Sophomore Pepper Gay will lead the Illini staff in 2011 after finishing 16-1 as a freshman with a 1.46 ERA.
Feb. 10, 2011
Games 1-5 // Getterman Classic
Getterman Stadium; Waco, Texas
Friday, Feb. 11: Game One - vs. Texas-San Antonio, 10 a.m. CT // Game Two - at Baylor, 3 p.m. CT
Saturday, Feb. 12: Game One - vs. McNeese State, 10 p.m. CT // Game Two - vs. TBD
Sunday, Feb. 13: vs. TBD
Top of The Order
In 2010, Illinois was...
10-0 in night games
32-0 when giving up two or fewer runs
33-0 when leading through five innings
11-1 against in-state opponents
12-1 in games shortened to five or six innings due to the NCAA-mandated mercy rule
20-1 when scoring in the first inning
36-1 when scoring before their opponent
36-1 when they out-hit their opponent
Another All-American: First baseman Meredith Hackett earned NFCA All-American honors following a stellar sophomore season, becoming the third Illini to earn All-America status. Hackett led the Big Ten with a .418 batting average, blasting 16 home runs to go with 11 doubles. Hackett also led the Illini in slugging percentage (.804), total bases (123), walks (29) and on-base percentage (.516). After her phenomenal season, Hackett now leads all current and former Illini with a career .641 slugging percentage.
All-Big Tens All Around: The Orange and Blue set a new program record with six All-Big Ten selections during the 2010 season. Senior Hope Howell, junior Danielle Zymkowitz and sophomore Meredith Hackett each earned First Team All-Big Ten honors while junior Hollie Pinchback, sophomore Monica Perry and freshman Pepper Gay were each named to the Second Team. The previous record was set in 2009 when five Illini earned All-Big Ten recognition.
Off to the Races: Junior Danielle Zymkowitz again led the Illini in stolen bases, finding success in 36 of her 37 attempts. With this high output on the base paths, Zymkowitz set the single-season stolen base record, previously held by Rachele Corriddi, who stole 23 in 2003 and 2007. Zymkowitz also took control of the career stolen base percentage mark, having found success in 70 of her 80 attempts since her freshman year in 2008.
First-Year Impact: Freshman pitcher Pepper Gay earned Illini Female Newcomer of the Year after finishing with a 16-1 record to go with a 1.46 earned run average. Gay set the program single-season mark for strikeouts per seven-inning contest, fanning an average of 6.88 per game. The Georgia native threw a total of 115 innings on the season, striking out 113 opponents against only 91 hits.
Howell Finished Strong: Senior Hope Howell concluded her final season in Orange and Blue by setting nearly every personal record possible. Howell reset her career-bests in batting average (.418), at-bats (180), runs (51), hits (74), home runs (seven), RBIs (41), total bases (110), slugging percentage (.611), on-base percentage (.455) and fielding percentage (1.000). For her career, Howell finished with a .342 career batting average to go with 215 hits, 37 doubles, 16 home runs and 112 RBIs. Howell was equally as impressive in the field, only committing eight errors in 264 chances for a .971 career fielding percentage.
The Illini will face three opponents while in Texas, seeing at least one contest each against Baylor, the University of Texas-San Antonio and McNeese State. Combined, the Orange and Blue own a 5-5 record against these three programs.
The Illini have dueled with Baylor most frequently among all three teams, with the Bears owning a 5-2 advantage in the head-to-head standings. Most recently, the Illini downed #10 Baylor in Waco, Texas, 10-6, on Feb. 11, 2006.
Baylor is coming off a 28-25 season, having struggled in Big 12 play by earning a 6-12 record against conference opponents. The Bears return their No. 1 pitcher from 2010 in Courtney Repka, who finished 20-19 on the season with 247.2 innings pitched. Baylor lost the services of the Wesley twins, Nicole and Tiffany, who hit .384 and .360, respectively in their senior seasons. Combined, the Wesley sisters earned 101 hits, 12 doubles and 60 runs scored for Baylor in 2010.
UTSA finished 2010 with a 23-29 overall record and an even split in Southland Conference action with a 15-15 mark. Then-sophomore Caitlyn Ivy was the only Roadrunner to earn above a plus-.300 average on the season, hitting .383 with 62 hits, 40 RBIs, 36 runs scored, seven doubles and 12 home runs. UTSA lost the services of its leading threat on the base paths with then-senior Rudi Cantu wrapping up her career in 2010 with 22 stolen bases in 26 attempts to go with a .276 average.
Emily Humpal, Danye Holmes and Morgan Luksa all totaled at least 98 innings of work in 2010, with all three returning for another season with UTSA. The trio combined to pitch 349.2 innings last season, allowing 385 hits and 178 earned runs for a staff ERA of 3.56.
