Explosive Offense Leads to DH Sweep in Iowa City

Kylie Johnson with 5-for-8 on the night with three RBI and her first career triple.
Kylie Johnson with 5-for-8 on the night with three RBI and her first career triple.

April 23, 2013

Game 1 Box | Game 2 Box

Iowa City, Iowa - The Fighting Illini swung hot bats tonight in Iowa City, hitting .350 with 21 hits and 14 runs en route to a pair of victories over the University of Iowa. The Orange and Blue used an eight-run second inning to defeat the Hawkeyes, 8-5, in game one, then put up a pair of three spots in the nightcap to complete the sweep with a 6-3 win. All nine Illini in the batting order had a hit and scored a run tonight, with seven different Illini driving in at least one run.  With the sweep, the Illini improve to 16-25 (6-11 Big Ten), while Iowa falls to 24-21 (4-13 Big Ten).

"These were two big TEAM road wins," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "We were really READY to play today,  and I thought we had a strong competitive spirit from start to finish. We are seeing the ball much better at the plate and have matured in our overall pitch by pitch concentration. Pepper was a great leader for us today, in both games; she was focused and confident."

Freshman Kylie Johnson led the Illini at the plate, tabbing a pair of multi-hit games, going 5-for-8 with three RBI, two runs and her first career triple. Batting behind Johnson in the two spot was Brittany Sanchez, who hit .500 with two RBI and a run, and Alex Booker went 3-for-7 with a walk, two runs and two RBI. Jessica Davis tied the school record with two doubles in the second game, driving in two runs and scoring once.

After dropping 11 of their first 12 Big Ten contests, the Illini are now riding a five-game winning streak heading into this weekend's series at Michigan State (21-18, 7-4 Big Ten). During that span, the Illini have outscored their opponents 28-12, averaging 8.3 hits a game.

Eight-Run Second Inning Propels Illini to Victory in Game One
Illinois 8, Iowa 5 | Box Score (PDF)

After a two-run homer put Iowa ahead 2-0 in the first, the Illini offense exploded for eight runs in the second inning, which would be all the run support Illinois would need to take game one of the doubleheader, 8-5.

Kylie Johnson and Brittany Sanchez got the job done at the top of the lineup, each going 3-for-4 with a run and two RBI, while make a total of six putouts in the outfield. Five other Illini registered a hit in the game, with eight different members of the Orange and Blue crossing the plate, as the Illini collected a Big Ten season-high 11 hits in the game.

Shelese Arnold allowed just two hits through the first four innings, but gave up three in the fifth, leaving the circle after 4.1 innings with four runs, five hits, two walks and a strikeout, but picking up her eighth victory of the year. Pepper Gay was solid in relief, stranding two of her three inherited runners and allowing one run on two hits and a walk while striking out two in the final 2.2 IP.

Hawkeye slugger Megan Blank accounted for four of Iowa's five runs, hitting a two-run homer and an RBI double, as she went 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs and three RBI. Michelle Zoeller also swung a hot bat, hitting 2-for-4 with a triple and a run in the seventh.

Kayla Massey got the start for Iowa, allowing all eight runs on eight hits and three walks without a strikeout in just 1.1 innings. Micaela Whitney took over in the second and tossed 5.2 scoreless frames, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out six.

Johnson and Sanchez opened the game with a pair of singles, but an unlucky placement on Booker's line drive led to a double play, stifling the Illini's opening momentum.

Dowling was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the first, and Megan Blank drilled her 11th home run of the season on a line drive that just cleared the wall in right center, making it 2-0 Iowa.

The Illini did not trail for long, putting up a season-high eight runs on six hits in the top of the second to take a drastic 8-2 lead over the Hawkeyes. Remeny Perez got it started with a walk, then Allie Bauch and Jenna Mychko singled to load the bases. Katie Repole came up as a pinch hitter and drilled an RBI single to center for the Illini's first run of the game. Johnson followed with a two-run single down the leftfield line, and Sanchez kept it going with another two-RBI single. Booker walked, then Jess Perkins singled to right, and an error by the rightfielder brought in Sanchez. Perez walked for a second time in the inning and Booker crossed the plate as ball four bounced away from the catcher. The Hawkeyes brought in Michaela Whitney to replace Massey in the circle, who allowed Perkins to score on a fielder's choice, sliding under the tag on the throw home by the shortstop, but got the final two outs to stop the bleeding at eight.

