Notes: Illini Gear Up For Houston Invitational

Pepper Gay broke the Illinois strikeout record and threw a no-hitter at the UNI Dome Tournament
Pepper Gay broke the Illinois strikeout record and threw a no-hitter at the UNI Dome Tournament

Feb. 13, 2013

 Hilton Houston Plaza Invite - Feb. 15-17, 2013 - Cedar Falls, Iowa
Game 6: No. 6 Texas  Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 | 12:30 p.m. CT | GameTracker
Game 7: Houston  Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 | 5:30 p.m. CT | GameTracker | Live Video
Game 8: DePaul  Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 | 10 a.m. CT | GameTracker
Game 9: No. 6 Texas  Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 | 12:30 p.m. CT | GameTracker
Game 10: Houston  Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 | 11:30 a.m. CT | GameTracker | Live Video
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  • For the second-straight weekend, the Illini open a tournament against a top-10 opponent. The Illini have five program wins and two ties against teams ranked in the NFCA top 10. In addition to two games against No. 6 Texas, the Illini will play DePaul, who received votes in both polls.
  • It will be the state of Texas vs. the state of Illinois, as both states have two representatives. Each team will play its in-state neighbor once and the other two twice.
  • Illinois has never faced Texas before; the Illini are 2-0 all-time against Houston and 6-13-1 against DePaul.
  • The Orange and Blue will face in-state rival DePaul for a second time on Apr. 17 at Eichelberger Field.
  • The Illini have played in Houston once before, attending the Marriott Houston Invitational on Feb. 20-22, 2009. The Illini went 5-0 that weekend, including defeating then-No. 18 Houston and then-No. 19 Texas A&M.

The Last Meeting
#18 Houston11(8)
February 20, 2009
Houston, Texas
Illinois' Extraordinary Comeback Caps Pair of Victories
What transpired on Friday night for the Illinois softball team was the most remarkable comeback in the history of the program, as the Illini (7-4) delivered a performance full of heart and perseverance to overcome an eight-run deficit and knock off the No. 18/21 Houston Cougars, 12-11, in eight innings at the Cougar Softball Stadium.

The Last Meeting
April 24, 2012
Chicago, Ill.
Illinois Drops Contest with Rival DePaul, 3-0
Illinois softball faltered in a midweek game at DePaul's Cacciatore Field, dropping a 3-0 decision to the Blue Devils on Tuesday afternoon.


All three teams qualified for the 2012 NCAA Tournament, with Texas reaching the Super Regionals. The trio also all finished in the top 50 in the RPI: #8 Texas, #26 DePaul, #46 Houston.

About Texas: The Longhorns opened the 2013 season at home with a 5-0 sweep of the Texas Classic. Texas earned three shutouts, christening the season with a no-hitter (two BB) against Texas A&M Corpus Christi.

The Longhorns have yet to use a reliever, with four pitchers throwing five complete games. Blaire Luna tossed the seven-inning no-hitter, and Gabby Smith and Kim Bruins each threw complete-game shutouts.

Texas' offense produced 32 runs on the weekend, batting .331 with a .537 slugging percentage and five home runs. Stephanie Ceo led the team, hitting .667 with six hits and four runs. Brejae Washington went 7-for-14 with a home run, and pitcher Kim Bruins was 5-for-11 with two doubles and a home run for a .909 slugging percentage. 

About Houston: Houston is hosting for the second-straight weekend, after going 4-2 at the Hilton Houston Plaza Classic. The Cougars went 3-0 against Texas State, split with Lipscomb and fell to Iowa, 4-1. After going 1-1 on each of the first two days, Houston outscored its opponents 17-1 on Sunday to close the weekend with a pair of wins.

Julana Shrum pitched a complete-game shutout against Texas State in the final game of the tournament. Holly Anderson led the offense, hitting .471 with eight hits, two double, and three RBI.

About DePaul: The Blue Demons went 4-1 in their first weekend of action, allowing just one run in their four wins, but falling 8-2 to No. 18 Louisville. DePaul outscored UCF and UNLV, 20-0 in five innings each on the first day at the Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas. After falling to Louisville, the Blue Demons eked out a 1-0 victory over Minnesota. DU scored on a leadoff walk, a sacrifice bunt and an error in the first inning, after which both aces threw two-hit shutouts. Kirsten Verdun pitched all seven innings in the tight victory. The Blue Demons finished the weekend with a 5-1 defeat of Texas Tech.

