No. 25 Northwestern Takes Two From Fighting Illini

Jade Vecvanags retired all 12 batters she faced as a reliever in game one.
Jade Vecvanags retired all 12 batters she faced as a reliever in game one.

April 22, 2014

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Urbana, Ill. - The Illini's Big Ten woes continued on Tuesday, as No. 25 Northwestern won a pair at Eichelberger Field. After falling behind, 6-0, in game one, a two-run shot by Remeny Perez helped the Illini cut the deficit in half, but despite four perfect innings by reliever Jade Vecvanags, the Illini dropped the opener, 6-3. Northwestern pitcher Nicole Bond had the Illini's number in game two, tossing a one-hit shutout to hand the Wildcats the sweep with a 9-0 victory in six innings. The wins push Northwestern (29-11, 11-6 Big Ten) past Wisconsin into fifth place in the Big Ten standings, with just No. 4 Michigan owning more than 11 Big Ten wins. Meanwhile, Illinois slips to 19-23 (3-14 Big Ten).

"I liked how we kept fighting in game one and in particular was pleased with Jade's relief performance," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "Her quick innings jumpstarted our offense. We just didn't carry that momentum into game two, and Northwestern took control of the game on both ends."

Game 1: Northwestern 6, Illinois 3 | Box Score (PDF)

Northwestern jumped out to an early 6-0 lead with the help of a two-run homer by Marisa Bast and a pair of unearned runs in the third. Illinois chipped away at the lead thanks to a two-run shot by Remeny Perez and an RBI double by Ruby Rivera, but the Illini were unable to come all the way back, falling 6-3.

Allie Bauch went 2-for-4 with a run at the top of the lineup, and Alex Booker was 2-for-3 with a walk. Perez hit a two-run home run in the fourth, and Rivera had an RBI double in the fifth. Brittany Sanchez walked and scored on the home run, and Jenna Mychko and Kylie Johnson both singled.

Marisa Bast and Mari Majam accounted for the majority of Northwestern's offense, combining for four hits, three runs and four RBI, including a two-run homer by Bast. Brianna LeBeau had an RBI single and scored a run, and Anna Edwards doubled and scored.

Brandi Needham (13-13) started in the circle for the Illini, but allowed six runs, four earned, on seven hits and two walks over the first three innings. Jade Vecvanags took over in relief to start the fourth inning and retired all 12 batters she faced to finish out the game.

Kristen Wood went the distance for the Wildcats, allowing three runs on eight hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.

Allie Bauch made a fantastic diving play to start the game, but an infield single and a home run by Bast quickly made it 2-0 Northwestern. DePrima grounded back to the pitcher for out number two, but Edwards then hit a double off the wall in left center, and LeBeau ripped an RBI single up the middle to put NU up 3-0 before Illinois stepped up to the plate.

Majam walked with two outs in the top of the second, advanced on a wild pitch, and a single up the middle by Bast made it 4-0 Wildcats.

Northwestern added a pair of unearned runs in the top of the third, capitalizing on an error by Repole at third base with the bases loaded along with an RBI single by Majam.

Vecvanags relieved Needham in the circle to start the fourth inning and retired three straight.

Sanchez drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the fourth, and Perez drilled a two-run home run to right center to put Illinois on the board, 6-2.

After another perfect inning by Vecvanags, the Illini chipped away further at the Wildcats' lead in the bottom of the fifth. Bauch and Booker both singled, and Rivera drilled an RBI double, her 13th two-bagger of the season, to deep centerfield to cut NU's advantage to three, 6-3.

Vecvanags tossed two more perfect innings with the help of a pair of tough plays by Rivera at short, but the Illini only mustered one more hit, a one-out single by Johnson in the seventh, as the Wildcats took the opener by a final score of 6-3.

Game 2: Northwestern 9, Illinois 0 (6 innings) | Box Score (PDF)

The second game of the day was tight early, but the Wildcats put up seven runs in the fifth and sixth innings and a one-hit gem by Nicole Bond led Northwestern to a doubleheader sweep with a 9-0 victory in game two.

Ruby Rivera collected the Illini's lone hit in the second inning, extending her hitting streak to nine games. Remeny Perez represented the only other Illini baserunner, as she was hit by a pitch for the 10th time this season and 17th of her career, moving into a tie for fifth place all-time on the Illinois career charts.

Emily Allard went 3-for-4 with a triple and three runs scored at the top of the Wildcats' lineup, and Brianna LeBeau was 3-for-3 with two RBI. Oliva Duehr doubled and scored twice, and Andrea Filler hit a solo home run in the fourth.

Shelese Arnold (5-9) got the start for the Illini and allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk with one strikeout before leaving the game after the first batter of the fifth. Vecvanags finished off the frame but was unable to close out the game, allowing six runs, three earned, on six hits with two strikeouts in just one inning of work. Needham relieved Vecvanags in the sixth and allowed just one walk over the final frame.

Nicole Bond was lights out in the circle for Northwestern, allowing just one hit and one hit batter over the full six innings to improve to 5-0 on the year.

Allard got the Wildcats going in the top of the first, smoking a triple through the right side to lead off the game. Bast drilled one to deep center, but a nice play by Sanchez limited it to a sacrifice fly, holding the `Cats to just one run in the frame.

Filler doubled the Wildcats' lead in the fourth with a solo home run to right center.

Duehr led off the fifth with a double to right center, leading to a pitching change. Allard reached on an error by Rivera, and an infield single by Majam loaded the bases. Back-to-back singles by Edwards and LeBeau drove in three Northwestern runs before Vecvanags got the final two outs of the frame.

Northwestern put the game away in the top of sixth, scoring four runs on three hits and two errors to move ahead 9-0 and set up a run-rule opportunity.

Bond retired the Illini in order in the bottom of the sixth to seal up the game an inning early.

Next Up: The Illini host No. 4 Michigan this weekend in the final homestand of the season. Illinois opens the series at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 25, with its fourth Big Ten Network broadcast of the week.  Saturday is Alumni Day, when the Illini will honor the 10th anniversary of the 2004 team that finished second in the Big Ten and reached the NCAA Regional Final. Seniors Alex Booker and Jenna Mychko will be recognized prior to Sunday's game for their outstanding achievements over the past four years. Both games over the weekend will begin at 1 p.m.