to third to put Illinois ahead by one run.
In the next frame, Hackett walked with one away and was replaced by freshman pinch runner Lauren Loies. Perkins followed with a double to the left-center field wall, plating Loies from first to double the Orange and Blue lead.
Purdue responded with a lone run in the top of the fourth inning to cut its deficit in half. Courtney sent a one-out double to left field just out of the reach of a diving Vaji, with the ball glancing off the left fielder's glove. Danielle Fletcher followed with a single to left field to put runners on the corners before Petruzzi singled in Courtney with a hit in front of Vaji in left.
Gay was stuck with the loss in relief of Guy, who started and pitched four innings, giving up the first run on five hits while striking out two without walking a batter. Gay (15-12) closed the contest with five hits allowed and two earned runs against, walking two while setting down three on strikes in three innings of work. Moore earned the win to move to 19-6 on the year, going the distance while giving up six hits and three walks.
Illinois concludes the series with the Boilermakers on Sunday, April 22, with a 1 p.m. CT contest at Eichelberger Field.
Game Notes: Gay earned her first collegiate hit in her second collegiate plate appearances, doubling to the left-center field wall he sixth inning of game two ... Perkins hit her ninth double of the season in the third frame of the second contest, tying her for the team lead in the category with senior third baseman Kelley Wedel, who has been out since suffering a hand injury prior to the series at Iowa (March 31-April 1).