Illinois to Host First Annual Fighting Illini Invitational
GAY BREAKS ALL-TIME STRIKEOUTS RECORD
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. On Feb, 24, 2013, Gay became the first Illini pitcher to record 500 strikeouts, in a two-hit, one-run game vs. Georgia Tech in Palm Springs, Calif.
ILLINI TOP THE CHARTS IN THE BIG TEN
Due to the off-weekend, the Illini have dropped in the conference rankings in most statistical categories, yet despite playing up to six less games than other conference members, the Orange and Blue remain at the top of the charts in several facets of the game.
The Illini baserunners are at the top of the conference, ranking third in stolen bases, with 35 swipes, while being caught stealing a Big Ten-low three times. Individually, Kylie Johnson ranks third with 11 stolen bases, and Alex Booker is fifth with nine. Illinois' steal defense is also among the best, ranking second with six runners caught stealing.
Booker ranks seventh in the conference with a .407 batting average. Jess Perkins has been hit by a pitch six times, good for third, and she and Brittany Sanchez are tied for sixth with a sacrifice fly each. Katie Repole remains tied for the lead with two triples.
In the circle, Shelese Arnold ranks third in the league om fewest hits allowed (47) and earned runs allowed (14), ranking ninth with a 2.09 ERA. Pepper Gay is fifth in opposing batting average (.203) and hits allowed (49), sixth in called strikeouts (17) and appearances (14), seventh in strikeouts (55) and starts (11) and 10th in innings pitched (66.1). Jackie Guy is one of 11 pitchers to record a save, ranking eighth in relief appearances (5) and ninth in games finished (4).
In the field, Booker, Johnson, Sanchez, Arnold, Jade Smith and Jenna Mychko are tied for the league lead with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Additionally, Repole's school-record-tying nine errorless assists against Houston on Feb. 15 marks a conference single-game high.
FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET
The Illini speed is turning heads across the nation. As a team, Illinois ranks 27th in the NCAA with an average of 1.79 stolen bases per game. Individually, Alex Booker and Kylie Johnson are just outside the top 50, averaging 0.53 swipes. Booker is also in the top 100 in batting average, hitting .407.
Jess Perkins ranks 29th in the nation in hit by pitch, averaging 0.33 per game. Katie Repole is 37th in the country with two triples, ranking 39th in triples per game, helping the Illini to rank 67th as a team in triples per game. Additionally, Repole is tied for sixth among freshmen with her two triples.
In the circle, Jackie Guy is tied for 49th with her save, Pepper Gay ranks 72nd with 5.17 hits allowed per seven innings, and Shelese Arnold is 101st with a 2.09 ERA. In the field, the Illini rank 100th with a .961 fielding percentage.
FRESHMEN ADD SPEED, POWER TO LINEUP
All eight Illini freshmen have made their way into the lineup, and each one has contributed something to help the Orange and Blue win. Kylie Johnson ranks third in the Big Ten with 11 stolen bases. Remeny Perez leads the team with a .581 slugging percentage and a .444 on base percentage, despite going 0-for-7 through the first two weekends. Allie Bauch is hitting .255 with a double and a home run, and Katie Repole tied the school record with nine assists against Houston, a Big Ten single-game high.
As a class, the freshmen are hitting .247 with a .318 slugging percentage and a .306 on base percentage. The first-years have 18 of the team's 35 stolen bases, 17-of-35 walks, six of the 13 doubles, and two each of the team's four triples and four home runs.
ILLINOIS HAS TOUGH 2013 SLATE
Illinois has a tough task this season, with 12 scheduled games against opponents that are ranked in the top 25 in the NFCA or ESPN.com polls this week, including six against top-10 teams. Illinois opened the season with a loss against then-No. 1 Alabama. The Orange and Blue played a pair of games against then-No. 6 Texas in Houston the following weekend. Jess Perkins hit a two-run homer off Texas' Gabby Smith to record the first home run hit off the Longhorns this season, but Illinois dropped both contests. The Illini then squared off with No. 8 California and No. 22 Washington in Palm Springs, along with Georgia Tech, who was ranked the previous week, and Oregon State, who is now No. 23. The Illini pitching staff allowed just one earned run against both No. 8 Cal and GT, but went 0-4 on the weekend.
Illinois played No. 19/17 Kentucky and USF the following weekend in Tampa; the Wildcats have moved up in the polls every week, while the Bulls dropped from No. 17/14 to just receiving votes the week of the game. Illinois had an early lead in both games, but lost 5-4 in extras to Kentucky and 3-2 to USF.
This weekend marks the first time tournament this season in which the Illini will not face a ranked opponent. However, the Illini will play a neutral site double header against No. 8 Missouri on March 20, followed by a three-game series with Wisconsin on March 22-24, who received votes in this week's ESPN.com poll. Additionally, the Illini host a three-game series with Nebraska on March 29-31, who is 21st by ESPN.com and 26th by the NFCA, and play a doubleheader at Iowa, who received votes in both polls this week, on April 23.
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.