Illini Head to Iowa City to Continue Big Ten Play

Stephanie Cuevas earned a career-best three RBIs on a single, groundout and sacrifice flyout against Indiana State.
Stephanie Cuevas earned a career-best three RBIs on a single, groundout and sacrifice flyout against Indiana State.

March 30, 2012

University of Illinois Softball Notes
Illinois (16-11, 2-1 B1G) at Iowa (11-17, 1-2)

Saturday, March 31 // Bob Pearl Field // Iowa City, Iowa // 1 & 3 p.m. CT
Sunday, April 1 // Bob Pearl Field // Iowa City, Iowa // 2 p.m. CT

Printable Notes: Illinois Get Acrobat Reader | Iowa Get Acrobat Reader
Live Stats: Game One | Game Two | Game Three
Illinois-Iowa Series: Iowa leads, 15-10
Last Meeting: W, 6-2, at Iowa on May 4, 2011
Overall Streak: W 4
Away Streak: W 2

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 W, 7-2 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.

Quick Hits
In 2012, Illinois is...
• 12-2 when allowing two or fewer runs.
• 12-2 in games decided by two or fewer runs.
• 10-1 when scoring the first run of the game.
• 8-0 when leading after four innings.
• 7-0 when playing perfect defense.

Opponent Insider
Illinois travels to Iowa City, Iowa, to face a Hawkeyes team that has opened the year with an 11-17 record through 28 games, dropping two of their three Big Ten games as well. Iowa has a balanced pitching staff, which features Kayla Massey and Chelsea Lyon splitting time in the circle almost evenly, while one hitter connecting over .400 on the year leads the offense.

Massey (6-7 record, 2.39 ERA) owns 90.2 innings of work while Lyon (5-10, 2.52) has seen 89.0 frames in the circle for the Hawkeyes. Massey has appeared in 16 contests, making 13 starts while totaling 12 complete games. The sophomore has given up 31 earned runs on 74 hits and 42 walks, striking out 59 in the process. Opponents are hitting .218 against Massey in 339 at bats. Lyon follows with 82 hits and 42 walks allowed, giving up 32 earned runs with a batting average against of .241 on the year.

Megan Blank paces the offense with a .405 batting average (32-of-79), recording a team-high nine doubles while owning the most runs scored (17) and total bases (42), a tie for the most walks (13) and the highest slugging percentage (.582) and on-base percentage (.489) among all Hawkeyes. The only other Iowa batter hitting above .300 through 28 games is Katie Keim (.303, 27-of-89), who follows with 16 runs scored, four doubles and a .506 slugging percentage. Despite hitting .303, Keim's on-base mark is only .304 as the senior has an aggressive approach at the plate, resulting in 18 strikeouts against only one walk.

As a team, Iowa is hitting .251 on the season (175-of-698), with 29 doubles, eight home runs and 88 RBIs. The Hawkeyes have a highest slugging percentage, .335-.314, in comparison to the combined mark of their opponents, while also owning a higher on-base percentage, .324-.321, and more stolen bases, 29-38. The pitching staff, which also features Brittanee Grove (two appearances, 1/3 inning pitched), combines for a 2.45 ERA, owning 63 earned runs on 157 hits and 84 walks allowed.

Last time out, Iowa dropped the deciding contest of their first three-game Big Ten series, with Wisconsin earning a 5-4 decision at Iowa. The Hawkeyes were unable to rally past a four-run deficit, despite totaling all four of their tallies over the sixth and seventh innings. Marissa Mersch led Wisconsin with a 2-for-3, two RBI, one run scored performance, while Cassandra Darrah improved to 9-5 on the season with a complete game effort for the Badgers. Lyon took the loss for the Hawkeyes, giving up four runs in 5 1/3 innings before Massey took over. Keim and Bradi Wall combined to finish 3-for-8 with all four RBIs and two runs scored.

Illinois and Iowa last faced off on May 4, 2011, with the Illini sweeping a midweek doubleheader at Bob Pearl Field, 8-2 and 6-2. In the first contest, Jessica Davis and Danielle Zymkowitz paced the offensive outburst with a combined 7-for-8, six RBI, three run scored game, while Jackie Guy limited Iowa to a pair of earned run during a complete game effort. Davis and Zymkowitz continued their clutch performances in game two, with Zymkowitz going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and one run scored while Davis finished with a two-run double and a walk drawn and Danielle Vaji added a 2-for-4 game at the plate. Pepper Gay tallied her 17th win of the year with a complete game two-hitter, striking out six.

Indiana State Recap
The Fighting Illini continued its domination of the Indiana State Sycamores, winning the seventh meeting in the seven-game history between the programs, 7-2, on Wednesday, March 28 at Eichelberger Field. Kelley Wedel paced the offense with a 4-for-4, two runs scored evening while Stephanie Cuevas added three RBIs, a single-game career-high.

The Orange and Blue opened scoring in the fourth with two runs to take a 2-0 advantage. Wedel led off with her ninth double of the year and followed with a steal of third base during Jessica Davis' at bat. One batter later, Cuevas drove a full-count, looping single through the middle of the infield to put Illinois ahead, 1-0. Jackie Guy drew a walk as the next batter and Brittany Sanchez moved both runners up one base with a groundout. Alex Booker followed with a run-scoring single that traveled less than one foot into play.

