Illinois moves to Big Ten Tournament title game
May 15, 2004
Ann Arbor, Mich. - The Illinois softball program can add another first to its history. The Illini playing with its first ever senior class that helped start the program four years ago, advanced to its first Big Ten Tournament title game with a 5-0 victory over Ohio State in semfinal Saturday morning. The Illini improve to 41-18-1 and will meet either Michigan State or Northwestern in the title game. The game can be seen live on CSTV (Direct TV Channel 610) at 1:30 p.m. CST and heard live on WDWS AM-1400 and fightingillini.com. Ohio State falls to 34-23.
Illinois, who is now 37-3-1 when scoring at least two runs, pounded out eight hits, driving Ohio State ace Kristi DeVries from the game in the sixth inning. Sarah Baumgartner, starting the last three games for the injured Rachelle Coriddi, has played a significant role in all three victories, going 3-for-6 with four RBI and the game-winning defensive effort in the quarterfinal win. Baumgartner drove home two runs against OSU on Saturday morning. Jenna Hall was 2-for-4 in the victory.
The Illini tallied four of their runs in the fourth inning on just two hits. Katie O'Connell delivered her 99th career RBI with a single to right scoring pinch runner Brittany Koester from third. Elene Planinsek executed a squeeze bunt scoring Lindsey Hamma. O'Connell scored on a throwing error from Ohio State pitcher Kristi DeVries, putting runners at second and third with one out. Sarah Baumgartner's sacrifice fly scored Planinsek to give Illinois all the runs it would need.
The Illini, the top fielding team in the Big Ten, used some great fielding to keep the Buckeyes off the scoreboard. Lee Ann Butcher made two diving catches on balls in the gap in the fourth.
Amanda Fortune was brilliant again. Fortune retired the first eight batters of the game and scattered six hits, both coming in the fourth inning. Since April 11, Fortune has given up just four earned runs in Big Ten play, all four have come on solo home runs, giving her a conference ERA of 0.36 in that span.
Fortune struck out just one batter in the game, but it came in a big situation. Ohio State threatened with two hits and a fielding error to load the bases. Lee Ann Butcher came up throwing holding the runner at third to keep the bases loaded and OSU off the scoreboard. Fortune then struck out pinch hitter Ashley Cutcliff to leave the bases loaded.