After tallying just two hits through the first four innings, the Hawkeyes chipped away at the Illini lead in the bottom of the fifth, scoring two runs on four hits and chasing Arnold from the circle. Dowling opened the frame with a leadoff single, and the slugging Blank produced again with an RBI double to right center. Massey walked and Zoeller singled to load the bases, at which point Coach Sullivan made the call to the bullpen, bringing in Pepper Gay. She allowed an infield single to Hoffman, making it 8-4, before retiring the next two batters to get out of the jam with minimal damage done.

Down to the final three outs, Zoeller led off the bottom of the seventh with a triple off the wall in right center, then scored on a wild pitch to make it 8-5. Perkins tracked down a tricky pop up for out number one, then Gay struck out Gyerman for the second out, and Luna flew out to left for the final out, handing Illinois the victory, 8-5.

Illini Use Extra-Base Hits to Complete DH Sweep
Illinois 6, Iowa 3 | Box Score (PDF)

The Fighting Illini took advantage of four extra-base hits and the defense stranded 12 Hawkeyes on base to finish out the sweep with a 6-3 victory.

Jessica Davis tied the school record with two doubles in the game, adding an RBI and a run, and Johnson and Booker each went 2-for-4 with a run, combining for three RBI.

Johnnie Dowling went 2-for-3 in the leadoff position for the Hawkeyes but was never able to cross the plate as Iowa left 12 runners on base in the game, stranding at least two in five different innings.

Pepper Gay set a new school record, making her 106th start tonight, and earned her 66th career victory in the complete game. Despite surrendering seven walks and six hits, she held the Hawkeyes to three runs due to five key strikeouts and drawing six infield popups with runners on base.

Micaela Whitney got the nod for game two, and despite her stellar performance in the first game, allowed six runs, three earned, on 10 hits over 6.1 innings. Kayla Massey finished out the game for the Hawkeyes, getting the first batter she faced to pop up into an inning-ending double play.

Iowa had two runners on with nobody out in each of the first two innings, but Gay successfully stranded all four, to keep the Hawkeyes off the board.

Mychko led off the top of the third, getting on by error. Johnson followed with her fourth hit of the day on an infield single, and Sanchez put them in scoring position. Booker then smoked a ball off the shortstop for a two-out, two-run single, and Perkins laced an RBI double to the gap in right center, putting the Illini ahead, 3-0.

The Hawkeyes cut the lead to one in the bottom half of the frame, capitalizing on a walk and hit batter to start the inning. Zoeller loaded the bases with a single through the left side, and Massey drove in the first run with an RBI single to center. Gay drew a pop up for the first out, but a sacrifice fly by Luna brought home a second run. Gay never surrendered the Illini lead, however, getting Erickson to pop up to end the inning, stranding two more Hawkeyes.

Both teams had a chance to score more in the fourth. Jessica Davis led off the top of the inning with a double to right center. Bauch moved her over to third, but Davis was then thrown out at home on Mychko's squeeze attempt.

The Hawkeyes drew three walks in the bottom half, but could not get one in, leaving the bases loaded.

Perez led off the top of the sixth with a single through the left side. Davis then crushed a second double to right center. Pinch runner Sami Estill didn't get the best jump and had to hold up at third, but took a big turn and the first baseman took a risk throwing behind her looking for the out. Estill then scurried home and slid under the tag for a key fourth run. Bauch followed with an RBI single and Mychko was hit by a pitch. Johnson then smoked a triple to right center, but the speed demon caught up to Mychko who got stuck in a rundown between third and home. Johnson started back for second so Mychko could try to return, but the Hawkeyes got them both for an inning-ending rundown double play, but not before Illinois took a 6-2 lead.

Hoffman smashed a solo home run to left field to start the bottom of the seventh, but she would be the final Hawkeye baserunner, as Gay got the next three batters out to earn the complete-game victory but a final score of 6-3.

The Illini hit the road for East Lansing this weekend, taking on the Spartans of Michigan State in a Big Ten road series. The series opens at 4 p.m. CT on Friday, April 25, and continues with a pair Noon games on Saturday and Sunday.