Illini Extend Streak to Seven with 10-2 Run-Rule Victory at MSU
April 27, 2013
East Lansing, Mich. – The Fighting Illini extended their winning streak to seven games this afternoon, clinching their third-straight Big Ten series victory with a 10-2 defeat of Michigan State in six innings. Five Illini had multi-hit performances as the Illini tied their season high with 13 base hits in the game. Illinois improves to 18-25 (8-11 Big Ten), while MSU’s eight-game skid drops them below .500 to 21-22 (7-8 Big Ten).
“Our team has made tremendous progress at playing in the moment,” said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. “Shelese did not have all her pitches working early, but bared down as the game went on. Crash (Katie) has quietly ignited our offense the past couple of days, and (San)chez, Perk and JD are seeing a lot of pitches for the team. Allie got some big hits today and Jami made a key play early in the game in their combined effort.
“I have been really proud of how our upperclassman have kept the dugout focused. We will need to play very determined tomorrow."
After experimenting with a different lineup for nearly all of the first 36 games, Coach Sullivan promoted Kylie Johnson to leadoff and put the consistent Alex Booker in the three spot on April 20 vs. Indiana. Sullivan has carded the same starting nine ever since, making just one modification, replacing Jade Smith with Brittany Sanchez in the two hole. Katie Repole has consistently come off the bench to pinch hit for Jami Schkade then become the designated player for the middle innings.
The lineup switch definitely seems to have provided the offensive spark Illinois needed.
The Illini have won all seven games since setting the new lineup.
Eight Illini batters are hitting above .300 and five are batting over .350 since making the change. Booker leads the charge with a .478 average and three stolen bases.
“We hadn’t had a contagious team offensive attack and decided to try some people in spots they seemed to fit and be comfortable with,” said Sullivan. “We kind of needed a fresh start, discounting numbers and looking at on-the-field chemistry for both offense and defense.”
Today’s game was no different, as the Orange and Blue tied their season high with 13 hits and plated a conference season-best 10 runs.
After driving in four runs on Friday, Jess Perkins reached base all four times today, going 2-for-2 with a double, two walks, two runs and an RBI. Allie Bauch went 3-for-3 with three RBI, and Sanchez and Remeny Perez each went 2-for-3; Perez tallied a double, two RBI and a run, while Sanchez scored twice. Repole went 2-for-2 with a sacrifice fly, and Jessica Davis doubled, walked and scored twice.
Reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Shelese Arnold captured her fourth-straight victory, allowing two runs on nine hits and three walks. The sophomore did not allow a run after Illinois tied the score in the fourth, preserving the Illinois lead after the late offensive explosion.
Freshman Dani Goranson got the start for the Spartans and allowed just four hits through the first 3.1 innings, before leaving the game with a runner on second. Kelly Smith entered the game and allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits in 0.2+ innings, then got the hook after allowing hits to the first three batters of the fifth. Goranson returned to the circle for the final 2.0 innings, and gave up an additional five hits, totaling nine hits and six runs, two earned, with two walks and three strikeouts in 5.1 frames.
Kylene Hopkins, Destinee Luna and Sarah Bowling each had two hits for the Spartans, and O’Bryant drilled her second home run of the series.
Hopkins led off the bottom of the first with a single off the third base bag. McBride put her on second with a sacrifice bunt, and she advanced to third on a flyout to left. Bowling then drove in the first run of the game on a double to the gap in right center, handing the Spartans their first lead of the series.
Arnold got out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the second, but O’Bryant tacked on a second MSU run in the third with a solo shot to left.
The Illini did not trail for long, tying the score with a pair of runs in the fourth. Perkins led off with a single to right, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Goranson got Perez to strike out for a key first out, but Head Coach Jacquie Joseph then made a call to the bullpen, bringing in Friday’s starter Kelly Smith. Smith walked Davis on five pitches, then Bauch singled through the right side to load the bases. Jenna Mychko battled at the plate, fouling off four pitches before being hit with the ninth ball she saw, forcing in the first Illini run. Repole then came up and lined out to left, driving home Davis on the sacrifice fly to knot the score at two.
The Illini broke the scoring open in the top of the fifth, scoring five runs on six hits to take a solid 7-2 lead. Sanchez got it started with a leadoff single to shallow center. After striking out in her first two at bats, Booker extended her hitting streak to 10 games with a single through the left side, then Perkins roped an RBI double off the wall in left to put Illinois on top 3-2, at which point Goranson returned to the circle. During the next at bat, a missed suicide attempt caught Booker off third. Catcher Ellie Stoffer threw down to O’Bryant at third, but as Booker broke for home, O’Bryant’s throw to the plate was off line, allowing the speedy leftfielder to score. Perkins moved up to third on the play, and Perez then drove her home on a single to right. Davis kept the hit parade going with a double down the right field line, and Bauch and Mychko drove in a pair of runs on back-to-back sacrifice flies, to give Arnold a comfortable five-run lead to protect.
Fielding woes got the best of the Spartans in the top of the sixth, as the shortstop could not handle Sanchez’s hard-hit ball to start the inning. Perkins walked, then Perez roped an RBI double to the warning track in left. Bauch then gave the Illini an opportunity to cut the game early with a two-run single that gave the Illini their first double-digit score in Big Ten play this season.
The Spartans got the first two runners on in the bottom of the sixth, but Arnold got the final three batters to fly out, sealing up the 10-2 Illini victory.
Illinois concludes the Michigan State series at Noon CT on Sunday. The game will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network and can be heard online on the Spartans Sports Network.