Unearned Runs Doom Illini in Regular Season Finale
May 12, 2012
EVANSTON, Ill. - A nine-run fourth inning - including eight unearned tallies - doomed Illinois softball in a 10-2 six-inning loss to Northwestern at Drysdale Field on Saturday afternoon. The Illini conclude the regular season with a 27-26 overall record and 10-14 mark in Big Ten play.
"We scored first for the third day in a row, but again didn't keep scoring when opportunities were there," Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan said. "We had a rough defensive fourth inning and Northwestern had some clutch two-out hits that followed. I thought Jackie Guy's two-out home run in the fifth was big to keep the game going, but we have to tip our hats to Northwestern today."
Illinois scored in the top of the second inning, plating one runner to break the scoreless tie. With one away, senior designated player Kelley Wedel singled through the left side of the infield before stealing second base with two outs. After Wedel advanced to third on a wild pitch by Northwestern starter Meghan Lamberth, junior catcher Stephanie Cuevas singled down the right field line to put the Orange and Blue up by one run.
The Wildcats loaded the bases in the fourth frame with no one out, using a sacrifice fly ball to center field by Olivia Duehr to tie the contest 1-1. Two batters later, Kristin Scharkey reached on a fielding error by redshirt-junior shortstop Jessica Davis, scoring Sammy Albanese for the 2-1 lead.
Northwestern added seven runs following the two-out error, totaling two each on singles by Mari Majam and Marisa Bast before Albanese doubled in a pair and Anna Edwards secured the final mark of the frame with an RBI-triple.
Junior relief pitcher Jackie Guy secured the final Illinois run, extending the contest with a two-out home run over the left field fence in the fifth inning to cut the deficit to 9-2. However, Northwestern ended the contest in the bottom of the sixth, using a bases loaded single by Albanese to reach the final score of 10-2.
Junior Pepper Gay earned the start in the circle for Illinois, concluding the regular season with a 22-15 record after allowing nine runs - only one of which was earned - in 3 2/3 innings, walking four and allowing six hits while striking out three batters. When Gay set down Allard swinging in the first, Gay reached 200 strikeouts on the 2012 season, the first time the junior has reached the single-year plateau at Illinois.
Guy subbed into the contest in relief of Gay during the fourth inning, concluding the game with 1 1/3 innings of work, allowing one run on four hits and a walk while striking out one Wildcat.
Lamberth (12-12) earned the win for Northwestern with four hits and two earned runs allowed over six innings, striking out three without issuing a walk.
To continue the season, the Illini - who entered the week ranked second in the Big Ten and 46th in NCAA Division-I in terms of RPI - would have to be selected for the NCAA Tournament. The field for the 2012 edition will be announced on Sunday, May 13 at 9 p.m. CT, with a selection show aired on ESPN U.