Illinois splits with Gophers, finishes weekend 3-1

Elene Planinsek was 3-for-5 against Minnesota on Sunday as Illinois split with the Golden Gophers.
Elene Planinsek was 3-for-5 against Minnesota on Sunday as Illinois split with the Golden Gophers.

May 2, 2004

Game One Box Score

Game Two Box Score

Minneapolis, Minn. - The Illini have been road warriors this year, especially in Big Ten play. Sunday Illinois took the first game of a doubleheader from Minnesota, winning 8-0 in five innings. But Minnesota hurler Piper Marten battled back in the second game and threw a three-hitter, defeating Illinois 3-1. The Illini finish Big Ten road play with a 7-1 record and now hold a 12-4 mark playing on an opponent's field. Illinois is now 37-18-1 heading into the final Big Ten weekend.

In addition to Illinois' road Big Ten winning streak being snapped, Amanda Fortune lost her string of consecutive innings without allowing an earned run in Big Ten play. Fortune had gone 35 straight frames without giving up an earned run before Megan Higginbotham hit a solo homer in the sixth inning of the second game Sunday.

Minnesota pitcher Piper Marten was coming off throwing a no-hitter against Iowa on Friday. Sunday in the first game of the doubleheader, the Illini made sure that Marten wouldn't duplicate the feat, producing a two-out, three-run rally in the first inning. Marten made it through just an inning and a third, giving up four runs and four hits.

Illinois had 12 hits in the game, giving the Illini 25 hits in the last two games. Rachelle Coriddi (2-for-4, RBI), Lindsey Hamma (2-for-3, walk, 2 RBI), Erin Montgomery (2-for-4, run, RBI), and Elene Planinsek (2-for-3, RBI) all had multiple-hit games. Illinois was 10-for-15 with two outs in the game.

Jenna Hall started things off in the first with a double to the left-center field fence. Hamma singled to center, scoring pinch runner Laura Zobrist. Erin Montgomery tagged Marten with a double to the gap, scoring Hamma. Elene Planinsek singled to right field as Hamma crossed the plate making it 3-0.

The Illini added a run without the benefit of a hit in the second inning, scoring on an error, a dropped third strike, and a pair of walks. Lindsey Hamma drove in her fifth run of the week with a bases loaded walk to make it 4-0.

Lyn Peyer relieved Marten in the second and struck out seven Illini in her 3.2 innings of work, but. the Illini added four runs in the fifth inning to win by the mercy rule. Katie O'Connell and Erin Jones each doubled and scored in the inning. Coriddi, Jones, and Montgomery each drove in runs on infield singles. The Illini scored another run on an error.

Illinois stumbled offensively in Sunday's second game after consecutive games with double-digit hits.

Rachelle Coriddi continued her late-season surge by leading off the fourth inning of the second game with a bunt single. Erin Jones then reached on an error by the third baseman, moving Coriddi to second. Jenna Hall followed by shooting a double to left field that scored Coriddi and advanced Jones to third. But the Illini faltered after Lindsey Hamma walked to load the bases, lining into a double play and grounding out to end the inning.

Sherri Taylor then ran into trouble in the fifth after cruising through the first four frames. Taylor walked the leadoff batter then allowed a triple and a single that gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead.

Minnesota ace Piper Marten, whom the Illini battered in the first game, showed how good she can be in the second contest by shutting down Illinois. Marten allowed only one hit in the last three frames and threw a complete-game three hitter with eight strikeouts and three walks in all.

"I knew Marten would come out with a little bit of vengeance in the second game," Illinois coach Terri Sullivan said. "She's always been one of the best pitchers in the conference and we didn't get to her early."

Sherri Taylor, who pitched a complete game in Illinois' 10-inning win at Wisconsin Saturday, went 4 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on three hits. Amanda Fortune, who has been stellar in conference play of late, gave up her first earned run in 36 innings when Megan Higginbotham homered to left-center in the sixth inning to make the final margin 3-1.

Fortune threw three complete games and two shutouts in the past week, posting a 0.85 ERA in 24.2 innings. She struck out 17 and walked only two batters while give Taylor also had a complete-game shutout, winning 1-0 at Wisconsin Saturday while allowing six hits, striking out seven and walking one.

As a pitching staff, Illinois had a 1.11 ERA and allowed opponents to hit only .213. Conversely, the Illini's opponents posted a 2.54 ERA and gave up a .280 batting average to Illinois.

"Both Amanda and Sherri pitched well over the weekend," Sullivan said. "Sherri had one of her best outings of the year against Wisconsin. Amanda has been a great leader and the way she's been pitching is what you want to see from your pitchers this time of year. Our defense has been a big part of the shutouts as well."

The Illini came alive offensively on the road, collecting 30 hits in four games. It was the most offense Illinois has cranked out since the Purdue-Indiana road trip April 9-11.

"Hitting's contagious and if you have a couple people to ignite the offense it tends to set the tone for the game. We're just seeing the ball well and being aggressive at the plate.

Illinois often found that spark at the top of the order this weekend, as its first three hitters - Rachelle Coriddi, Erin Jones and Jenna Hall - combined to go 11-for-32 with five runs, four RBI, five walks and four sacrifices.

Illinois now sits alone in third place in the Big Ten at 12-6, one game ahead of Northwestern. The Illini are two games behind second-place Iowa, who is 14-4 in Big Ten play. Michigan clinched the regular season Big Ten title with an extra-inning victory against Northwestern Sunday, finishing the conference season 17-3. The Hawkeyes visit Eichelberger Field next weekend for noon games on Saturday and Sunday.