Softball Hosts Gophers for Home, Big Ten Opening Series

Redshirt-junior shortstop Jessica Davis tallied three hits and three RBIs in two games at Minnesota in 2011.
Redshirt-junior shortstop Jessica Davis tallied three hits and three RBIs in two games at Minnesota in 2011.

March 23, 2012

University of Illinois Softball Notes

Games 24-26: Illinois (13-10 overall) vs. Minnesota (18-7)

March 24 // Eichelberger Field // Champaign, Ill. // 1 & 3 p.m. CT
March 25 // Eichelberger Field // Champaign, Ill. // 1 p.m. CT

Printable Notes: Illinois Get Acrobat Reader | Minnesota Get Acrobat Reader
Live Stats: Game One | Game Two | Game Three
Live Blog: Available on (Sunday-only)
Illinois-Minnesota Series: Illinois leads, 16-5
Last Meeting: L, 3-2, in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 4, 2011
Last Meeting at Illinois: W, 10-0 (5), on May 15, 2010
Overall Streak: L 1
Home Streak: W 3

Quick Hits
In 2012, Illinois is...
• 10-2 when allowing two or fewer runs.
• 10-2 in games decided by two or fewer runs.
• 8-1 when scoring the first run of the game.
• 7-0 when leading after four innings.
• 6-0 when playing perfect defense.

Illini Live Media Coverage
The Fighting Illini will receive considerable live coverage from various media outlets this season, with a total of 16 games broadcast through three separate platforms, including the Big Ten Network, Big Ten Student and the Illini Sports Network - WDWS 1400AM. Illinois will play live on the Big Ten Network five times against three separate conference opponents when Illinois hosts Wisconsin (April 14) and Penn State (May 6) and heads to Michigan (April 28). The Orange and Blue will also appear on Big Ten Student U at Eichelberger Field, either on the television network or streamed online, on five occasions. The Illini Sports Network - WDWS 1400 AM radio station will also have the call on five contests, including Illinois State (April 4), both games against Wisconsin on April 14 and the first game each against Purdue (April 21) and Penn State during World's Largest Softball Tailgate on May 5. Below is a full list of the currently scheduled broadcasts.

Composite Media Coverage Schedule
Big Ten Network (CT)
April 14	Wisconsin (DH)	        4/6 p.m.
April 28	at Michigan (DH)	2:30/4:30 p.m.
May 6	        Penn State	        2 p.m.

Big Ten Student U // Fighting Illini All-Access (CT) March 28 Indiana State 6 p.m. April 17 Western Illinois 7 p.m. April 21 Purdue (DH) 1/3 p.m. May 2 Southern Illinois 4 p.m. May 6 Penn State 2 p.m.

Illini Sports Network - WDWS 1400AM (CT) April 4 Illinois State 6 p.m. April 14 Wisconsin (DH) 4/6 p.m. April 21 Purdue (Game 1) 1 p.m. May 5 Penn State (Game 1) 1 p.m.

Opponent Insider
The Big Ten-leading Minnesota Gophers head to Champaign, Ill., with an 18-7 overall record and will be competing in their first Big Ten series of the season. Minnesota was only able to play two of five schedule games at their most recent tournament, the SpringHill Suites Invitational in Boise, Idaho, split the contests while the Gophers are 6-4 in the previous 10 contests.

Sophomore Sara Moulton is in her second season as the Minnesota staff ace and has developed into one of the best pitchers in the nation. Moulton owns a 0.65 ERA in 119 1/3 innings of work, striking out 173 batters while only allowing 53 hits and 30 walks. Moulton is holding opponents to a .130 batting average against and has tossed 14 complete games among her 20 starts, owning a 14-5 record overall. Moulton leads the Big Ten in earned run average, strikeouts, opposing batters average, batters struck out looking, wins, runs allowed, earned runs allowed and doubles allowed and ranks second in games started and innings pitched.

With Moulton pitching nearly 75 percent of Minnesota's 160 1/3 innings, Alissa Koch follows with 33.0 innings pitched, owning a 2.97 ERA and a 4-2 record in her senior season. Koch has made 10 appearances, allowing 30 hits and 15 walks against 29 strikeouts while batters connect for a .240 average against. As a team, with Kelsey Kimminau (5.25 ERA, 8 IP) seeing limited time to complete the staff, the Minnesota pitching unit owns a 1.35 ERA - the lowest in the Big Ten. The trio of pitchers has combined to hold opponents to 31 earned runs on 90 hits and 50 walks, striking out 206 in the process while earning the lowest opponents batting average (.160) among all conference programs.