After Indiana State scored twice in the top of the fifth to tie the game at 2-2, Illinois responded with five unanswered runs over its final two innings at the plate, including a decisive four-run fifth. Jess Perkins led off the fifth with a double through the left side of the infield, with senior Nikki Simpson replacing Perkins at second as a pinch runner. Wedel added her third hit of the game, a single to shortstop, before both runners advanced on a passed ball. After Davis drew a walk to load the bases, Cuevas tallied her second RBI of the game with a groundout to third, extending the lead to 3-2.

Two batters later, Sanchez stepped to the plate with two away and runners on second and third. After falling behind in the count, 0-2, Sanchez delivered a triple over the head of center fielder Ashli Scott, scoring Simpson and Wedel to create a 5-2 lead. Booker followed with a hard-hit bouncing ground ball to pitcher Lindsey Beisser, who was unable to field the play cleanly, which allowed Sanchez to score from third from the sixth Illini run.

Illinois reached the final score as Meredith Hackett walked to lead off the sixth before Simpson singled to relief pitcher Kristen Felker. Two batters after Wedel added her fourth hit, another single, Cuevas earned a sacrifice flyout to left field, with Simpson sprinting home for the seventh and final run.

Junior starting pitcher Pepper Gay improved to 11-4 on the season with five innings of work, only allowing two unearned runs while striking out eight Sycamores against issuing three walks. Guy tossed two innings of relief, holding Indiana State to one hit while setting down a pair on strikes.

Upcoming Softball Promotions
With 13 games remaining in the home schedule, the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announced a tentative slate of promotional events held in conjunction with Illinois softball games at Eichelberger Field. Here is a list of the upcoming giveaways and events. To pre-register for the Youth Softball, High School Softball and Girl Scout Days, contact Marketing Coordinator Brooke Buzardat 217-333-8782 or

Youth Softball Day - Sunday, April 15
Illinois softball is welcoming all youth softball teams to Eichelberger Field when the Illini face Wisconsin at 1 p.m. CT on April 15! Kids can run the bases after the game and any team interested in touring the Illinois softball clubhouse can pre-register to do so with Marketing Coordinator Brooke Buzard. Pre-registered teams will also be welcomed during the game by PA announcer Tim Sinclair.

Country Music Night - Tuesday, April 17
The Illini host Country Music Night at Eichelberger Field in conjunction with the Orange and Blue facing Western Illinois. The evening will feature a musical lineup composed of popular country music songs. In addition, Steve Holstein from the Holstein & Company Morning Show on WIXY 100.3 FM will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

Full Promotion Schedule
March 28 -- $1 drinks special
April 15 -- Youth Softball Day (Pre-registration required)
April 17 -- Country Music Night
April 21 -- Girl Scout Day (Pre-registration required); Dog Day
April 22 -- High School Softball Day (Pre-registration required)
May 2 -- Screen-Free Week; Illini student home run derby
May 5 -- World's Largest Softball Tailgate IX
May 6 -- Senior Day

Comeback Kids
In 2012, The Orange and Blue have come away victorious in seven contests during which they trailed their opponent. These wins are the difference between Illinois being 16-11 currently or 9-18 had they not completed the rallies. Below is a list of each game, the largest 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
3/24	Minnesota	2-0	 4 1/2	        4-3

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 or receiving votes 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.

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 .350 batting average (28-for-80) with six doubles and six home runs to pace the Illini with a .650 slugging percentage through 27 games. Hackett has achieved this success at the plate despite consistently being pitched around, owning 16 walks to earn a team-high .475 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 walk-off RBI single vs. Pittsburgh and a two-out two-run home run in the sixth against Tennessee-Chattanooga. Among all Big Ten softball student-athletes, Hackett ranks fourth in slugging percentage (.650), tied for fifth in home runs (6), tied for eighth in total bases (52) and tied for 10th in walks (16).

Complete Game(s) For The Win(s)
Pepper Gay earned her eighth complete game victory of the season against Minnesota, 2-0, on March 25. Gay has tossed four complete-game shutouts this year, earning four of her 11 wins in the process. Gay added four more complete game victories this season, including wins over UMass, New Mexico State, UNLV and Boston U.

Ten of Illinois' 16 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.

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.

Ironwomen At The Corners
In their fourth seasons as starters, senior third baseman Kelley Wedel and senior first baseman Meredith Hackett have combined to start 346 of a possible 349 contests at their respective positions of third and first base, with both accruing streaks of more than 140 consecutive starts simultaneously.

Wedel has started 173 of the 175 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 1,145 innings at third, recording 184 putouts and 195 assists in 414 total chances, good for a .915 fielding percentage.

Hackett has played in 174 total contests, making 173 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 1,012 putouts and 55 assists in 1,085 total chances, the third-most in Illini history.

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.

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 25, Gay ranks fourth among all Big Ten pitchers with 99 strikeouts, while the junior is averaging 6.88 strikeouts per seven-inning game this year.

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.