Illini Keep Streak Alive with Extra-Innings Thriller

Brittany Sanchez went 2-for-4 with an RBI against SIU.
Brittany Sanchez went 2-for-4 with an RBI against SIU.

May 1, 2013

Box Score

Carbondale, Ill. - It wasn't easy, but the Illinois softball team left Carbondale this evening with its ninth-straight victory. In a game characterized most by missed opportunities, as both teams combined to leave a total of 23 runners on base, the Fighting Illini defeated in-state foe Southern Illinois, 4-2, in eight innings to keep the streak alive. The nine-game winning streak is tied for the fifth longest in school history, and marks the most consecutive wins for an Illini squad since 2010. With the win, Illinois records its 13th-straight 20-win season, improving to 20-25 on the year, while the Salukis drop to 24-26.

"This was a hard-fought extra-inning game against a tough SIU team," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "We continue to have people step up and do some key little things to help us win. Crash (Katie) and (San)Chez had critical sacrifice flies, and Jami made a tough play look easy to end the game. Kylie gave us a big bases-loaded RBI and JD got on base to get things going with smart at bats.

"Pepper just got stronger as the game went on and had a huge strikeout in the seventh. SIU had the tying run on in the eighth and she refused to give in to the last batter of the game.

"Our Illini softball players love challenges."

Every member of the Fighting Illini lineup contributed offensively, led by Brittany Sanchez, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Jessica Davis walked twice and scored both times, and Kylie Johnson drove in the game-winning RBI. Reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week Allie Bauch went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored, and Alex Booker was 2-for-5 with a double.

Pepper Gay hurled her second extra-inning complete game of the year, allowing five hits and seven walks, striking out five in 8.0 innings.

Brittney Lang tossed seven innings in the circle for Southern, allowing all four runs, two earned, on eight hits and four walks, striking out six. Katie Bertelsen came in with two runners on in the eighth, allowing both to score on a fielder's choice, a walk and a sacrifice fly in 1.0 IP.

Five different Salukis collected a hit, with Jayna Spivey and Kelsey Gonzalez scoring their runs. Kelsea Ashton and Meredith Wilson collected SIU's two RBI.

The Salukis got a free run in the first without having to put the ball in play, as three walks and a hit batter drove in the first run of the game. Gay then got Bradley to chase a pitch out of the zone for strike three to end the inning without any further damage.

The Illini snatched the lead in the top of the second, getting it started with a leadoff walk by Davis. Bauch singled up the middle to make it first and third, and the pair executed a successful double steal for the first Illinois run of the game. Jenna Mychko kept it going with a single to left, then Katie Repole gave the Illini their first lead of the game with a sacrifice fly.

Illinois did not lead for longer, however, as Gonzalez led off the bottom of the second with a walk. Glenn laid down a successful sacrifice, then Kelsea Ashton came through with a clutch two-out RBI single to left center, tying the score at two.

Booker doubled down the leftfield line to start the third inning. Jess Perkins followed with a single to right and advanced to second after the throw went home. However, Lang struck out Remeny Perez then snagged a comebacker to hold Booker on third, and after walking Bauch to load the bases, Lang got Mychko to pop out and keep Illinois from retaking the lead.

The remainder of regulation continued as such, as the teams combined to leave 19 runners on base through the first seven innings, neither team plating a run after the second inning.

However, Illinois turned the tables in the top of the eighth. In a repeat of the second inning, Davis led off with a walk. Bauch hit a low hard liner at the third baseman who knocked it down but struggled to pick it up quickly, and both runners reached safely. Mychko attempted a bunt but popped it up; the catcher did not come up with it, but Mychko was called out for interference. Jami Schkade followed, making her first plate appearance of the game, and loaded the bases with a full count walk. Johnson then came up with the first RBI in six innings for the Illini, on a ball to second base. The second went for the tag as Schkade ran by but wasn't in time as Davis scored and the bases remained loaded. Sanchez tacked on a key insurance run with a sacrifice fly, as the Illini headed to the bottom of the eighth holding a 4-2 advantage.

Gay got Bradley to fly out to left for the first out, but Gonzalez singled to left for a one out baserunner. Glenn went for the sacrifice bunt, but beat it out for a single, allowing the winning run to come to the plate.  Barchan flew out to left, then brought Kelsea Ashton into the batter's box representing the Salukis' last hope. Gay quickly was ahead in the count 0-2, but Ashton battled and battled at the plate, forcing Gay to throw 16 pitches before the senior hurler finally got Ashton to put the ball in play, grounding to second for the final out of the game, as the Illini earned their ninth-straight victory, 4-2.

Illinois returns home this weekend to host Ohio State in the final series of the regular season. The series opens at 6 p.m. on Friday. Saturday will be Illinois' 10th-annual World's Largest Softball Tailgate, with a game time of 2 p.m., and the Illini will close out the regular season with Senior Day at 1 p.m. on Sunday. All three games will be broadcast online by the Big Ten Digital Network, with Friday and Saturday gracing the radio waves on WDWS 1400 AM.