Illini Softball Earns Crucial Sweep of Iowa, 8-2 and 6-2
May 4, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa. - The Illinois Softball team used a balanced offense and complete game pitching performances from Jackie Guy and Pepper Gay to leave the University of Iowa with a doubleheader sweep of the Hawkeyes, 8-2 and 6-2. Danielle Zymkowitz finished the two-game slate with six hits in eight at bats (.750), driving in five runs and scoring four more. Guy and Gay finished with identical 2.00 ERAs on the day, allowing two runs each while throwing a combined 14 innings. With the victories, Illinois improves to 24-20 overall and 11-7 in the Big Ten, further solidifying their hold on the third spot in conference standings.
"We put together one of, if not, our best doubleheader of the year," Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan said. "We had two complete games from our pitching staff and they pitched strong all day. Jackie [Guy] and Pepper [Gay] threw aggressively and stayed focused on each pitch, possibly the best pitch-by-pitch performances we have had this season. Our defense was solid, the outfielders were running aggressively and getting good reads on fly balls, while the infield made the routine plays they needed to. Offensively, we came out and jumped on each of Iowa's pitchers and that was good to see as well."
Game One: Illinois 8, Iowa 2
"She is being a terrific lead," said Sullivan of Zymkowitz's performance this season. "She is such a competitor and really is stepping up for the team. Danielle is leading them and they feed off of her performances. She does something every game that catches the eyes of softball fans and excites the crowd. Today it was the inside-the-park home run. "
Zymkowitz led off the contest with a single to third base before Hollie Pinchback moved Zymkowitz into scoring position with a walk. Meredith Hackett reached on a fielder's choice, with Pinchback retired at second and Zymkowitz moving to third, to put runners on the corners and one out. Nikki Simpson pinch ran for Hackett at first base and improved to 9-for-9 on stolen bases attempts to put both runners into scoring position for Jessica Davis. Davis immediately followed with a single to center field, scoring both runners for a first inning lead, 2-0.
In the second frame, Illinois plated another run to extend its advantage to 3-0. Audrey Gallien walked for the fifth time in her last three contests before moving to second on an Ashley Conrad sacrifice bunt. After Laura Tarnawa substituted into the game as a pinch runner at second for Gallien, Zymkowitz doubled to left-center field to earn her 19th RBI on the season.
The Orange and Blue padded the lead with three more runs in the top of the fourth frame to open a commanding six run advantage. Conrad reached on an infield single with one out before Zymkowitz singled to left field, with Conrad advancing to third and Zymkowitz to second on the throw back into the infield. Pinchback singled down the right field line as the next batter, scoring both runners to extend the lead to five. Hackett reached on another fielder's choice before Davis drilled an RBI-double to right-center field, putting Illinois ahead, 6-0.
The Hawkeyes recorded their first hit of the contest with two outs in the fourth inning when Johnnie Dowling homered to left field and scored one more run in the fifth on an Ashley Akers RBI-double.
In the sixth frame, Zymkowitz led off with a walk before promptly stealing her 19th base of the season, putting her alone in first place in program history for career stolen bases with 88. Rachelle Coriddi held the previous Illinois-best with 87 during her four year with the Orange and Blue.
The Illini reach the final score, 8-2, when Zymkowitz hit her first homer of the season after Vivi Castellanos reached base with her first collegiate hit - a single up the middle.
"Vivi [Castellanos] definitely earned her first start as the designated player for the second game," Sullivan said. "She is a coachable kid that has waited patiently for this opportunity and she made something of it. I was impressed with her single and with her composure at the plate. She didn't swing for fences and drew two walks as a result. She earned the chance and made the most of the opportunity."
Guy pitched a complete game for the Illini, holding Iowa to two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out three to earn her seventh win of the season.
Game Two: Illinois 6, Iowa, 2
Iowa tallied the first run of the contest, with Liz Watkins drawing a bases-loaded walk to break the scoreless tie. Gay bounced back immediately, with a strikeout of Michelle Zoeller looking on three pitches to end the threat.
The Orange and Blue offense continued to connect against Iowa's pitching staff, earning four runs in the second inning to stake Gay to a 4-1 lead. Stephanie Cuevas tied the contest with an RBI-single to center field and Zymkowitz followed two batters later with a two-run single to earn a 3-1 advantage. Illinois scored the final run on a wild pitch by Chelsea Lyon, with Conrad racing home from third base to plate the fourth Illini run.
Iowa cut into the deficit in the third, with Katie Keim hitting a solo home run to left field to decrease the Illini lead to 4-2.
The Illini responded immediately, plating two more runs in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Zymkowitz singled to shortstop and Pinchback reached on a fielding error, while Zymkowitz advanced to third and Pinchback to second on the play. The error proved costly as Davis followed with a full-count, two-run double to center field reach the final score, 6-2.
Up Next: Illinois will host DePaul (35-11, 17-1 BIG EAST) for one contest on Eichelberger Field on Thursday, May 5 at 4 p.m. before hosting Western Illinois (19-23, 14-10 Summit) on Saturday, May 7 for World's Largest Softball Tailgate as well as Senior Day. First pitch for game one of Saturday's doubleheader will be at 1:00 p.m. CT while game two is set to start approximately 20 minutes after the completion of the initial match up.