Illinois Opens At Home, Hits The Road For Big Ten Action
April 1, 2008
Illinois vs. Eastern Illinois (DH)
Illinois at Penn State
Illinois at #5 Michigan (DH)
Top of The Order
Amazin' Mex: Shortstop Angelena Mexicano was unstoppable against UIC last Tuesday, reaching base in every plate appearance. Mexicano went 6-for-6 with three walks, a home run, drove in four runs and crossed the plate six times. She continued her hot streak against Ohio State, belting the game-winning home run in game one and scoring two runs in the second game. Overall for the week, the senior slugged 1.385 and batted .692, with two home runs, seven RBIs and 10 runs scored to earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors for the second time in her career. She currently sits atop the conference with 34 runs scored, is tied for first with 11 home runs and ranks third with 30 RBIs.
Here's the Dill: With her eight RBI performance over the week, third baseman Shanna Diller became the school's all-time leader with 148 career RBIs. She surpassed former All-American Jenna Hall who has 142. Diller also moved past Hall for second place on the career home run list with her 34th blast.
Big Bats of the Big Ten: The Illini continue to top many offensive categories in the Big Ten. The Orange and Blue lead the conference in slugging percentage (.479), runs scored (169), RBIs (153), doubles (55) and home runs (36). Illinois ranks third with a .283 batting average and second with 257 hits.
Magnificent Seven: Centerfielder Sarah Bryers lit up the scoreboard against Illinois-Chicago, belting two home runs, including her first career grand slam, to collect a school-record seven RBIs in the game. The mark surpassed the single-game record of six RBIs set by Rachelle Coriddi in 2003 and tied by current shortstop Angelena Mexicano in 2006.
Chicks Hit the Long Ball: The Orange and Blue continued their weekend trend of hitting at least two home runs, belting six on Sunday against in two games No. 22 Ohio State. It marks the seventh weekend in a row Illinois has had a multi-home run weekend, dating back to the beginning of the season. In five of those weekends, the Orange and Blue went deep at least four times.
Tough Road: After the Illini face No. 5 Michigan in the upcoming weekend, Illinois will have faced the top six teams currently ranked in both national polls. In addition to those six teams, the Illini have already faced five other ranked opponents this season. The Orange and Blue strength of schedule currently ranks as the seventh in the nation according to warrennolan.com, while Illinois is ranked 41st in RPI.
National Scene: Illinois offensive firepower has again landed it among the nation's top teams. The Illini are 15th in the nation with 1.06 home runs per game, while the Orange and Blue rank 19th in slugging percentage (.479) and doubles per game (1.62). Shortstop Angelena Mexicano cracked the top 20 in two categories, ranking 13th nationally in runs per game (1.0) and 18th in home runs per game (0.32). Third baseman Shanna Diller ranks 17th in the nation with 0.36 doubles per game.
The Scouting Report
Penn State: After coming off their seventh NCAA appearance in eight years, the Nittany Lions return two All-Americans and three All-Region or All-Big Ten performers for a solid lineup. Penn State has a 25-10 overall record, while going 2-2 so far in the Big Ten. After two tough losses against Purdue, the Nittany Lions rebounded with a decisive sweep against Indiana in Big Ten play. Senior pitcher Ashley Esparza has been leading the team this season, posting a 1.28 ERA and an 11-6 record. Junior outfielder Danielle Kinley has been phenomenal this year on the offensive side of the ball, leading the team with a .386 average and 39 hits. Junior infielder Kayce Joyce has also played a large role at the plate, with a .333 average and 13 RBI's, while Esparza and Desi Giordano have powered home a combined 49 runs.
Michigan: After making it to the Super Regional a year ago, the Wolverines are a force again this season. They are currently ranked No. 5 in the country while posting a 29-3 overall record. In Big Ten play, they are 4-0 after impressive wins over both Indiana and Purdue. Michigan has dominated at the plate, outscoring opponents 165-37 so far this season. They have already beaten four top-25 teams, including a 2-0 win over then seventh-ranked Arizona. Senior Samantha Findlay has been unstoppable, with a .402 average, 34 RBIs and 32 runs scored. Their pitching staff has been equally impressive, with Freshman Jordan Taylor posting a 16-2 record with a 0.55 ERA and sophomore Nikki Nemitz with a 0.73 ERA and a 13-1 record.