Senior Hollie Pinchback went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored against the Wildcats on Saturday, including a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh.
April 30, 2011
URBANA, Ill. - The University of Illinois Softball squad grabbed its first walk-off home run of the season on Saturday as the Illini earned a 5-4 victory over Northwestern. Down, 4-3, entering the bottom of the seventh, Hollie Pinchback drove the first pitch of her at bat over the center field fence with Danielle Zymkowitz on first base to end the contest. Pinchback also hit a solo shot as part of a three-run third frame for Illinois.
"I have been up in the seventh quite a few times this season and I hadn't been able to pull through, so I was working on seeing the ball all the way through [the zone] and doing something for my team," Pinchback said of her approach at the plate against the Wildcats.
Northwestern (22-14 overall, 4-7 Big Ten) got on the board in the second inning with two unearned runs to take an early lead, 2-0. With the bases loaded and one out, Emily Allard hit a ground ball to second base, with Zymkowitz's throw home off the mark. Illinois catcher Audrey Gallien and Northwestern runner Kristin Scharkey collided at home plate as Gallien extended to attempt to field the throw. As the ball reached the backstop, Mari Majam raced home from third after moving up one base from second when the ball was put in play.
Illinois (21-20, 8-7) responded immediately with three runs on two home runs to stake the Orange and Blue to a 3-2 advantage. Pinchback placed a solo home run over the center field fence to cut the deficit in half, the Katy, Texas, native's sixth homer of the season. After Meredith Hackett connected for a single and was replaced with pinch runner Nikki Simpson, Kelley Wedel followed two batters later with a two-run shot off the scoreboard in left-center field to take the lead, 3-2.
"I wanted to be aggressive at the plate and not get too deep into counts," Pinchback said. "I was just looking for that first strike."
Northwestern grabbed two more runs in the top of the fourth to re-take the lead, 4-3. Paige Tonz scored from third base on a wild pitch to tie the contest and Allard reached home safely on a groundout to stake the Wildcats to a one-run advantage.
Down to their final three outs, the Illini completed the comeback with Zymkowitz singling back up the middle, off the glove of Allard and into center field, to lead off the inning. Pinchback followed with her seventh homer of the season and 27th of her career on a pitch located on the inside part of the plate to send the Illini to their 21st victory of the year.
"I like that we were able to come from behind," Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan said. "Throughout the season we have been in the situation and it hasn't gone our way, but in the seventh inning we played for the win. After taking the lead [in the third inning], Northwestern came back and re-took the lead [in the fourth inning] and that can get you down. The team showed they have matured and they were aggressive at the plate."
Jackie Guy started in the circle for the Illini, throwing three and 2/3 innings while giving up four runs, two earned, on three hits and six walks. Pepper Gay took to the circle in relief of Guy, holding the Wildcats to two hits and two walks over three and 1/3 innings to earn her 15th win on the year.
Up Next: The Illini wrap up their weekend series against Northwestern with a 2 p.m. CT game at Eichelberger Field on Sunday, May 1. The contest will be broadcast online through Big Ten Student U.