Orange and Blue Prepare to Host Western Illinois

Freshman Jami Schkade tallied a career-high three hits in the final contest against Wisconsin on April 15, recording a double in the contest while playing perfect defense at second.
Freshman Jami Schkade tallied a career-high three hits in the final contest against Wisconsin on April 15, recording a double in the contest while playing perfect defense at second.

April 16, 2012

University of Illinois Softball Notes

Illinois (18-20 overall) vs. Western Illinois (22-18)
Tuesday, April 17 // Eichelberger Field // Urbana, Ill. // 7 p.m. CT

Printable Notes: Illinois
Web Streaming: BTN Student U/All-Access
Live Stats: Available on
Illinois-Western Illinois Series: Illinois leads, 2-1
Last Meeting: W, 2-0 in Urbana, Ill., on May 7, 2011
Overall Streak: W 2
Home Streak: W 2

Quick Hits
In 2012, Illinois is...
• 13-0 when leading after six innings.
• 13-4 when allowing two or fewer runs.
• 13-4 in games decided by two or fewer runs.
• 11-2 when scoring the first run of the game.
• 8-1 when playing perfect defense.

Opponent Insider
The Orange and Blue will face Western Illinois on Tuesday, April 17, hosting the Leathernecks on Eichelberger Field for a game under the lights at 7 p.m. CT. Western Illinois enters the contest 22-18 on the season and 10-8 in road games, while the Leathernecks will be playing in their third consecutive game against Big Ten competition, having faced Wisconsin for a doubleheader on April 10.

Sammy Marshall paces the Western Illinois offense in 38 games played of a possible 40 contests, hitting .420 (55-for-131) with a team-high 38 runs scored, a pair of doubles, a home run and 45 stolen bases in as many attempts. Jamie Goss is the only other Leatherneck hitting above .300 on the season, connecting at a .364 rate (47-for-129) with five doubles, three triples, five home runs, a team-best 32 RBIs and 23 runs scored. Goss also paces Western Illinois in slugging percentage (.566) and owns a tie for second in most walks drawn (16) to tally the second-highest on-base percentage (.433). Goss has also proven to be a reliable first baseman for the Leathernecks, owning 347 putouts and 19 assists against only three errors committed for a .992 fielding percentage.

As a team, Western Illinois hits .285 (314-for-1103) with 38 doubles, eight triples, 22 home runs and 151 RBIs, sporting a .393 slugging percentage and .358 on-base percentage with 101 walks drawn and 81 stolen bases in 92 attempts.

Hailey Bickford and Kelsey Michelini have split time as the main pitchers on the Western Illinois staff. Michelini is 12-7 with a 3.07 ERA in 132 1/3 innings of work, appearing in 30 contests while making 23 starts. Michelini has allowed 116 hits and 45 walks while striking out 74 and giving up 58 earned runs. Michelini holds the opposition to a .233 batting average; however, foes have connected for power, with Michelini being tagged with 19 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs. Bickford has recorded a 2.62 ERA and an 8-8 record through 28 appearances, including 13 starts and six complete games. Bickford has given up 102 hits and 43 walks in 107 innings, with opponents hitting .255 while Bickford has been charged with 40 earned runs.

Along with Teagan Walsh (5.44 ERA, 2-3 record), the Western Illinois staff has logged 276 2/3 frames this season, combining for a 3.14 ERA and 14 complete games in 40 contests. The opposition has connected for 249 hits and drawn 105 walks, while the Leathernecks have totaled 146 strikeouts and limited foes to a .246 batting average against.

Illinois and Western Illinois last faced off during 2011 Senior Day and World's Largest Softball Tailgate VIII, held on May 7. The Illini earned victory in both ends of the doubleheader, securing game one, 3-2, before taking the second contest, 2-0. Jessica Davis paced the offense in each contest, totaling a 3-for-4 line over both games, with two runs scored and a pair of RBIs on a solo home run and a sacrifice fly out. Ashley Conrad and Danielle Vaji followed Davis with 2-for-4 afternoons, with Conrad tallying a pair of doubles and a run scored while Vaji contributed a triple, RBI and run scored. Pepper Gay earned both victories on the day, holding Western Illinois scoreless during 11 2/3 innings of work, only allowing two hits while striking out 13 Leathernecks.

Weekend Recap
Illinois dropped 2-of-3 to the Wisconsin Badgers during the April 14-15 weekend, playing a Sunday doubleheader after inclement weather forced the postponement of one Saturday contest. In the first game of the series, Jess Perkins finished 2-for-3 with a double, while the No. 2 through No. 6 spots in the lineup went 6-for-13 (.462) during the 8-0 loss to Wisconsin. The Badgers scored two runs each in the third and fifth innings before tacking on four more in the top of the seventh.

