Softball Earns Series Finale Victory Over Northwestern, 5-3
May 1, 2011
URBANA, Ill. - Illinois Softball claimed its third consecutive series sweep of the Northwestern Wildcats on Sunday afternoon, taking the weekend finale, 5-3. Hollie Pinchback slugged her third homer in the past two contests as part of a 4-for-7, 5 RBI match up with the Wildcats' staff over both games.
"We were hoping to do that, bring the momentum into today's game," Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan said. "You always have to be ready for the team you play to be at their best and even better than they performed the day before. We really expected Northwestern to come out fired up with a lot of energy. They have a terrific offense and what might have kept them off balance were the walks issued and the deep counts, which can make it difficult to get into an offensive rhythm. I was pleased that Jackie [Guy] and Pepper [Gay] worked together and threw quality pitches under pressure to get the win for us."
The Orange and Blue (22-20 overall, 9-7 Big Ten) opened scoring with a two-run opening inning. Meredith Hackett reached on a fielder's choice to put a runner on first with two outs before Jessica Davis doubled the Corona, Calif., native to third. Kelley Wedel followed Davis with a two-RBI single through the right side of the infield to earn the two-run advantage.
Northwestern (22-15, 4-8) answered with one tally in the top of the third inning to cut the Illinois lead in half. Michelle Batts was issued a bases-loaded walk to plate the run; however, Illinois starting pitcher Pepper Gay worked out of the jam to hold the lead for the Illini. After Batts' walk, Marisa Bast popped up to Wedel and Gay struck out Meghan Lamberth to end the threat.
Illinois responded with two more runs in the bottom of the third to take a 4-1 advantage. Danielle Zymkowitz led off the frame with a single up the middle before Pinchback slugged her third homer of the series, sending the final pitch of Lamberth's afternoon in the circle over the center field fence.
"I am really proud that Hollie stepped up to do that [hit three home runs in one weekend]," Sullivan said. "She hasn't been as aggressive as she wanted to be and had been down about that. She felt she let her team down but every great hitter knows that you are only as good at your next at bat. Hollie decided to be aggressive and got the job done. She really got the momentum on our side both games this weekend."
Northwestern scored twice in the fifth to pull within one run, using a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly to plate the runners. However, the Illini padded their lead in the bottom of the frame with another run to take a 5-3 lead into the sixth. Davis singled before Jackie Guy and Audrey Gallien walked to load the bases with one out. With Ashley Conrad up to bat following Gallien's walk, Northwestern's Sammy Albanese tossed a wild pitch, with Davis hustling home and sliding under the tag attempt for the final run of the contest.
Pepper Gay started in the circle for Illinois and threw four innings, with only one of the three runs allowed being earned. Guy came in as a reliever in the fifth frame, earning her first save of the season with three scoreless innings of relief, only allowing one hit and three walks on the day.
Up Next: The Illini head to Iowa (26-21, 8-8) for a doubleheader slated for Wednesday, May 4. First pitch in game one is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT while the series finale will begin approximately 20 minutes after the completion of the first game. Illinois will follow with one contest against DePaul (34-11, 17-1 BIG EAST) on Eichelberger Field at 4 p.m. CT on Thursday, May 5.