The DePaul staff allowed just three earned runs on the weekend. Verdun started four games, going 3-1 with a 0.31 ERA. Additionally, she led the Blue Demons at the plate, hitting .533 with three doubles and six RBI. Megan Coronado batted .500 with six hits, and Allie Braden scored seven runs in 19 plate appearances.


On Feb. 10, 2013, Pepper Gay achieved one of the rarest feats in all of softball; she threw a no-hitter. Gay did not allow a hit, a walk, a hit batter, or a run in six innings in the circle for the Illini. There was one baserunner in the game, who reached due to an error.

It was the 10th time in Illinois history that an Illini pitching staff did not allow a hit. Of those 10, only five were solo no-hitters, while the other five featured a pair of pitchers combining for the no-hitter. Gay is the fourth pitcher to throw a complete game no-hitter, and just the second to do so in a game lasting longer than five innings. 

Of the 10 no-hitters, this is just the third time that the staff did not allow a walk or hit batsman. The Illini have one perfect game in school history, a five-inning victory thrown by Sherri Taylor on Apr. 29. 2003. Additionally, the first-ever no-hitter at Illinois, thrown by Kathryn Nevard on Feb. 17, 2001, featured just one baserunner due to an error in a full seven-inning 1-0 victory over Rhode Island.


With her fourth strikeout against North Dakota State on Feb. 9, 2013, senior Pepper Gay became Illinois' all-time strikeout leader, tossing her 471st K. Gay passed Amanda Fortune (2001-04) to take over the top spot. She finished the weekend with a total of 479, needing 21 to become the first Illini to 500.


After the first weekend of competition, the Illini sit at the top of the conference in several statistical categories. As a team, the pitching staff leads the Big Ten with a .160 opposing batting average. On the base paths, the Illini are tops in the conference with 19 stolen bases, six more than the second place Badgers, and lead the Big Ten with three triples. Additionally, the team allowed the second-fewest hits (19) and had the third-most strikeouts.

Hitting two triples on Feb. 10, Katie Repole is the sole conference player with more than one 3B. Fellow freshman Kylie Johnson leads the league with six stolen bases, and Jess Perkins in on top after being hit by a pitch four times. Alex Booker is in the top 10 in six offensive categories, ranking second in hits (9) and at-bats (19), third in stolen bases (4), fourth in runs scored (6), seventh in plate appearances (20) and ninth in batting average (.474). Brittany Sanchez is tied for fourth with a .500 batting average, eighth with a .538 on base percentage and tied for fifth with three stolen bases.

In the circle, Pepper Gay leads the conference with a .136 opposing batting average and is tied for first in appearances (4), starts (3) and hits allowed (8). She is sixth in strikeouts (16) and third in K's looking (4), fourth in wins (2) and seventh in innings pitched (17.0). Shelese Arnold is tied for first with just one earned run allowed, narrowly missing the top spot with a 0.49 ERA, is third in opposing BA (.167) and tied for fourth in both runs (4) and hits (9) allowed. Additionally, she is second in games finished (2), eighth in strikeouts (11) and ninth in innings pitched (14.1).

Defensively, Jessica Davis is tied for eighth with 12 assists and Perkins is sixth with 30 putouts. 


The Illini leadoff batters got the job done, reaching base 16 times in 33 opportunities (.485), as opposed to just 11 by their opponents. Leadoff batter Alex Booker reached base safely in five of eight chances, including getting aboard in the first at-bat of the game four out of five times. Katie Repole led off four times, and got on board thrice, and Remeny Perez was safe at first two out of three times.


All eight Illini freshmen saw time this past weekend, and each one contributed something to help the Orange and Blue win. Kylie Johnson led the newcomers, hitting .375 with six hits, two RBI, two runs and a Big Ten-leading six SB. Allie Bauch hit .333 with four hits, two RBI and a run, including going 2-for-3 against No. 1 Alabama, while making seven putouts and earning five assists in errorless play at second base. Katie Repole had four hits, including two triples on Sunday, for a .533 slugging percentage; she is the only Big Ten player with more than one triple.

