Illini Travel to Las Vegas for E.M. Stadium Classic

Senior third baseman Kelley Wedel found her hitting stroke while in Clearwater, Fla., earning a pair of multi-hit contests during NFCA Leadoff Classic play.
Senior third baseman Kelley Wedel found her hitting stroke while in Clearwater, Fla., earning a pair of multi-hit contests during NFCA Leadoff Classic play.

Feb. 29, 2012

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Interviews: Associate Head Coach Donna DiBiase | Shortstop Jessica Davis | First Baseman Meredith Hackett

University of Illinois Softball Weekly Notes

Games 14-18: Eller Media Stadium Classic
Eller Media Softball Stadium; Las Vegas, Nev. - March 2-4

Eller Media Stadium Classic Opponent Quick Facts
Game 14: Florida Atlantic (3-11)
First Pitch (CT): Friday, March 2; 11 a.m.
Live Stats: Available on
Florida Atlantic 2012 Overall Record: 3-11
Series: Illinois leads, 3-2
Last Meeting: Illinois 9, FAU 0; 5 innings (3/19/10)
Streak: W1

Game 15: New Mexico State (11-6)
First Pitch (CT): Friday, March 2; 3:30 p.m.
Live Stats: Available on
New Mexico State 2012 Overall Record: 11-6
Series: First meeting
Last Meeting: N/A
Streak: N/A

Game 16: Seton Hall (3-5)
First Pitch (CT): Saturday, March 3; 3:30 p.m.
Live Stats: Available on
Seton Hall 2012 Overall Record: 3-5
Series: Illinois lead, 1-0
Last Meeting: Illinois 2, Seton Hall 0 (5/22/04)
Streak: W1

Game 17: UNLV (7-7)
First Pitch (CT): Saturday, March 3; 8 p.m.
Live Stats: Available on
UNLV 2012 Overall Record: 7-7
Series: Tied, 2-2
Last Meeting: Illinois 8, UNLV 0; 6 innings (2/12/10)
Streak: W1

Game 18: Florida Atlantic
First Pitch (CT): Sunday, March 4; 11 a.m.
Live Stats: Available on
Florida Atlantic 2011 Final Record: 3-11
Series: Illinois leads, 3-2
Last Meeting: Illinois 9, FAU 0; 5 innings (3/19/10)
Streak: W1

Quick Hits
In 2012, Illinois is...
• 6-1 when alowing two or fewer runs.
• 5-1 in games decided by two or fewer runs.
• 5-1 when scoring the first run of the game.
• 4-0 when leading after four innings.
• 3-0 when playing perfect defense.

Eller Media Stadium Classic Preview
To participate in their fourth tournament of the season, Illinois softball heads to Las Vegas for the Eller Media Stadium Classic, held at UNLV, from March 2-4. The Illini will twice face Florida Atlantic University, opening and closing action in Las Vegas against the Owls. In between games against FAU, the Orange and Blue will compete against the host-Rebels, New Mexico State and Seton Hall.

Florida Atlantic enters the tournament with a 3-11 overall record, including going 0-5 in neutral site contests. The Owls have faced a trio of Big Ten Conference teams so far this season in Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, defeating the Spartans, 4-3, while falling to the Buckeyes, 9-6, and Wolverines, 2-0.

Stephanie Call paces Florida Atlantic at the plate, hitting .422 (19-for-45), with two home runs, two doubles and a triple while reaching base a team-high 49 percent of the time. As a team, the Owls are hitting .249 (94-for-378) through 14 contests with 15 doubles, while Call is the only FAU player to connect for a home run so far.

Four pitchers have seen time in the circle for the Owls, combining for a 4.11 ERA over 95 1/3 innings, allowing 56 earned runs on 106 hits and 38 walks. Samantha Messer and Paige Pender both sport 3.82 ERAs, the lowest on the squad, in 14 2/3 innings each. Call (0-4 record, 4.05 ERA) follows, allowing 16 earned runs in 27 2/3 frames of work while Taylor Fawbush (0-4, 4.38) has pitched the most innings, with 38 1/3, while allowing 24 earned runs on 43 hits and 15 walks.

Illinois and FAU last met on March 19, 2010 in the USF The Game Tournament, with the No. 21 Orange and Blue coming away victorious, 9-0, in five innings. Current Illini Danielle Vaji and Jessica Davis combined to go 2-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored as Illinois one-hit the Owls.

New Mexico State will be Illinois' second opponent of the weekend, as the Aggies enter the tournament with an 11-6 overall record while looking to bounce back from a tough finish at the Cathedral City Classic, where they dropped four of five contests. The contest marks the first meeting between the programs in the history of either squad.

