Illinois Hosts Redbirds, Travels to Cornhuskers

Senior outfielder Nikki Simpson tallied a pair of hits in Illinois' most recent contest, finishing 2-for-3 at Iowa on April 1.
Senior outfielder Nikki Simpson tallied a pair of hits in Illinois' most recent contest, finishing 2-for-3 at Iowa on April 1.

April 3, 2012

University of Illinois Softball Weekly Notes

Illinois (16-14 overall) vs. Illinois State (20-15)
April 4 // Eichelberger Field // Urbana, Ill. // 6 p.m. CT

Printable Notes: Illinois | Illinois State
Live Radio: Illini Sports Network - WDWS 1400AM (Brian Moline & Tim Ditman)
Live Stats: GameTracker
Illinois-Illinois State Series: Illinois leads, 9-7
Last Meeting: L, 10-6, at Illinois on April 6, 2011
Overall Streak: L 2
Home Streak: L 1

Illinois (16-14, 2-4 B1G) at Nebraska (21-14, 4-2)
April 6 // Bowlin Stadium // Lincoln, Neb. // 3 & 5 p.m. CT
April 7 // Bowlin Stadium // Lincoln, Neb. // 11 a.m. CT

Live Audio: Huskers Sports Network
Live Stats: NeuLion
Illinois-Nebraska: Nebraska leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: L, 21-1 (5 innings) in Columbus, Ga., on Feb. 24, 2006
Overall Streak: L 1
Away Streak: N/A

Quick Hits
In 2012, Illinois is...
• 12-0 when leading after six innings.
• 12-3 when allowing two or fewer runs.
• 12-3 in games decided by two or fewer runs.
• 10-1 when scoring the first run of the game.
• 7-1 when playing perfect defense.

Opponent Insider
Illinois hosts in-state rival Illinois State on Wednesday, April 4 at 6 p.m. CT in the 15th meeting between the programs in the previous 10 seasons. The Redbirds enter the contest 20-15 overall and 4-7 in road games while the series between the teams favors the Illini, 9-7. Illinois follows with three games at the University of Nebraska (21-14, 4-2), which enters the series 7-0 at Bowlin Stadium.

A trio of Illinois bats are connecting at least 30% of the time, with Laura Canopy's .356 (32-for-90) average pacing the team. Canopy owns the highest on base percentage on the squad at .473, while the sophomore has totaled 20 runs scored 12 walks and 10 RBIs while leading the team with eight hit by pitch through 35 games.

Jhavon Hamilton follows with a .318 average (35-for-110), leading the team in hits while adding a Redbirds-best seven doubles and the highest slugging percentage among all starters at .509. Hamilton is 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts and owns 18 RBIs and 18 runs scored. Lizzie Andrews follows closely behind Hamilton with a .313 batting average, producing six doubles, three home runs, 12 RBIs and 18 runs scored. As a team, the Redbirds are hitting .262 (229-of-875) with 37 doubles and 21 home runs, drawing 94 walks against 181 strikeouts. Illinois State and their opponents have put up nearly identical offensive stats, with opponents totaling a .386-.385 slugging percentage advantage while also batting .262 on the season. The Redbirds are finding ways on base at a slightly higher percentage, .344-.321, while earning success in 24-of-28 stolen base attempts.

Jordan Birch and Megan Warner have split the majority of innings in the circle, combining to throw 188 2/3 of a possible 219 innings. Birch is 12-9 with a 1.85 ERA in 21 appearances (19 starts), totaling 110 frames of work. Birch has struck out 114 batters against only 22 walks issued, allowing 83 hits for a .202 batting average against. Warner stands at 7-5 through 17 appearances (15 starts), with 103 hits and 29 walks allowed in 78 2/3 innings. Hitters are connecting for a .310 batting average against Warner, while the senior has given up 19 doubles and eight home runs in earning a 3.92 ERA. Sophia Perez (1-0 record, 4.79 ERA) and Taylor Baxter (0-1, 9.26) round out the Redbirds staff, which has a combined 3.23 ERA with 228 hits allowed in 219 innings and a batting average against of .262 with 20 complete games.

Illinois State was victorious in the last meeting between the Redbirds and Fighting Illini, 10-6, at Eichelberger Field on April 6, 2011. The Redbirds scored seven runs over the first three innings to nullify a late Orange and Blue offensive push. Illinois plated six runs over the final three innings as Meredith Hackett and Hollie Pinchback both finished with two RBIs on the day. Jessica Davis and Audrey Gallien tallied two hits each on the day while Pepper Gay took the loss with 2 2/3 innings of work.

