Illini stay alive with 3-2 win over Houston
May 21, 2004
Waco, Texas - One down, four to go, is how Illinois Head Coach Terri Sullivan sees it. After Illinois lost 5-0 to host Baylor in a winner's bracket game on Friday afternoon, the Illini knew they needed to win five in a row to capture the Regional title and advance to Oklahoma City. Illinois got the first of those five wins on Saturday evening with a 3-2 victory over Houston.
Illinois advances to meet either North Carolina or Seton Hall at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. The winner of that contest meets the loser of the LSU-Baylor game in yet another elimination game at 7 p.m.. The winner of that game would need to defeat the Baylor-LSU winner twice on Sunday. Sound complicated? The simple answer is one game at a time.
"When you get to this point, everyone is fighting for their lives," Sullivan said. "It's important to score first all year long, but it is especially true this time of the year because the team behind starts to feel a little pressure."
Illinois got the lead it would need with three runs in the third inning. Illinois sent eight batters to the plate and had four hits and a walk. The three hottest Illini hitters played major roles in the scoring inning. Lee Ann Butcher (2-for-4), who is batting .412 in her last 11 games, led off the inning with a bunt single, advanced to second on a passed ball and to third on ground out. Lindsey Hamma (2-for-4, run), who is batting .486 (17-for-35) with seven RBI in that span, delivered an RBI single scoring Butcher. Erin Montgomery singled to load the bases. Katie O'Connell delivered a sacrifice fly, scoring Jenna Hall from first, making it 2-0. Elene Planinsek (.381 in her last 11 games) was 2-for-3 on for the day, and delivered a single to right field, scoring Hamma.
Amanda Fortune, who has pitched all but four innings for Illinois in the tournament, was brilliant throughout most of the game. Fortune retired nine in a row and 15 of 16 at one point, to raise her record to 29-10 on the season. The Cougars got to Fortune for four hits and two runs in the final two innings, but Erin Montgomery made a diving catch in right field to help preserve the win in the seventh.