Illinois victorious in NCAA debut

Erin Jones hit a three-run triple in the first for Illinois
Erin Jones hit a three-run triple in the first for Illinois

May 15, 2003

Final Stats

Tuscaloosa, Ala. - Last season Georgia Tech made its debut in the NCAA Softball Tournament and advanced to the championship game of the regional at Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Illini too would like to make a run in this year's tournament in their first ever appearance. Illinois got off to a good start with a 5-3 win over the same Georgia Tech team Thursday morning at the University of Alabama. The Illini will Alabama at Noon Friday. The Crimson Tide beat Southern, 10-1 in five innings.

"We've had a lot of good team wins this year, but this one rates up there with the best," said Illinois Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "I thought we had so many different players come up with big hits or just good at-bats. The first win of a tournament is always tough."

Both teams entered the game in semi batting slumps, but both broke out in a big way on Thursday, combining for nine hits and eight runs. Illinois got out of the gates early with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Lindsey Hamma was hit by a pitch. Rachelle Coriddi followed with a slap single to center. Jenna Hall moved the runners over with a ground out to second. Erin Montgomery loaded the bases with a walk. Then with two outs, Erin Jones roped a base clearing triple to left center field making it 3-0 Illinois.

"The coaches made some minute changes in my swing, and that has made a difference," said Jones, who also hit her first home career home run at the Big Ten Tournament a week ago. "Our approach today was to play hard and play loose. We play our best softball when we do that."

The lead was short-lived, however, as Georgia Tech came back with three runs on five hits in the top of the second. Kirin Kumar singled home the first run and Felicia Coursey tied the game with a two-run home run to left field.

Enter Sherri Taylor. The junior from Stockton, Calif., came in relief of starter Amanda Fortune and shut down the Yellowjackets the final five innings on just three hits.

"Amanda and Sherri work well together, picking each other up all year," said Sullivan. "Sherri did a great job today."

Illinois took the lead for good with two runs in the bottom of the third. Coriddi and Jenna Hall led off the inning with back-to-back singles, setting up a two-run double from Montgomery. The junior from Casey, Ill., went with the pitch and drove it into right field for RBI number 39 and 40 on the year to set a new single-season record for RBI.

Illinois kept the pressure on, but left the base loaded in the fourth and had two runners thrown out trying to steal. No matter, Taylor was impressive, retiring seven straight batters at one point.

"Coach tells us to be game ready at all times," Taylor said. "Everything we've done has been a first. This is just an amazing group of girls. We have higher expectations, though."