Nebraska is led by Gabby Banda's .400 batting average (44-for-110), while Nebraska has shown a penchant for power-hitting as a squad with 63 doubles and 22 home runs to help earn a .463 team slugging percentage. Banda owns a tie for the most doubles on the squad (11) with Taylor Edwards, while Banda is one of seven Cornhuskers with double-digit RBIs. Ashley Guile follows with a .364 average while six total Nebraska softball players are hitting above .300 to help the team earn a combined .313 batting average (286-for-913) through 35 games.

Ashley Hagemann is the staff ace, pitching 162 1/3 of Nebraska's 218 1/3 innings this season. Hageman has totaled a 14-11 record and a 3.02 ERA through 30 appearances, including 25 starts and 21 complete games. Hageman has issued 100 walks and allowed 134 hits while striking out 194 and giving up 70 earned runs. Teams are hitting .216 against Hageman, earning 21 doubles and 20 home runs in the process. As a squad, Nebraska owns a 3.33 ERA with 25 complete games and seven shutouts, allowing 189 hits and 135 walks against 239 strikeouts while opponents connect for a .225 clip.

Illinois and Nebraska have met once before, with the then-No. 17 nationally ranked Cornhuskers earning a 21-1 decision in five innings in Columbus, Ga., at the NFCA Leadoff Classic on Feb. 24, 2006.

Indiana State and Iowa Recap
The Orange and Blue earned a win in their first midweek game of the season, 7-2, over the Indiana State Sycamores (11-14 overall) on Wednesday, March 28, before dropping a three-game series at the University of Iowa's (14-17, 4-2 Big Ten) Bob Pearl Field on March 31-April 1.

Against the Sycamores, Pepper Gay struck out eight in five innings of work, only allowing a pair of unearned runs, while Stephanie Cuevas totaled a career-high three RBIs and Kelley Wedel finished 4-for-4 with two runs scored.

The Illini tallied first, plating two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Wedel led off with a double to right field, her team-leading ninth of the year. Two batters later, after Wedel stole third base, Cuevas singled up the middle to put the Orange and Blue up, 1-0. Two batters after Jackie Guy drew a walk, with runners on second and third, Alex Booker knocked an RBI-single less than one foot into play to double the lead.

After Indiana State evened the score in the top of the fifth, Illinois totaled the final five runs unanswered, including a four-run bottom-of-the-fifth to push ahead for good.

In the fifth, Jess Perkins doubled to open the frame and Wedel followed with a single. Jessica Davis drew a walk to load the bases before Cuevas earned an RBI-groundout to put Illinois in front, 3-2. Two batters later, Brittany Sanchez tripled to left-center field, scoring Wedel and Davis, before Booker reached on an error, plating Sanchez for the 6-2 lead. Illinois reached the final score with a Cuevas sacrifice fly out in the sixth.

After wrapping up against Indiana State, the Illini headed to Iowa City, Iowa, to face the Hawkeyes, dropping each of the three contests at Bob Pearl Field over the weekend. Illinois fell, 5-1 in the first half of Saturday's doubleheader before falter in six innings, 9-1, to close action on day one. The Orange and Blue and the Hawkeyes battled through a 10-inning contest on Sunday, with Illinois suffering a heart-breaking, 1-0, loss.

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.

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

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 eight 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 Massachusetts and New Mexico State.

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 16-14 currently or 9-21 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

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 with wins over UMass, New Mexico State, UNLV and Boston U.

Ten of Illinois' 16 victories 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.

Four Years At First Base
In her fourth seasons as a starter, senior Meredith Hackett has started 176 of a possible 178 games at first base, accruing a streak of more than 140 consecutive starts in the process. 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 .984 career fielding percentage behind 1,034 putouts and 56 assists in 1,108 total chances, the third-most in Illini history. For her career at the plate, the 2010 NFCA First Team All-American is a top-five leader among all-time Illini in eight major offensive categories, including standing first in slugging percentage (.637), second in home runs (39), third in on-base percentage (.438), tied for third in doubles (41), fourth in RBIs (143) and fifth in batting average (.330), total bases (328) and walks (86).

This season specifically, 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 tied for fifth in home runs (7), seventh in putouts (182), eighth in slugging percentage (.615), ninth in chances (197) and tied for 10th in total bases (56).

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 fly out 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.

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.

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 fly outs, 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.

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 games of April 1, Gay ranks fourth among all Big Ten pitchers with 107 strikeouts, while the junior is averaging 6.26 strikeouts per seven-inning game this year.

World's Largest Softball Tailgate IX
Illinois 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.