On offense, the Gophers are hitting .281 (171-for-608) with a .462 slugging percentage and a .398 on-base percentage. Minnesota has tallied 28 home runs and 22 doubles through 25 games, while the Gophers have found success in 22-of-28 stolen base attempts.

Kaitlyn Richardson leads the squad with a .412 batting average (28-for-68), including a team-leading seven doubles, 19 walks, .527 on-base percentage and .779 slugging percentage. Tyler Walker follows with a .370 mark (30-for-81), tallying the most runs (25) and stolen bases (10) in the process while ranking second in slugging percentage (.654) and on-base percentage (.458). Kari Dorle is the final Gopher hitting over .300, going 21-for-69 (.304) while tying for the team lead in home runs with Walker and Richardson (6). Dorle also owns the most RBIs (26) among all Minnesota batters and is tied with Richardson with the most total bases, 53.

Last time the squads faced off, Illinois and Minnesota split a two-game series to conclude the 2011 season in Minneapolis, Minn. The Illini took the first contest, 2-0, in nine innings, with Pepper Gay stifling the Gophers lineup over the complete-game shutout effort. Gay held Minnesota to three hits while striking out nine, winning her 20th game of the season in the process. Meredith Hackett connected for an RBI-double and Jessica Davis followed with a run-scoring single to create the difference.

The Gophers answered with a walk-off victory in the final contest of the 2011 slate, scoring run on an RBI-single with two away in the seventh to secure the victory. Minnesota tallied first in the game with a run in the bottom of the first before Danielle Zymkowitz raced home on a error in the third to tie the contest. After the Gophers took the one-run lead back in the bottom of the same inning, Illinois used another Gophers miscue to re-tie the contest at 2-2 in the fifth. The Illini had an opportunity to take their first lead in the seventh, putting Hollie Pinchback on first before Davis singled two batters later; however, a pop up and strikeout nullified the threat.

USF Invitational Recap
The Orange and Blue wrapped up tournament action with one of their strongest showings of the season, finishing 4-1 on the March 16-18 weekend at the USF Invitational. Alex Booker (5-for-10, .500 BA) and Nikki Simpson (5-for-14, .357) paced the offense, with Simpson recording a pair of triples and a double to go with five walks, four RBIs and a pair of runs scored. Jackie Guy and Pepper Gay combined to own a 1.20 ERA on the weekend, with Guy totaling three victories while holding the opposition to a .140 batting average.

The Illini opened the tournament with a Friday doubleheader sweep, including the 400th win in program history. Illinois opened by downing Providence, 3-1. Guy was masterful in the circle, holding the Friars to one run while limiting Providence to three total base runners, all in the top of the first inning. The Orange and Blue evened the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the first before earning the go-ahead tally when Brittany Sanchez reached on an error and Booker raced home from third in the fourth.

After securing win No. 399 against Providence, the Illini earned a memorable come-from-behind win, 5-4, over Boston U. to secure the 400th victory for the program. After falling behind, 3-0, in the second, the Orange and Blue chipped away at the deficit with individual runs in the third and fifth before a three-run sixth secured the win. In the sixth, Sanchez tallied a two-run single to stake the Illini to a 4-3 advantage and Simpson secured the eventual game-winning mark with an RBI-single through the left side.

The Illini followed with their third comeback win of the weekend against UMass, totaling the final seven runs of the contest to secure a 7-2 win over Minutewomen ace and two-time All-American Sara Plourde. The Orange and Blue used plate disciple - drawing 15 walks - to earn the win, taking the lead in the fourth with three runs on a wild pitch and an error. The Orange and Blue padded their lead with another tally in the fifth, taking a 4-2 lead when Meredith Hackett doubled in Danielle Vaji. Illinois put the game out of reach with three more runs in the seventh, scoring one on a Booker single to shortstop before Simpson added a two-RBI double to right-center to reach the final score.

Illinois couldn't continue its comeback magic against Maryland, falling 5-0. The Terrapins used the four-run first inning, during which Illinois committed three errors, to create the difference.

The Orange and Blue ended the weekend on a strong note, with Guy stifling a Tennessee-Chattanooga lineup that entered the game hitting .349 as a team. Guy held the Mocs to two hits and two walks, one intentional, while striking out five. The Illini bats came alive in the sixth and seventh, totaling four runs and all seven hits during those frames. Hackett broke the scoreless tie with a two-out, two-run homer in the sixth, while Simpson secured another RBI-single and Hackett reached on a base-loaded walk in the seventh to cap scoring.

Illini Win Program's, Sullivan's 400th
Illinois head coach Terri Sullivan totaled the 400th victory of her head coaching career in spectacular fashion during the USF Invitational, simultaneously securing the program's 400th as she is the only head coach in Illini softball history. After securing victory No. 399 with a 3-1 comeback win over Providence in their first game on Friday, March 16, the Illini rallied from a three-run deficit against Boston U. to secure No. 400.

