Illini take "second" helping of Hawkeye
May 9, 2004
Urbana, Ill. - Illinois completed a storybook weekend Sunday at Eichelberger Field. The Illini entered the weekend needing two victories over Iowa to tie the Hawkeyes for second place in the Big Ten and earn the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament via the head-to-head tiebreaker. Sunday the Illini completed the two-game sweep of Iowa with a 5-2 victory over Iowa in front of 638 spectators at Eichelberger Field. For the season, the Illini drew 7296 fans in 14 dates including the exhibition with Parkland on Wednesday.
"You couldn't write a better script for Senior Weekend," said Illini Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "The players on this team have a lot of character and are peaking at the right time of the year."
Indeed, Illinois (39-18-1) completed the regular season winners of seven of its final eight games and 15 of its last 19. Illinois completed its best Big Ten season (14-6) in terms of wins and place (2nd). The Illini gave up just two runs combined in the past two days, all the while playing errorless softball. Illinois will open Big Ten Tournament play at 4 p.m. CST at Alumni Field in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Illinois honored its first class of seniors before the game, 11 in all. Many of those seniors contributed to the win on Sunday. One of significance was Sarah Baumgartner, who started for Rachelle Coriddi, who had an emergency appendectomy on Saturday night. Baumgartner delivered what turned out to be the game-winning RBI with a two-out, two-run single to right, giving Illinois a 3-1 lead in the second.
"Sarah Baumgartner epitomizes the character of the rest of our team," added Sullivan. "She accepted her role this year and was ready when we needed her today. It's one thing to perform without pressure, still another to perform with our backs against the wall against a program with such a rich tradition."
Senior Lindsey Hamma, who took a shot off the eye in yesterday's game, showed no ill effects, going 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI, and making the play of the day, a heads-up double play to end the sixth inning.
Amanda Fortune recorded the victory for the second day in a row, tying the school record for wins a season by improving to 25-9 in 2004. Fortune gave up two home runs and four hits in 4 2/3 innings pitched before giving way to fellow senior Sherri Taylor, who shut out the Hawkeyes in the final 2 1/3 innings to record her third save of the season.
One of those home runs came off the bat of Natalie Johnson to lead off the first inning, giving Iowa its only lead of the weekend. The lead was quickly erased as Illinois scored three in the top of the second. Hamma led off with an infield single before Katie O'Connell and Elene Planinsek were issued walks by Iowa starter Ali Arnold (17-10). Janna Sartini tied the game with a sacrifice fly, scoring Hamma from second, before Baumgartner punched a single to right scoring two.
Emily Gerlick's line drive home run to left field in the fifth inning brought Iowa to within a run. Arnold delivered a one-out double to right and represented the tying run. The next hitter, Kylie Murray, bounced a ball to Hamma at shortstop, who alertly threw to third base to get Arnold in a rundown. Hamma not only made the tag to eliminate Arnold, but alertly dove to tag out Murray trying to advance to second for an inning-ending double play.
Illinois added two insurance runs in the seventh on three hits, an Iowa error and a wild pitch. Hamma delivered an RBI single scoring Erin Jones, and pinch runner Zobrist scored on a wild pitch.
"As a team we played aggressive in all aspects of the game," Sullivan concluded. "We are playing great softball at the right time of the year."
As far as the seniors are concerned, Sullivan said, "They have done a great job helping build the program. But more important they contain all the intangibles and represent this university with a lot of class."