Seton Hall enters Eller Media Stadium Classic play at 3-5 overall on the season and 3-3 at neutral sites. Danielle DeStaso leads the offense while connecting for a .435 clip (10-for-23) at the plate with a pair of homers. As a team, the Pirates are hitting .256 (57-for-223) with six doubles, three home runs and two triples, while Seton Hall has been successful in 8-of-9 stolen bases attempts.

The Pirates have made use of five pitchers in the circle through eight games, as four players have each started two contests. Of the three rotational mainstays, Brooke Tull owns the lowest staff ERA, at 1.50 through 14 innings of work with only three earned runs allowed. DeStaso follows at 3.06 with the most frames, 16, as opponents are hitting .246 against her. Casey Moses (0.00 ERA, 4 2/3 innings), Hannah Hill (4.00, 7) and Jen Metzger (6.50, 14) round of the Pirates pitching staff. As a team, the five hurlers own a 3.40 ERA with 27 earned runs allowed in 55 2/3 innings, while opponents have found relative success, connecting for a .290 batting average (67-for-231) to go with 10 doubles and three home runs.

Seton Hall and Illinois last met on May 22, 2004 - the only contest between the programs to this point. Illinois came away victorious, 2-0, at the Waco, Texas, NCAA Tournament Regional. Current assistant coach Katie O'Connell went 1-for-2 while playing perfect defense at second base and Amanda Fortune limited to Pirates to four hits and one walk in the complete game effort to earn her 30th win of the season.

UNLV opens competition at the Eller Media Stadium Classic with a 7-7 overall record on the season and a 4-5 mark on their home field. Amanda Oliveto serves as the Rebels staff ace, pitching 54 2/3 innings while owning a 1.79 ERA and 5-4 record. Oliveto has struck out 45 batters and only allowed 14 earned runs, while hitters are connecting for a .200 average against the sophomore who threw a pair of no-hitters last season. Caitlin Klepper (0-1 record, 3.73 ERA), Jessica O'Connor (2-2, 3.85) and Amber Petersen (0-0, 15.27) have combined to pitch the remaining 42 1/3 innings on the season as the UNLV staff owns a combined 3.54 ERA with 49 earned runs allowed and a .283 batting average against.

Two Rebels are hitting above .400 this season through 14 games, as Stefany Valentino (.406) leads the way with 13 hits in 10 games played, accounting for a pair of doubles and runs scored in addition to four RBIs. Paige Emmerson follows at .405 (17-for-49), with a team-high nine runs scored and .479 on-base percentage. All together, UNLV is batting .243 while showing a penchant for power hitting, with 11 doubles and 12 home runs already.

Illinois and UNLV have met four times in the history of the programs, with each team earning a pair of wins in the process. Illinois was victorious in the most recent meeting, earning an 8-0 decision in six innings on Feb. 22, 2010 at the UNlLV Sportco Kick-Off Classic. Davis helped pace the offense with a 3-for-4 two RBI, one run scored performance that included her first collegiate home run. Current student assistant coach Danielle Zymkowitz, who played for the Illini from 2008-11, also had a strong showing at the plate, finishing 3-for-3 with two runs and an RBI while reaching base twice more on walks.

NFCA Leadoff Classic Recap
Illinois finished 3-2 overall in the NFCA Leadoff Classic, defeating Hofstra, Winthrop and Massachusetts while falling to South Florida and Boston University. Jess Perkins led the offensive charge with a .429 batting average (6-for-14) while Meredith Hackett followed with a 5-for-14 (.357) weekend.

The Illini faltered in their first game, dropping an 8-0 decision to South Florida to open competition. However, the Orange and Blue bounced back with three consecutive wins over the Pride, Eagles and Minutewomen. Against Hofstra, Pepper Gay tossed a complete-game one-hitter as Jessica Davis and Hackett added run-scoring hits in the third inning to create the difference. Gay out-dueled two-time CAA Pitcher of the Year and NFCA All-Northeast Region honoree Olivia Galati to earn the victory, as the Illini plated both runs with two outs.

Illinois followed with a doubleheader sweep on Saturday, with Gay and starting pitcher Jackie Guy combining to secure the 3-2 win over Winthrop. Gay pitched into the sixth while holding the Eagles to two runs before Gay took over and secured the final five outs of the contest. Kelley Wedel finished the day 2-for-3 with an RBI-single as the leadoff hitter, while five additional Illini tallied base hits during the contest. Jenna Mychko made her return from the disabled list against the Eagles, finishing 1-for-2 with an RBI.

