Illini Sweep Doubleheader During World's Largest Softball Tailgate
May 7, 2011
URBANA, Ill. - With around 1,000 fans coming out for World's Largest Softball Tailgate at Eichelberger Field, the Illini swept a doubleheader with Western Illinois, 3-2 and 2-0. Pepper Gay was masterful in the circle against the Lethernecks, holding Western Illinois to two hits over 11 and 2/3 innings of work to earn the win in each contest. Jessica Davis finished the day 3-for-4, including a homer, with two RBIs, two runs scored and a walk. Ashley Conrad connected for two doubles and scored the winning run in the first contest.
"The seniors have a lot of pride in being an Illini and wearing the jersey they wear so this was their intent," said Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan on sweeping Western Illinois. "We were thrilled with the crowd coming out today, having that environment for this really special group of seniors, and the team got the job done. Jessica [Davis] carried us offensively and we executed plays very well. The key was our execution, while Pepper [Gay] was outstanding in relief [during the first game] and kept it going in the second game as well."
Game One: Illinois 3, Western Illinois 2
Three runs over a two inning span secured the Illini the win in game one, with Gay and Jackie Guy combining in the circle to hold Western Illinois to four hits and two walks while teaming for eight strikeouts. Davis earned the only multi-hit performance of the game, going 2-for-3 with two singles and a run scored. Western Illinois tallied two runs in the first inning to jump out to a two-run advantage through the top of the first. Erin Schlotfeldt doubled in Jamie Goss to break the scoreless tie before Beth Golitko singled Goss in to double the Leatherneck lead.
Illinois responded in the second frame with two tallies to tie the contest at 2-2. Davis led off the inning with single into left field and raced home two batters later when Danielle Vaji tripled down the left field line to cut the deficit in half. Audrey Gallien followed with a sacrifice fly out to center field to even the score at 2-2.
The Illini added the final run of the game in the following frame to earn the lead for the first time in the contest. Conrad doubled down the right field line as the leadoff batter in the inning and advanced to third on a ground out by Danielle Zymkowitz. Two batters later, Meredith Hackett singled to left-center field to bring Conrad home and give the Orange and Blue a one-run lead.
Guy started in the circle for the Illini, throwing two innings while allowing two runs on four hits and two walks. Gay took over the pitching duties two batters into the third inning, throwing four and 2/3 innings of hitless softball, only allowing one walk while striking out six Leathernecks.
"She pitched aggressively and had her mind set on what she needed to do," Sullivan said of Gay's work in the circle. "There is no better time of the year to have your pitchers at their best and Pepper and Jackie [Guy] are doing just that while also using the defense behind them."
Game Two: Illinois 2, Western Illinois 0
Illinois completed the sweep behind another strong performance from Gay, who held Western Illinois (19-27 overall, 14-10 Summit) to two hits while setting down seven on strikes. With the second victory, Gay improves to 19-13 on the season and 35-14 for her career.
Davis opened scoring in the second frame with a solo home run over the left-center field fence, her 14th of the season. With the homer, the Zephyrhills, Fla., native moves into sole possession of the sixth spot on the all-time seasonal records list for home runs in a year.
The Illini (26-11, 11-7 Big Ten) doubled their lead in the sixth, with Davis again provided the run-scoring at bat. Pinchback singled to second base to lead off the inning and was replaced by pinch runner Alex Booker at first. Hackett followed with her second single of the day, with Booker using her agility to go all the way to third base on the hit. In the following at bat, Davis drove a pitch to deep right field, easily scoring Booker from third to take a 2-0 advantage.
"The second run we scored in the second game was a result of great base running by Alex [Booker] going from first to third," Sullivan said. "It is another one of those little things you need to have going at this time of year."
Up Next: The Orange and Blue head to Minnesota to face the Gophers at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium for their final regular season contests. The first game on Friday, May 13 at 6:00 p.m. CT will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network while the second game will occur at 1:00 p.m. CT on Saturday, May 14.