Notes: Illini Host Wisconsin in Big Ten Opener
Wisconsin enters the weekend with a 22-3 record, falling only to Presbyterian, Cal State Fullerton and No. 8 California. Notable wins for the Badgers include a 4-0 victory over No. 16 Stanford on March 1, and a 4-2 defeat of No. 24 North Carolina on March 15.
While the Badgers have not been ranked this season, they are the top vote receiver in this week's ESPN.com poll outside of the top 25.
As a team, the Badgers rank fourth in the nation in stolen bases (2.6/g), 10th in winning percentage (.880), 13th in ERA (1.54), 16th in batting average (.332) and 36th in slugging percentage (.481), sitting in the top three in the conference in a majority of statistical categories.
Individually, senior Whitney Massey ranks 12th in the NCAA in doubles (0.44/g); junior Mary Massei is 23rd in triples (3), 47th in runs (1.04/g), 24th in batting average (.451),78th in RBI (1.0/g) and 89th in slugging percentage (.729); and pitcher Cassandra Darrah is 15th in victories (13) and 62nd in ERA (1.69).
The Fighting Illini are 18-7 all-time against Wisconsin and 9-5 at Eichelberger Field. Illinois won seven-straight games vs. the Badgers from Apr. 2, 2006, to Apr. 23, 2011, but have since lost three of the last four. Wisconsin won the three-game series, 2-1, last season, winning 8-0 on Apr. 14, then splitting the Saturday double header, losing 8-7 then winning 10-7, in Urbana, Ill.
ORANGE AND BLUE WIN FIGHTING ILLINI INVITE
Illinois went 3-0 on March 15-16 to claim the championship of the first-ever Fighting Illini Invitational. Illinois trailed Loyola, 0-2, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, when Remeny Perez hit a two-run double to score Kylie Johnson and Jess Perkins and send the game into extra innings. Jami Schkade led off the top of the ninth with a single, and Perkins came through in the clutch with the game-winning RBI on a single to left.
The Illini scored in four separate innings against Western Michigan. Perkins had the first RBI, putting the Illini ahead 1-0 in the third. After the Broncos tied it on an unearned run in the bottom half, Linnea Detrick, making her first start of the season behind the plate, used a sacrifice fly to center to regain the Illini lead. A two-out, bases-clearing double by Perkins solidified the Illini lead in the sixth, as Illinois won, 6-2.
Jessica Davis got the offense going in the title game against Saint Louis, leading off the second inning with her 23rd career home run. Illinois put up a total of three runs in the second inning, and tacked on to their lead in the fifth and sixth innings. SLU battled back, coming within two and sending the tying run to the plate in the top of the seventh, but Gay struck out the final batter to hand the Illini the 6-4 victory and the undefeated tournament run.
ILLINI TOP THE CHARTS IN THE BIG TEN
Despite playing the fewest games of any Big Ten team thus far, the Illini stack up against conference foes in several statistical categories. As a team, the Illini rank 3rd in stolen bases (43), while having the second-fewest runners caught stealing (4). Illinois has the fourth fewest strikeouts at the plate (109) and is tied for sixth in triples (4). In the circle, Illinois ranks second in hits allowed (126) and fifth in opposing batting average (.228), and the Illini battery is second in the Big Ten with six runners thrown out stealing.
Kylie Johnson and Alex Booker continue to dazzle on the basepaths, sitting in second (13) and third (12), respectively, in stolen bases. Katie Repole is tied for second with two triples, and Booker remains in the top 10 in batting average (.391). Jess Perkins is third in HBP (6), seventh in sacrifice flies (along with Linnea Detrick and Brittany Sanchez, with one), ninth in RBI (21) and 11th in on base percentage (.458).
Shelese Arnold ranks third in hits allowed (51), fourth in earned runs allowed (32), ninth in ERA (1.94), 11th in opposing batting average (.238) and runs allowed (33) and 12th in walks allowed (32). Pepper Gay is fourth in opposing batting avg. (.192), sixth in called strikeouts (21), appearances (16) and starts (13), seventh in strikeouts (66) and inning pitched (78.1) and 12th in wins (6). Jackie Guy is tied for second with one save, ranks sixth in relief appearances (6) and eighth in games finished (5).
Additionally, nine members of the Orange and Blue maintain a perfect fielding percentage, as Remeny Perez, Jenna Mychko, Booker, Sanchez, Arnold and Detrick all have done so after averaging at least one chance per game played.
FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET
The Illini speed is turning heads across the nation. As a team, Illinois ranks 22nd in the NCAA with an average of 1.91 stolen bases per game. Individually, Alex Booker ranks 33rd with an average of 0.60 swipes and Kylie Johnson is 52nd overall and 15th among freshmen, averaging 0.55. The pair ranks second (Johnson, 13) and third (Booker, 12) in the conference in total steals, as the Illini clock in in third overall as a team.
Jess Perkins ranks 4th in the nation in hit by pitch, averaging 0.29 per game. Katie Repole is 51st in the country and 10th among freshmen with two triples, helping the Illini to rank 86th as a team in triples per game.
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. Remeny Perez leads the newcomers, batting .333, followed by Kylie Johnson at .294, which ranks third and fourth on the team. Johnson leads the Illini with 13 stolen bases, Perez is tops with a .595 slugging percentage and two home runs, and Katie Repole leads the team with two triples.
As a class, the freshmen are hitting .261 with a .337 slugging percentage and a .323 on base percentage. The first-years have 22 of the team's 43 stolen bases, 22-of-45 walks, seven of the 17 doubles, and half of the team's triples (2/4) and home runs (3/6).
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 entered the polls the following week. 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 throughout the season, 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.
The Illini were slated to play a neutral site double header against No. 7 Missouri on March 20, however it was cancelled due to inclement weather and will not be rescheduled.
The Orange and Blue take on Wisconsin in a three-game series this weekend, who is the top vote-getter outside the top 25 in the ESPN.com poll. Illinois will host a three-game series with No. 25/20 Nebraska next weekend. On Apr. 23, the Illini will travel to Iowa City for a BTN double header against the Hawkeyes, who are receiving votes in both polls.
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.