Shortstop Angelena Mexicano belted her 23rd and 24th home runs of the season to shatter the Big Ten single-season record.
April 30, 2008
URBANA, Ill. - Shortstop Angelena Mexicano smashed her way into history Wednesday evening, crushing her 24th long ball of the season to break the Big Ten single-season record in Illinois' 4-0 victory over Southern Illinois in game two of a doubleheader at Eichelberger Field at Martin Stadium. Mexicano bashed her 23rd in the first game to tie the record set by Northwestern's Garland Cooper last season as the Illini (30-29, 8-10 Big Ten) dropped a 6-3 decision to the Salukis (27-23, 12-8 MVC).
"I saw the ball very well and right when I hit it, it felt amazing," shortstop Angelena Mexicano said. "I felt a great, warm, exciting feeling that I had achieved this accomplishment. I didn't even know what the record was until I hit 22, then I thought `Oh, 23? Well why not!' This is just overwhelming. It's a great honor to have set this record and I'm very happy."
Mexicano's 24th blast propelled her into the national single-season record book as well, tying her for 14th all-time with five other players. She finished the day 3-for-7 with two RBIs and three runs scored.
"I'm very excited for Angelena and this couldn't happen to a better kid," head coach Terri Sullivan said. "Her love of the game has just made her works so hard year in and year out on her hitting. She's confident at the plate and that's half the battle. Her enthusiasm spreads to the team and the hitting gets contagious. This achievement says a lot about her because there have been so many great hitters come in what is one of the best softball conferences in the country."
Game one starter Christine Christopoulos (0-2) breezed through the first four innings, allowing just one hit before SIU collected three earned runs on four hits in the fifth in the loss. Lefty Ashley Wright (8-7) set the tone in game two, allowing the Salukis to scatter just four hits in the complete-game shutout. Wright collected three strikeouts and retired eight of the first nine batters she faced.
"Ashley came in with a really good game plan and the team fed off her confidence," Sullivan said. "She decided she was going to be the leader in the second game and trusted her defense to make the plays."
In addition to the solid pitching and defense, Illinois' offense delivered in the third inning, putting the first run across when leftfielder Makenzie Smith slapped a double and later scored on a wild pitch. Designated player Hollie Pinchback drove home two more runs in the inning with a double to right field to put the Illini on top, 3-0.
Mexicano delivered the record-breaker in the fifth, as she drilled an 0-1 pitch to dead centerfield to cap off the Orange and Blue's 4-0 victory.
The two teams battled through four scoreless innings in game one before SIU broke up the tied with four runs in the fifth. The Illini battled back on Mexicano's solo shot in the bottom half of the inning, then added two more solo home runs from Pinchback and Smith in the sixth and seventh, but Illinois came up short in the 6-3 loss.
The Illini conclude the regular season at home this weekend, hosting Iowa for a two-game series. The two teams will square off on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Eichelberger Field at Martin Stadium, with the World's Largest Softball Tailgate preceding the game. The Orange and Blue's season finale will take place on Sunday at 1 p.m. as Illinois will honor its six seniors.