As a class, the freshmen batted .246 with 16 hits, 12 runs, seven walks, seven RBI and 10 stolen bases. Every freshman that batted reached base at least once, and Dana Sullivan, who pinch ran, stole a base and scored.


The Orange and Blue had a fairly successful opening weekend, working out some early kinks to finish off with a 3-2 record, including two wins on Sunday. The Illini began the season against reigning NCAA Champion No. 1 Alabama. The Crimson Tide scored the first run, but the Illini tied the game in the second and took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third. However, a six-run third inning capped by a Tide grand slam handed Alabama the victory, 7-2. Allie Bauch went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI, and Shelese Arnold allowed just one hit in three innings of relief. 

The Illini bounced back in the second game, exploding to an early 6-0 lead, while Pepper Gay held North Dakota State hitless through the first five innings. A leadoff single in the sixth broke up the no-hit bid, but Illinois hung on for the win, 6-3. Kylie Johnson went 4-for-4 in the game and tied the school record with three stolen bases.

The Illini carried a 2-1 lead over Drake into the seventh inning, but three errors in the final frame led to a pair of unearned runs for the Bulldogs, who took a 3-2 lead. Jami Schkade led off the bottom of the seventh with a double, but Drake shut the door on the next three batters to pick up the come-from-behind victory.

Fresh off a disappointing loss, the Illini made huge adjustments between Saturday and Sunday to finish the tournament with a pair of wins. Green Bay took an early 3-0 lead, but the Illini replied with six unanswered runs, including a five-run, five-hit fourth inning, to pull ahead, 6-3. The Illini had 10 hits in the game, with four Illini tabbing multi-hit games, including a two-hit, three-RBI outing for Brittany Sanchez. Shelese Arnold earned her first career victory, throwing 5.1 innings in relief.

The Illini really turned up the heat in the final game of the tournament, as the Orange and Blue defeated host UNI, the 2012 MVC Champions, 8-0, behind a no-hitter by Pepper Gay. The Illini exploded for 13 hits and six stolen bases, with leadoff hitter Alex Booker going 4-for-4 with three runs and an RBI. Gay threw six shutout innings, without allowing a hit, walk or hit batter. The Panthers had just one base runner in the game, who reached due to an error.


Illinois has a tough task ahead, with 10 scheduled games against opponents that are ranked in the top 25 in the NFCA or polls, including six against top-10 teams. Illinois opened the season with a loss against No. 1 Alabama. The Orange and Blue play a pair of games against No. 6 Texas in Houston this weekend, then square off with No. 9/8 California, No. 18/16 Washington, and RV/24 Georgia Tech the following weekend in Palm Springs. One week later, Illinois plays No. 12 USF and No. 24/22 Kentucky, before playing a neutral-site doubleheader in Saint Louis against No 8/7 Missouri on March 20.

In addition to the eight ranked opponents, Illinois will play five games against teams who received votes in the NFCA poll, facing DePaul in Houston and again on Apr. 17, and hosting a three-game series against Ohio State on May 3-5.

Of Illinois' 34 scheduled opponents, 14 qualified for the 2012 NCAA Tournament, six participated in Super Regionals, and three advanced to the Women's College World Series (Alabama, California, USF). Additionally, `Bama and Cal finished the year #1 and #2 in the RPI, with a total of 13 Illinois opponents clocking in in the top 50.


Senior pitcher Pepper Gay was named to the Big Ten Preseason All-Conference First Team by Gay is one of three pitchers on the 12-player team. Teammate Jessica Davis was named to the inaugural second team last season. 

The Avondale Estates, Ga., native is poised to complete her career as the most decorated pitcher in Illinois history. A 2012 NFCA All-Region selection and two-time All-Big Ten honoree, Gay entered her final season with the best career opponent batting average in program history (.214), ranked second in career strikeouts (463), wins (58), saves (6) and complete games (46), and third in ERA (2.07), shutouts (14) and innings pitched (526.2).