McNeese State finished 38-27 in its most recent campaign, earning a 17-13 record in Southland Conference action. Now-senior Molly Guidry led the Cowgirls lineup with a .347 average, 16 doubles, eight home runs and 32 RBIs.
Claire Terracina was the only other retuning McNeese State player to hit at least .300 last year, finishing third on the team in batting average at .335 on the season. The now-junior totaled 67 hits, 16 RBIs, four doubles, four triples and 99 total bases while stealing 30 bags as part of the Cowgirls lineup that played aggressive on the base paths, earning 104 thefts in 132 attempts.
McNeese State used six pitchers over the course of the 2010 season, though the main body of work went to first year player Meagan Bond (227.1 innings) and then-junior Kayla Shepherd (122.2 innings). Bond and Shepherd both return for another season with McNeese State after combining for a 2.58 ERA, allowing 129 earned runs on 284 hits allowed. Both showed a penchant for missing bats with their pitches as Bond (.211 batting average against) fanned 252 batters while Shepherd (.226 BA/against) set down 85 more on strikes.
Illinois finished in the top-20 in schedule difficulty yet again, sitting among 2010 Women’s College World Series participants such as Missouri, Georgia, Hawaii and Tennessee. The Illini’s top-20 ranking in 2010 marks the third consecutive season head coach Terri Sullivan has schedule one of the 50 most difficult slates in the nation.
No Extra Time Needed
In their 48 victories, the Illini did not see extra innings in a victory for the first season since 2006. The 2010 schedule also marked the first year in which the Illini did not play extra innings during any contest, completing a full seven-inning game 40 times, while ending due to the NCAA-mandated mercy rule after six innings in four games and after completing five innings in the remaining nine match-ups.
Don’t Call It A Comeback
After Ohio State scratched out one run in the top of the seventh to tie its April 10 meeting with the Illini at 2-2, the Orange and Blue may have looked to be destined for their first extra-innings contest of 2010. However, junior Ashley Conrad stepped to the plate as the first Illini batter of the final frame and belted a two-strike home run over the left field fence at Lichtenberger Field to send Illinois out with a 3-2 victory over the Buckeyes. On the day, Conrad finished 2-for-3, having opened the fifth inning with a single. This walk-off home run also marks the first of Conrad’s career.
Senior Day Shutout
The Illini sent seniors Bailey Behrens, Hope Howell and Ashley Wright out convincingly, shutting out the Minnesota Gophers, 10-0, in five innings on May 15. Wright pitched two innings of relief to close out the regular season for Illinois, striking out four batters without allowing a baserunner. Howell led the Illini at the plate, finishing the day 3-for-3 with four RBIs on a double and home run to go with two runs scored.
Illinois hurlers Monica Perry and Ashley Wright also made 2010 Senior Day memorable by teaming to notch the only Illini no-hitter of the season. In five innings, the Gophers only recorded one baserunner, with Perry issuing a walk to the first batter of the game before setting down the next three Minnesota players on a sacrifice bunt, fly ball and pop up. Perry went three innings to earn the win, striking out five before Wright took over to close the books, needing only 69 pitches between the duo to complete play. For Wright, this marks the second year in a row she has been involved in a no-hitter, having combined with Taylor Call to record a 9-1 no-no against Prairie View A&M on Feb. 21, 2009. Perry also recorded a no-hitter during the 2009 season, blanking Wisconsin on April 4 for the Illini’s first-ever Big Ten no-hitter.
The Illini proved their superiority against Illinois-based institutions, finishing 11-1 overall. The Fighting Illini downed Bradley during the Children’s Hospital Invitational in Columbia, Mo., 5-1, to record their first victory of the season versus Illinois teams. The Orange and Blue followed with victories over Eastern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Northwestern in the regular season before downing DePaul twice during NCAA Tournament action to reach the regional final.
Raking From Top To Bottom
The Fighting Illini produced eight starters who hit better than the league average of .270 at the plate in 2010; the first time in team history eight of the nine starters produced at least this average in a season. Meredith Hackett, Hope Howell and Danielle Zymkowitz led the way for the Illini, with each earning over a .400 average. Jessica Davis finished her season with a .298 clip followed closely by Hollie Pinchback’s .296 mark. Audrey Gallien hit .288 in her first season as the full-time catcher while Danielle Vaji immediately bounced back from season-ending injury five games into the 2009 slate by producing a .285 mark in 2010. Kelley Wedel rounded out the group by finishing with a .272 average in her second season as a starter in the Illini infield.
The Orange and Blue finished 31-4 when slugging at least one home run during a contest in 2010, earning second place among Big Ten teams with 60 total home runs. The Illini opened the season by hitting one or more home runs sixth. With one out in the inning, Danielle Vaji and Danielle Zymkowitz hit back-to-back singles, and Hope Howell followed with a three-run homer to right center to tie the game 3-3. Redshirt freshman Jessica Davis then gave Illinois the walk-off win in the bottom of the seventh with a home run to dead center.