The Orange and Blue broke open the first game on Sunday with four runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 5-1 advantage, a lead they would not relinquish the remainder of the way. After Perkins led off with a four-pitch walk, Danielle Vaji dropped a bunt down the third base line. Badgers third baseman Shannel Blackshear's throw was wide of first base and bounced off the fencing in foul territory, allowing Perkins to score Illinois' second run from first while Vaji moved to third.

Ahead by one at that point, Jenna Mychko scored Vaji with a bunt in front of the plate, reaching safely as Wisconsin unsuccessfully attempted to record the out at home on the squeeze play. Now in front 3-1 with pinch runner Lauren Loies on first, Jami Schkade singled down the left field line to put runners on first and second. After Stephanie Cuevas used a sacrifice bunt to move both runners up one base, Nikki Simpson singled down the right field line to score Loies for a three-run lead. Simpson took second and Schkade moved to third on the throw to home plate and Alex Booker followed with an RBI-single to shortstop to score Illinois' fifth run.

Illinois tallied first with a solo home run from Davis in the bottom of the first and added three more on a two-RBI single by Mychko and a run-scoring base knock from Simpson in the fifth.

In the final game, Wisconsin (24-13 overall, 8-4 Big Ten) led off with a first-pitch home run, one of three long balls Mary Massei hit during the contest, to go ahead, 1-0. However, the Illini matched the Badgers with a run of their own in the bottom of the frame. Davis reached on a fielding error, advancing to second on the play before Vaji doubled to the right-center field wall two batters later to score the first Illinois run of game two.

The Orange and Blue took the lead in the bottom of the second, with Schkade opening the frame with a single to right-center field. Two batters later Simpson singled to left field before Booker beat out a grounder to shortstop to score Vaji from third for the 2-1 advantage.

The game continued its back-and-forth trend into the third, when Wisconsin re-tied the game at 2-2 on a Massei homer to right-center field before the Badgers added to its lead with solo home runs from Blackshear and Mueller in the following frame. After Illinois plated one in the fourth on a Booker RBI-single to cut the deficit to 4-3, the Badgers offense exploded for five runs in the sixth.

After Wisconsin plated six consecutive runners to go ahead, 10-3, Illinois scored four runs in the bottom of the frame before the rally attempt fell short, 10-7. Davis walked as the inning's leadoff hitter before Perkins was struck with a pitch to put two runners on base. Vaji grounded into a fielder's choice, with Davis retired at third on the play while Mychko doubled in Perkins from second to pull Illinois within 10-4. Schkade added a run-scoring single, taking second on a throwing error by Grimm in right field two batters before Simpson tallied her final RBI-single down the left field line. With Simpson on first and two away, Booker grounded out to Darrah in the circle to conclude the contest.

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

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.

Girl Scout Day // Dog Day - Saturday, April 21
Illinois hosts a dual promotion Saturday, April 21 vs. Purdue, bringing together the annual Girl Scout Day with Dog Day at Eichelberger Field. Girl Scouts that pre-register with Brooke Buzard can receive scouting patches and concession stand coupons. With Dog Day, bring your puppy to the ball park to enjoy the weather and softball, and you can enter your friend for the Most Spirited Contest, which is the dog with the most Illini gear!

Full Promotions Schedule
April 14 -- Softball Bingo; Clubhouse Tours
April 15 -- Illinois Head Football Coach Tim Beckman will throw out the first pitch; Youth Softball Day (Pre-registration required); $5 Illinois Concessions Deal (Hot Dog, Chips & Drink)
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 18-20 currently or 10-28 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
4/12	E. Illinois	1-0	 5 1/2	        4-1 (8)

Complete Game(s) For The Win(s)
Pepper Gay earned her 10th complete game victory of the season against Wisconsin, 8-7, on April 15. Gay has tossed four complete-game shutouts this year, earning four of her 12 wins in the process. Gay added six more complete game victories this season with wins over UMass, New Mexico State, UNLV, Boston University, Eastern Illinois and Wisconsin.

Twelve of Illinois' 18 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 180 of a possible 186 games at first base, accruing a streak of more than 140 consecutive starts. 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. Hackett also did not appear in the most recent contests at Eastern Illinois and against Wisconsin due to personal reasons.

At first base, Hackett has consistently been a sure-handed player, earning a .984 career fielding percentage behind 1,048 putouts and 58 assists in 1,124 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 seven major offensive categories, including standing first in slugging percentage (.629), second in home runs (39), third in on-base percentage (.433) and doubles (42), fourth in RBIs (143) and fifth in total bases (330) and walks (86).

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 15, Gay ranks fourth among all Big Ten pitchers with 142 strikeouts, while the junior is averaging 6.50 strikeouts per seven-inning game this year.

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.

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
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. Pepper Gay was masterful in the circle throughout the day, striking out 13 while only allowing two hits over 11 2/3 innings of work, earning both victories.

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.