Illini Win 10th Straight with Come-From-Behind Heroics
May 3, 2013
Urbana, Ill. - The University of Illinois captured its 10th consecutive victory tonight, with late inning magic and a bit of good luck. After falling behind 4-0 midway through the fourth, the Fighting Illini clawed their way back into the game, scoring six unanswered runs to defeat Ohio State, 6-4. The win pushes Illinois ahead of OSU and into sole control of sixth place in the Big Ten standings, sitting at 21-25 (10-11 Big Ten). With the loss, Ohio State drops to 32-20 (9-12 Big Ten).
Freshman Katie Repole went 2-for-3 with the game-winning RBI -- on a strikeout. Nothing characterizes this game better than that.
Ohio State scored the first run of the game without registering a hit.
Alex DiDomenico struck out the first seven batters of the game, then allowed the Illini to score their first run without needing a hit.
There were only two RBI base hits in the game that left the infield, a three-run homer by Cammi Prantl and a two-run single by Jess Perkins. Three runs were scored on walks, wild pitches and an RBI strikeout.
But how you score isn't important, all that matters is the final score, and tonight it was the Illini that came out on top, 6-4.
"You hear coaches talk about `team wins' a lot," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "I really don't think there could be a better one that fits that description than tonight's come-from-behind win. Again, the little things that our team is doing are so significant.
"Crash (Repole) getting our offense believing with the first hit of the game, and her hustling down to first on the K allowing Allie to use that great athleticism to score. Kylie got another clutch RBI for us, and Perk and Rem teamed up for a big defensive play in the seventh. Mychko put down a perfect sac late in the game as well.
"Once again, Pepper got stronger, tougher as the game went on, but early on baring down and allowing only one run to score in a sloppy inning for us was big."
Kylie Johson had another solid outing at the plate, going 2-for-4 with an RBI, a stolen base and a run scored. Jess Perkins was 1-for-2 with two RBI and Alex Booker walked and scored two runs. Allie Bauch singled and scored the go-ahead run in the sixth, while Katie Repole got the first Illini hit of the game, after the Illini started with seven strikeouts and a foul pop up, finishing the night with two hits and the game-winning RBI.
Cammi Prantl practically did it all herself for the Buckeyes, going 2-for-2 with two walks, two runs and a three-run homer at the top of the order.
The Buckeyes opened the scoring in the top of the third, tabbing an unearned run on a few Illini miscues. Prantl walked on full count to lead off the inning, then Watkins laid down a well-placed sacrifice bunt. Remeny Perez got to it but rushed the throw and skied it into right, allowing the runners to land safely on second and third with nobody out. McIntyre worked another full count walk, and a wild pitch sent Prantl across the plate. Jami Schkade then made a perfect throw home on a grounder to second to get Watkins, and Gay struck out Pickett for the key second out. Rennie then flied out to left to end the inning with just the one unearned run.
Ohio State added to its lead in the top of the fourth on a three-run homer by Prantl, the first long ball of the freshman's career. Gresham led off with a walk, then Coletta hit a blooper down the leftfield line. Booker robbed the third baseman of a hit, firing to second to get pinch runner Saibene on the force out. Conrad followed with a bunt single, then Prantl drove a three-run shot well over the fence in right to make it 4-0 Buckeyes.
The Illini got on the board in the bottom of the fourth without needing a hit. Booker extended her on-base streak to 15 games with a full count walk, then Perkins was hit by a pitch for the 11th time this season. The pair advanced on a wild pitch, then Perez worked the count for a walk. A patient Jessica Davis then recorded her 97th career RBI with another walk. However, the Illini were unable to get more than one, as Bauch grounded into a fielder's choice, with the shortstop getting the force out at home, then Mychko struck out to end the inning.
A big two-out hit by Perkins in the bottom of the fifth made it a one-run game. Repole and Johnson started the inning with back-to-back singles. The pair moved up on a passed ball, then Booker grounded into a fielder's choice, which caught Repole in a rundown between third and home. However, a heads-up Booker took second on the play to return the bases to second and third. Perkins then drove a clutch, two-run single to left to bring the Illini within one, 4-3.
Illinois took the lead in the bottom of the sixth with the help of three Ohio State errors and the rare RBI strikeout for Katie Repole. Davis led off with a slow roller to short and in what would have been an extremely close play at first, the senior was safe due to an errant throw by McIntyre. Bauch slammed a single up the middle, then Jenna Mychko went for the sacrifice bunt. Coletta made an on-time throw from third but pulled second baseman Pickett a little off the bag, who missed the throw altogether as it went into right, allowing Davis to come around and score the tying run, while Mychko went all the way to second. On a 2-2 pitch, Repole swung at a ball in the dirt, forcing the catcher to throw down to first to complete the strikeout; Bauch took off from third the instant the ball left Rennie's hand, coming in to score the go-ahead run. Johnson gave the Illini an insurance run with an RBI single, giving the Orange and Blue a 6-4 lead to protect heading into the seventh.
Pitching with a lead for the first time in the game, Gay retired all three batters she faced in the top of the seventh to secure the 10th-straight victory for Illinois by a final score of 6-4.
Gay posted her 70th career win on the night, allowing four runs, three earned, on five hits and six walks, striking out four in the complete seven innings. Alex DiDomenico, who struck out the first seven batters of the game, struggled to protect the Buckeye lead late in the game, allowing five runs, two earned, on five hits and three walks in 5.0+ innings, striking out 10 batters. Melanie Nichols entered the game with a one-run lead and two inherited runners, allowing both to score and giving up one run of her own on one hit in the final 1.0 IP, striking out two of five batters faced.
The Illini and Buckeyes are back in action on Saturday, May 4, for game two of the three-game series, with first pitch slated for 2 p.m. Prior to the game the Illini will host the 10th-annual World's Largest Softball Tailgate, featuring food, music, inflatable games, pony rides, and other Kentucky Derby themed activities, with the fun beginning at 11 a.m.