Extra Base Hits Seal Series Sweep
May 4, 2014
University Park, Pa. – The University of Illinois finished out the 2014 regular season in style with a 6-1 victory over Penn State to complete the Big Ten series sweep. Every Illini contributed offensively, as the Orange and Blue collected six extra-base hits, including two home runs, to back another strong start by Brandi Needham in the circle. After taking on the most difficult schedule in the Big Ten, Illinois finishes the regular season in ninth place with a record of 23-25 (7-16 Big Ten), with the expectation of meeting #8 Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Meanwhile, Penn State closes the year on an 11-game losing streak, falling to 14-34 (5-18 Big Ten).
“Our team came into the weekend very focused on earning a sweep and took care of that by staying aggressive,” said Head Coach Terri Sullivan, who returned to the helm on Sunday after a two-game suspension. “Today it was Ruby who got us on the board first; that first run is always big for momentum, and Sanchez got us a big RBI after Booker’s double. Allie was just great on the weekend, and Bee continues to get better and better in the circle with the strong leadership of Mychko behind the plate.”
Seven different Illini posted a hit in the game, led by Brittany Sanchez, who hit a pair of doubles with an RBI, and Jenna Mychko, who singled and doubled. Fellow-senior Alex Booker doubled and scored in the sixth, and Ruby Rivera and Allie Bauch hit home runs to bookend the Illini scoring, including a three-run blast by Bauch to seal the win in the seventh. Nicole Evans singled and scored on Bauch’s homer, and Kylie Johnson tabbed Illinois’ remaining hit. Remeny Perez picked up an important early RBI, and Jess Perkins and pinch runner Alyssa Gunther both scored runs.
Brandi Needham (16-14) hurled her second complete-game victory of the weekend, limiting Penn State to just one run, a solo homer, on four hits and a walk with two strikeouts. Marlaina Laubach (9-17) went the distance for PSU, allowing six runs, five earned, on nine hits and a walk with one strikeout over the full seven.
Despite the loss, Penn State’s seniors left their mark in their final game at Beard Field, led by Kasie Hatfield, who walked and hit the solo home run. Liz Presto went 1-for-2 with a double and a sacrifice bunt, and Alyssa Sovereign picked up a hit in the bottom of the seventh. Freshman Shelby Miller was the only other Nittany Lion to reach base, getting her team’s first hit of the game in the third.
The Illini opened the scoring in the top of the second with the fifth long ball of the series, as Rivera crushed a solo homer to straightaway center. Sanchez missed making it back to back by about an inch, hitting a double off the top of the wall, and Mychko made it first and third with a single to center. Pinch runner Alyssa Gunther stole second. Sanchez broke for home but was thrown out at the plate, however Gunther used heads up running to advance to third, and Perez then drove her in with an RBI ground out to make it 2-0 Illini.
Needham allowed just three baserunners over the first five innings, and Illinois added some insurance in the top of the sixth. Booker kicked off the inning with a double down the right field line, and Sanchez doubled off the wall for the second time to drive her in.
Penn State replied in the bottom half, as Hatfield drilled a solo home run to center.
Perkins got the Illini going in the top of the seventh, hustling down to first to beat a high throw by the shortstop, and Evans followed with single to left. Bauch then crushed her third home run in as many games to double the Illini’s run total and solidify the win with a final score of 6-1.
Next Up: Illinois heads to the Big Ten Tournament on May 8-10, hosted by Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Official seeds and pairings, along with the complete bracket, will be announced Monday. Illinois expects to face Iowa in the opening round on Thursday, with the winner going on to face the No. 1 seed, which should be either Michigan or Nebraska. At 23-25 on the year, Illinois is not eligible for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but seeks the conference’s automatic bid with a sweep through the tournament.