Illinois goes long Hall in upset of No. 18 Iowa
May 8, 2005
Iowa City, Iowa - Illinois presented all of its team awards except for one at last week's banquet. Illini coaches wanted to wait until the final weekend to present the team's Slugger Award as it was too close to call. After home runs in each of the last two games of the season, Jenna Hall was presented with team's Slugger Award following the season finale at Iowa. Hall's second-inning grand slam highlighted an 8-7 victory at No. 18 Iowa in the season finale.
Hall's home run was her ninth of the season and in the process moved her RBI total to 43 in 50 games, breaking the school's single-season mark which was 40 (held previously by Erin Montgomery in 2003). Hall was walked twice today giving her 36 for the season, which is also a new record.
"With all the walks, Jenna Hall doesn't always get the opportunity to show her skills at the plate," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "It's a sign of a great, mature hitter who can come through when she is given that opportunity."
Illinois finishes its season at 24-26, 4-14 in the Big Ten, and although they won't be going to the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in school history, the Illini are playing some competitive softball down the stretch. Illinois finishes the year winners of six of its last nine games. The win over Iowa (46-11, 12-6) also marked the third ranked team that the Illini have beaten in 2005, joining No. 5 LSU and No. 20 Northwestern.
At the heart of the improvement has been the shoring up of the defense as the Illini made just one error on the weekend and none on Sunday. The Illini turned two inning-ending double plays and three on the weekend. Instead Illinois watched Iowa commit four errors in the first two innings as the Illini scored four runs in the first and four in the second. Those four errors came in the span of five plays.
Illinois jumped on the Hawkeyes for four runs in the first inning. Rachelle Coriddi and LeeAnn Butcher each singled and stole a base before Hall was walked intentionally. Shanna Diller drove home Coriddi with a sacrifice fly. One out later Molly Lawhead singled between shortstop and the second base bag scoring Butcher and advancing to third on a throw. Both pinch runner Katie Gaitros and Lawhead scored on an error on the next play, making it 4-0 Illinois.
Iowa chipped away at the lead, scoring two runs in the third, but the Illini's defense, which included two tough catches from second baseman Molly Lawhead helped reliever Mary Miller, who was strong in innings four, five and six. Miller (15-10) retired six of the first seven batters she faced.
Iowa, one of the top hitting teams in the league, nearly spoiled the day for Illinois, scoring five runs in the top of the seventh before leaving the potential game-tying and winning runs in scoring position. Kylie Murray and Mindy Heiderken each drove home two runs in the rally. Claire DeVreese came in to pitch in relief of Miller and got the final hitter to roll out to Hall for the final out to record her fourth save of the year.
As far as the end of the season, Sullivan concluded, "In a season of ups and downs, we lost nine one-run games, so we've learned the margin between winning and losing isn't that much. The work for next year will start right away. We know that in order to improve you have to out-work your opponents during the off-season."