The Orange and Blue exacted a measure of revenge against Massachusetts for a season-opening loss earlier this year, battling past the Minutewomen, 4-2, on Saturday evening. Brittany Sanchez posted a breakout performance, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and one RBI to pace the Illini bats. Gay threw her second complete game of the weekend, allowing two runs - one earned - on only four hits and one walk while striking out six.

Perkins became the second Illini in as many games with a three-hit performance on Sunday, going 3-for-4 with an RBI against Boston University; however, the Terrier bats proved to be too much in the 8-1 loss. Davis also found success against Boston University starting pitcher Holli Floetker, twice sending singles down the left field line while scoring the lone Illinois run of the contest.

Making Them Earn It
Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan continues to schedule difficult competition to challenge her Illini against the top teams nationally. On the schedule this season are 11 opponents - comprising 19 games - that are ranked within the most recent poll conducted by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), which is in turn used by the NCAA as the official rankings. Included in this listing is Massachusetts, a team receiving votes for the top-25, which Illinois defeated, 4-2, at the NFCA Leadoff Classic and New Mexico State, also receiving votes, which the Orange and Blue will face while in Las Vegas.

Complete Game(s) For The Win(s)
Starting pitcher Pepper Gay earned her third complete game victory of the season against Hofstra, 2-0, on Feb. 25. Gay has tossed a trio of complete-game shutouts this season, earning three of her four wins in the process. Against Hofstra, Gay limited the Pride to one hit while striking out six.

Five of Illinois' six wins this year have come when a member of the Orange and Blue pitching staff tosses a complete game. Jackie Guy recorded the one additional total-contest shutout effort, going five innings in a mercy-rule shortened win over Michigan State, allowing one hit against four strikeouts. Gay added the final one with two runs allowed against UMass in a 4-2 victory on Feb. 25.

Swinging A Big Stick In 2012
After fighting through hamstring injuries during the latter half of 2011, senior first baseman Meredith Hackett has returned to her 2010 NFCA All-American form, owning a .382 batting average (13-for-34) with three doubles and two home runs to pace the Illini with a .647 slugging percentage through 13 games. Hackett has achieved this success at the plate despite consistently being pitched around, owning 11 walks to earn a .533 on-base mark.

Hackett has been clutch at the plate early, hitting a three-run homer against Michigan State in the first inning, and late, with a game-winning, bottom-of-the-seventh RBI-single against Pittsburgh on Feb. 19. Among all Big Ten softball players, Hackett ranks third in walks (11), seventh in chances (94) and ninth in on-base percentage (.511).

The Bash Sisters
Illinois' Meredith Hackett and Jessica Davis, the heart of the Illini lineup, have a penchant for power-hitting, with a combined 54 home runs and 54 doubles among 237 total hits during their careers.

Hackett, a 2010 NFCA First Team All-American, clubbed 16 homers during her sophomore season - tied for the second-most in a single year in school history - before leading the Big Ten in doubles with 16 as a junior in 2011. As a result of her powerful swing, Hackett currently leads the Illinois career slugging percentage list, with a .642 mark through the third weekend of the 2012 season, while her 34 homers rank third and 38 doubles is seventh.

After fighting through injuries during her first two years, Davis broke onto the scene in 2011 with 14 homers and eight doubles to earn First Team All-Big Ten and Second Team All-NFCA Midwest Region. Davis owns a career slugging percentage of .588 in 266 career at bats, ranking second all-time behind Hackett. Davis also stands seventh in home runs (20) and eighth in average (.312) and on-base percentage (.398) among Illini all-time.

Ironwomen At The Corners
Over the previous three seasons, Kelley Wedel and Meredith Hackett have combined to start 319 of a possible 322 contests at their respective positions of third and first base, with both accruing streaks of more than 140 consecutive starts simultaneously.

Wedel has started 160 of the 161 career games she has played in, securing third for all but eight total innings from the season opener of her freshman year through the current campaign. The first of two games Wedel did not play the entirety of at the hot corner was during the opening tournament of her first season, when she subbed in for Audrey Gallien at third to begin the fifth inning against No. 17 California on Feb. 7, 2009. Most recently, Wedel switched from third to designated player against No. 24 Georgia Tech on Feb. 18, 2011 before the start of the fourth inning.

During her time with the Illini, Wedel has played 1,054 innings at third, recording 170 putouts and 184 assists in 387 total chances, good for a .915 fielding percentage.

Hackett has played in 160 total contests, making 159 starts, including the first 142 games of her Illini career. During the previous three seasons, Hackett missed one game due to injury (vs. DePaul, May 5, 2011) and was limited to pinch-hitting duties in the game prior to the one against the Blue Demons (vs. Iowa, May 4, 2011).

