Jess Perkins went 2-for-2 with a single, a sac fly and a 3-run homer to lead the Illini to victory.
April 26, 2013
East Lansing, Mich. - In what began as a fast-paced pitchers' duel, the Fighting Illini used a five-run sixth inning to defeat Michigan State University, 6-2. Jess Perkins drove in the first four runs for the Illini on a sacrifice fly and a three-run homer, while Pepper Gay limited the Spartans' offense to just a handful of hits, scoring only on a two-run shot that just barely cleared the fence. The victory extends the Illini's winning streak to six games, all in Big Ten play, improving to 17-25 (7-11 Big Ten), while MSU drops its seventh straight, falling to 21-21 (7-7 Big Ten).
"It took us a few innings, but our batters made some adjustments and started to hit some better pitches," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "Booker made some things happen on the bases, then Sanchez got us going in that sixth inning, and Perk followed her lead with a big shot. Pepper and Mychko used their defense well and we made the plays we needed to make at key points in the game. I thought Kylie had a terrific jump on a ball that looked like a hit, and that kept momentum on our side. We need to keep playing aggressive the entire weekend."
Perkins was flawless at the plate, tabbing the first hit of the game, driving in the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly, then breaking it open with a three-run homer, her second long ball in five days. Alex Booker manufactured that first run with a walk and a stolen base, going 1-for-3 at the plate with two runs scored. Jenna Mychko just missed going deep in the sixth, smacking a two-run double off the wall to plate the final two Illini runs.
Pepper Gay registered her 67th career victory, throwing the complete game for the Illini. She kept the Spartans from taking a lead throughout the entire game, retiring the first two batters of every inning except the sixth, when she allowed a two-run homer. In total, she gave up just six hits and walked a single batter in the full seven frames.
Kelly Smith was dominant in the circle for the Spartans through the first five innings, registering her 200th strikeout of the season in the game by striking out 11 Illini. But the Orange and Blue got the best of her in the sixth inning, taking her for six runs on seven hits and two walks in the complete game.
Alyssa McBride proved a tough putout for the Illini, going 2-for-3 with a run, and Jayme O'Bryant hit the long ball for the Spartans, collecting two RBI.
Both teams combined for just five total hits through the first three innings, but the Illini put a run across the plate in the top of the fourth. After falling behind in the count 0-2, Booker came all the way back with a walk, then stole second. On the following pitch, she advanced to third on a ball in the dirt, and Perkins got the job done, sending Booker home with a sacrifice fly.
The Illini got some much-needed insurance runs in the top of the sixth. Brittany Sanchez started it off with a one-out single to left center. Booker beat out an infield single to put a pair of Illini on base for the first time in the game, and Perkins drilled a bomb to left to put the Illini ahead, 4-0.
And it didn't stop there. With a fresh set of bases, Remeny Perez drew a full-count walk, and Jessica Davis kept it going with a single through the left side. Mychko then slammed a two-run double off the wall in left to give the Illini a formidable 6-0 lead.
Kylie Johnson robbed Hopkins of a gapper with a diving catch in right center to start the bottom of the sixth. However, the Spartans bats continued to show signs of life, as McBride singled to center. O'Bryant then drove a 2-0 pitch just beyond Booker's glove over the wall in left to crack the scoreboard for the Spartans, making it 6-2.
Smith set down the Illini in order in the top of the seventh, but Gay did the same in the bottom half to seal up the victory by a final score of 6-2.
The Illini are back in action Saturday at Noon CT with game two of the series at Michigan State. Video coverage of the game will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network.