Shortstop Ashley Conrad went 3-for-3, including a home run, in Illinois' 5-4 win over Minnesota.
May 2, 2009
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Shortstop Ashley Conrad's 3-for-3 day led the Illinois softball team to a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers (23-29, 6-11 Big Ten) on a pleasant afternoon at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. Conrad delivered her fourth home run of the season and scored two runs in the contest.
"This was one of our best games in terms of our team sticking with the game plan and focusing on each half inning, both offensively and defensively," Illini head coach Terri Sullivan. "When Minnesota had the momentum, we were able to steal it away and a lot of that was due to Ashley's performance. She was key in helping swing the momentum our way."
The Illini (28-15, 11-7 Big Ten) took an early lead after second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz reached on an error to lead off the game and designated player Katrina Ross drove her home with a single up the middle. Zymkowitz has now reached base in 40 of 43 contests this season and crossed the plate in five straight games.
Illinois tacked on another run in the third thanks to third baseman Kelley Wedel's RBI-single. Centerfielder Jamie Adishian and leftfielder Hollie Pinchback knocked back-to-back singles and Ross followed with a walk to load the bases before Wedel delivered a gapper to left-center to make it 2-0.
Conrad made it 3-0 when she launched a 3-2 pitch over the rightfield wall.
"She had a complete ballgame," Sullivan said. "We challenged the team earlier this week about who wants to be a leader that gives everything. Ashley looked for her pitch against the leading strikeout pitcher in the nation, so she was really a leader in keeping momentum on our side."
Illinois starter Monica Perry (23-13) and the Illini defense retired six in a row through the second and third before the Gophers put up a pair of runs in the fourth to cut Illinois' lead to one. Minnesota loaded the bases and scored on a sacrifice fly, then used a dropped fly ball to put another run across.
The Gophers tied the game at three in the fifth, using a pair of base-hits and wild pitch to put a run across.
The Orange and Blue regained the lead in the sixth thanks to a walk and RBI-groundout. Conrad led off the inning with a double, then an infield single from Zymkowitz and fielder's choice from Adishian loaded the bases. Pinchback took a walk to plate a run, then Wedel's grounder to short added another to make it 5-3.
Minnesota threatened in the bottom of the seventh, scoring a run on three singles to inch within one of the Illini. With a runner at third and two outs, Wedel stabbed a liner in foul territory for the final out and the 5-4 win.
Perry finished the game with five strikeouts, walking just one and allowing three earned runs on 10 hits. Illinois picked up 10 walks from Gopher starter Briana Hassett (22-22), the leading strikeout pitcher in the nation.
The two teams square off in the series finale on Sunday at 1 p.m. It marks the final game of the regular season for the Illini.