Down, 3-0, through two frames, Illinois tallied lone runs in the third and fifth innings to pull within one before plating a trio in the sixth to take a 5-3 lead. Brittany Sanchez delivered a two-run single to put the Illini ahead while Nikki Simpson added the decisive hit with a two-out RBI single in the same frame.

Comeback Kids
In 2012, The Orange and Blue have come away victorious in six contests during which they trailed their opponent. These wins are the difference between Illinois being 13-10 currently or 7-16 had they not completed the rallies. Below is a list of each game, the deficit erased, what inning Illinois trailed through and the final score.

Date	Opponent        Deficit	 Inning		Final
2/25	Winthrop	1-0	 2 1/2	        3-2
3/3	UNLV	        2-0	 1	        3-2
3/4	Fla. Atlantic	6-1	 2	        7-6
3/16	Providence	1-0	 1/2	        3-1
3/16	Boston U.	3-0	 2 1/2	        5-4
3/17	Massachusetts	2-0	 3	        7-2

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 six squads ranked within the most recent National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Top-25 poll, which is in turn used by the NCAA as the official rankings. Illinois has already faced top-25 foes in No. 10 Tennessee and No. 25 Louisville, and owns victories over teams that were receiving votes for the top-25 in UMass and New Mexico State.

Mychko Earns B1G Player of the Week
Jenna Mychko tallied the first Big Ten Player of the Week honor of her career following an 8-for-18 (.444) weekend at the Eller Media Stadium Classic, hosted by UNLV. Mychko provided clutch hitting throughout, starting with all five RBIs against FAU on March 2, a contest during which Mychko hit a three-run double and a two-run, bottom of the seventh, two-out single that tied the contest. Mychko followed with the eventual winning RBI on a sacrifice flyout against the host-Rebels on March 3 before adding a game-winning solo home run against FAU during Illinois' six-run comeback win over the Owls on March 4. This marks Mychko's first weekly conference award and the first for the Illini this season.

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 .368 batting average (25-for-68) with six doubles and four home runs to pace the Illini with a .632 slugging percentage through 23 games. Hackett has achieved this success at the plate despite consistently being pitched around, owning 13 walks to earn a team-high .488 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 two-out two-run home run in the sixth against Tennessee-Chattanooga on March 18. Among all Big Ten softball players, Hackett ranks seventh in chances (151) and putouts (139) and ninth in on-base (.488) and slugging percentage (.632).

Complete Game(s) For The Win(s)
Pepper Gay earned her seventh complete game victory of the season against Boston U., 5-4, on March 3. Gay has tossed a trio of complete-game shutouts this year, earning three of her eight wins in the process. Gay added four more complete game victories in the previous three tournaments, including wins over UMass, New Mexico State, UNLV and Boston U.

Nine of Illinois' 13 wins this year have come when a member of the Orange and Blue pitching staff goes the distance in the contest. Jackie Guy recorded the two additional total-contest shutout efforts, going five innings in a mercy-rule shortened win over Michigan State, allowing one hit, before limiting Tennessee-Chattanooga to a pair of singles during seven innings of work.

Ironwomen At The Corners
Over the previous three seasons, senior third baseman Kelley Wedel and senior first baseman Meredith Hackett have combined to start 338 of a possible 341 contests at their respective positions of third and first base, with both accruing streaks of more than 140 consecutive starts simultaneously.

Wedel has started 169 of the 171 career games she has played in, securing third for all but 15 total innings from the season opener of her freshman year through the current campaign. The first of three 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. Wedel switched from third to designated player against No. 24 Georgia Tech on Feb. 18, 2011 before the start of the fourth inning and served as a pinch hitter against UNLV on March 3, 2012. During her time with the Illini, Wedel has played 1,117 innings at third, recording 183 putouts and 192 assists in 409 total chances, good for a .917 fielding percentage.

Hackett has played in 169 total contests, making 168 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 against Iowa on May 4, 2011. At first base, Hackett has consistently been a sure-handed player, earning a .983 career fielding percentage behind 991 putouts and 53 assists in 1,062 total chances, the fourth-most in Illini history.

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 March 18, Gay ranks fifth among all Big Ten pitchers with 78 strikeouts, while the junior is averaging 6.5 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.

Guy replicated her one-hit performance against Seton Hall during a heart-breaking 1-0 loss. The only run of the game scored as a result of a pair of first inning errors, while the Pirates were limited to four total base runners and didn't earn their only hit until the fifth inning.

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.

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 before, Detrick will have to sit out the 2012 season as per NCAA policies and will be eligible as a redshirt-senior in 2013.