Nittany Lions Upset Illini, 5-2, in Big Ten Tournament
May 9, 2013
Lincoln, Neb. - The 2013 Illinois softball season came to an early close this evening, as the Illini dropped their first-round matchup in the Big Ten Tournament to 11th-seeded Penn State. Jess Perkins hit a monster two-run homer in the bottom of the first to tie the score 2-2, but the Illini were unable to send another runner across the plate, dropping the game by a final score of 5-2. The Illini finish the year 22-27 with a sixth-place finish in the Big Ten at 11-12. With the win, Penn State improves to 16-33 and will face third-seeded Minnesota in Friday's quarterfinal.
"Throughout the season we saw that when we played our best softball we could beat anyone, when we didn't, anyone could beat us," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "Today we didn't play to the level you need to and should have to be at to win in the postseason. We had five underclassmen in the lineup that will remember that."
The Fighting Illini had extra-base hits in four different innings, but struggled with runners on, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Jess Perkins came up with a key two-run home run in the bottom of the first, but after falling behind 4-2 in the second, Illinois wasted leadoff doubles by Allie Bauch and Jessica Davis and a one-out double by Alex Booker to finish the game without an additional run.
Pepper Gay tossed the final game of her illustrious career for the Orange and Blue, allowing three earned runs on six hits and five walks, striking out four. She retires as the Illini's all-time career strikeouts leader (592), while registering the best opponent batting average (.213) in school history. She made the most starts (113) and pitched the most complete games (68), finishing her senior year with a 71-47 career record.
Cassidy Bell, who leads the nation with a 1.000 slugging percentage, provided the majority of Penn State's offense, tallying a walk, a single, a double, a home run and a stolen base and scoring three of the Nittany Lions' five runs.
Macy Jones allowed six hits and four walks but held the Illini to two runs with the help of six strikeouts.
Cassidy Bell began the game with a double off the wall in right. Perkins was playing in at third to guard the bunt, and Bell took advantage, stealing third. Gay struck out Yao, but Johnson and Furuya walked to load the bases. Jones then hit a swinging bunt between the circle and first; Gay threw to first but it wasn't in time as she was safe with an RBI single. Walker made it 2-0, crossing the plate on a wild pitch, before Gay closed out the frame.
The Illini came right back in the bottom of the first, as Booker drew a two-out walk and Perkins drilled a two-run homer off the scoreboard to tie it at two.
Gay walked the first batter of the top of the second, but Jenna Mychko threw out pinch runner Renwick stealing second and a pop out made it two outs with no one on. Bell walked and Yao hit a hard grounder up the middle which Gay couldn't handle for an error. Kailyn Johnson then tripled off the wall in right to drive in two unearned runs and take back the Nittany Lions' lead, 4-2.
After combining for six runs in the first 1.5 innings, neither team sent a runner across the plate again until the seventh. Allie Bauch led off the fourth with a double, but was stranded on third. Booker doubled with one out in the fifth, but the Illini could not get that clutch second hit to drive her in. Davis led off the sixth with a double, but Bauch lined into a double play on a great snag by the second baseman, as the Illini headed into the final inning still trailing 4-2.
Cassidy Bell tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh with a solo home run to be a triple shy of the cycle.
Despite four extra-base hits, the Illini were unable to score after the first inning, stranding seven runners, to drop the contest by a final score of 5-2.