At first base, Hackett has consistently been a sure-handed player, earning a .983 career fielding percentage behind 940 putouts and 48 assists in 1,005 total chances, the fourth-most in Illini history.

Taking One For The Team
Senior third baseman Kelley Wedel was struck by a pair of pitches against No. 10 Tennessee to move into first place all-time on the Illini hits by pitch listing, with 37. Wedel already owns a tie for the single-season mark for plunkings (14). An aggressive hitter who does not back off the plate, Wedel was struck by seven pitches as a freshman in 2009 before being hit 13 times in 2010 and 14 more in 2011.

In Search Of Her 400th Win
Over the previous 12 seasons, Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan has secured success of a regional and national level as the leader of the Illini. As a result of this ability to win immediately, Sullivan is already in search of win No. 400 as a head coach.

Thirteen games into the 2012 season, Sullivan owns 395 victories at the helm of the Orange and Blue program and is averaging nearly 30 wins per season. In total, Sullivan has taken the Orange and Blue to four NCAA Tournaments and battled conference foes in the Big Ten Tournament in seven of the eight seasons it has been held since the Illini joined the conference in 2001.

Setting Them Down On Strikes
Starting pitcher Pepper Gay earned her first victory of the season in spectacular fashion, throwing an eight-inning complete game shutout over UAB. During the contest, Gay struck out 11 batters against allowing only two hits. The number of punchouts in the contest ranks tied for fifth in the Illinois record book for most strikeouts in a single contest, only two shy of tying Amanda Fortune's program mark of 13 against Virginia Tech on March 18, 2001. Through three weekends of play, Gay ranks fourth among all Big Ten pitchers with 42 strikeouts, while the junior is averaging 6.44 strikeouts per seven-inning game.

One Hit Is All You Get
Starting pitcher Jackie Guy also secured her first win of the season with a shutdown performance, holding Michigan State to one hit over a five-inning, mercy rule-shortened 8-0 victory. The lone MSU baserunner came on a first inning leadoff single to center by Lauren Padilla. Padilla reached as far as second on a stolen base with one out; however, Guy induced a groundout from Ali Grant and caught Kayla Hopkins looking to end the Spartans only chance to score.

After giving up the base knock, Guy retired 14 batters on six flyouts, four groundouts and four strikeouts - three of them looking. The one-hit performance marks the second time Guy has limited an opponent to a single base knock, as the Buena Park, Calif., native also achieved the feat against Pittsburgh in a five inning 8-0 victory on Feb. 19, 2011.

Classmate Pepper Gay matched Guy's feat of only one hit allowed in the contest against Hofstra at the NFCA Leadoff Classic, giving up a lone single on a second-inning slow-rolling ball into the hole between third and shortstop off Jess Hirschbuhl's bat.

On the season, Gay is holding opponents to a .185 batting average against, the second-lowest among all Big Ten pitchers this season.

World's Largest Softball Tailgate IX
The Orange and Blue will host World's Largest Softball Tailgate IX against Penn State on Saturday, May 5, when the Nittany Lions travel to Urbana for a doubleheader. World's Largest Softball Tailgate, organized by Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics administrative representatives, provides a fun family atmosphere full of live music, inflatable games, face painting and, of course, lots of softball and tailgating. The event has drawn over 1,000 fans to Eichelberger Field on four occasions, setting the single-game attendance record on April 28, 2007 against DePaul when 1,445 people arrived to support the Orange and Blue. Admission and parking to the games, as well as each contest played on Eichelberger Field in 2012, are free to all.

Illinois swept competition with Western Illinois, 3-2 and 2-0, during the most recent World's Largest Softball Tailgate event, held on May 7, 2011. In game one, Jessica Davis went 2-for-3 with a run scored and Danielle Vaji finished 1-for-2 with an RBI-triple while scoring the tying run in the second inning. Then-sophomore pitching duo Jackie Guy and Pepper Gay combined to earn the victor, with Gay coming in as a reliever in the third inning to hold the Leathernecks hitless over the final 4 2/3 innings while striking out six. In the second contest, Davis connected for a solo home run and a sacrifice fly out while Gay tossed a complete-game two-hitter for her 19th win of the season.

Detrick Re-Joins Illini
After transferring to Eastern Illinois for her junior year, Linnea Detrick has returned to the University of Illinois and the Illini softball program. Detrick played her freshman and sophomore seasons with the Orange and Blue before departing for Eastern Illinois. Having transferred once, Detrick will have to sit out the 2012 season as per NCAA policies and will be eligible as a redshirt-senior in 2013.