Orange and Blue Continue Season at Wisconsin

Jessica Davis is among the Big Ten leaders in home runs, slugging percentage, RBIs and total bases.
Jessica Davis is among the Big Ten leaders in home runs, slugging percentage, RBIs and total bases.

April 22, 2011

Complete Printable Illinois-Wisconsin Notes Get Acrobat Reader


Illinois (19-17, 6-4 Big Ten) at Wisconsin (23-18, 3-7)

Goodman Diamond; Madison, Wis.

Game 37: Saturday, April 23 // Noon CT
Game 38: Sunday, April 24 // Noon CT
GameTracker: available on
Video: link available on

Illinois-Wisconsin Series: 16-4
Last Meeting: W, 6-0, in Urbana, Ill. (4/24/10)
Streak: W 6

Opponent Insider
The Orange and Blue travel to the University of Wisconsin to face off with the Badgers (23-18 overall, 3-7 Big Ten) on the Goodman Diamond. Illinois heads to Madison, Wis., looking to snap a three-game losing skid while the Badgers search for some conference success after dropping three of their previous four games against Big Ten opponents.

Wisconsin makes use of three pitchers to earn a 3.13 team ERA through 268.2 innings of work. Cassandra Darrah leads the Badgers’ staff in ERA (2.77), wins (12), appearances (25), starts (21), complete games (14), innings (139.0), strikeouts (91), and batting average against (.271). Darrah has allowed 145 hits and 74 walks to total 63 runs scored over her workload while being tagged for seven losses in addition to her dozen wins. Meghan McIntosh has also seen considerable time during the 2011 season, throwing 85.2 innings while allowing 108 hits and 29 walks for 23 earned runs against (3.43 ERA). McIntosh is 8-9 on the season while batters are hitting .292 against the Arizona native. Amanda Najdek is the final Wisconsin pitcher to earn time this season, seeing most of her action out of the bullpen. Najdek appeared in 17 games, making three starts, to earn a 3-2 record on the year. Najdek sports a 3.66 ERA, allowing 23 earned runs in 44.0 innings on 57 hits and 29 walks while batters connect for a .313 average against the freshman right-hander.

Jennifer Krueger leads the Badgers’ offense with a .366 batting average, starting all 41 games for Wisconsin. Krueger has 48 hits on the season, all singles, with a team-high 28 runs scored and 33 stolen bases in 41 attempts. Krueger is also prone to being set down on strikes though, having stuck out in 31 of 131 at bats (23.7%). Mary Massei is the only other Badger hitting at least .300 on the season, with Massei earning a .321 (25-for-78) average with four triples, five doubles, seven runs scored and 15 RBIs. As a team, the Badgers make use of the stolen base to move runners up, attempting 100 on the season while successful converting 77, both the second-most in the conference. Four Badgers have attempted 11 or more steals on the season while 13 Wisconsin players have stolen at least one bag on the year.

In recent action, Wisconsin split a midweek doubleheader with Minnesota, falling at home in the first contests, 1-0, before taking the finale, 5-3. Darrah was tagged with the loss in game one despite holding Minnesota to one run on four hits and six walks in the complete game effort. The Wisconsin offense only produced three hits and three walks against Gophers’ ace Sara Moulton, who struck out seven in seven innings of work. Minnesota scored in the top of the first inning on a bases-loaded walk to produce the only run of the game. In the second contest, Wisconsin exacted a measure of revenge on Moulton, scoring four runs on four hits in the first two innings of the game. Kendall Grimm went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a run scored to improve her season average to .283. McIntosh started in the circle, allowing three runs in two innings before Najdek relieved McIntosh and closed out the contest with five shutout frames to earn her third win of the season.

In the most recent contest against Wisconsin, the Illini shutout the Badgers, 6-0, during the 2010 World’s Largest Softball Tailgate on April 24. The Illini offense staked the Orange and Blue to an early lead behind two runs in the first and four in the second to complete scoring for the contest. Meredith Hackett drilled a two-run homer to left-center field in the first for a 2-0 lead through one inning. In the next frame, Danielle Vaji scored on an error and Hope Howell followed with an RBI-double to put the Illini up, 4-0. One batter later, Hackett tallied her second home run of the game - a two-run shot to right-center field. Hackett finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored while Danielle Zymkowitz tallied three hits and two runs scored and Hole Howell went 2-for-3 with a run and RBI.

Weekly Recap
The Illini split a doubleheader with Purdue, taking the first game, 9-3, before falling, 11-6, during midweek action before dropping two games against Michigan, 8-6 and 9-7, on Sunday, April 17.

At Purdue, the Illini bats exploded for nine runs in a three-frame period in the first game to coast to a 9-3 victory while a six-run sixth inning for Purdue downed the Orange and Blue in the finale, 11-6. Danielle Zymkowitz batted .714 (5-for-7) in the series to lead Illinois at the plate with four runs scored, three RBIs and two walks.

In the first game, an RBI-double by Wedel put Illinois on the board in the fourth before Conrad provided a two out, two-RBI double to put the Illini in front, 3-0. Illinois scored two more in the next frame on a fielding error by Purdue before exploding for four runs in the sixth to take a commanding 9-1 lead. A bases-clearing triple by Zymkowitz pushed the advantage to 8-1 before a sacrifice fly out by Hollie Pinchback plated the final Illini run of the contest.

In the finale, the Illini scored six runs in the first two frames; however, the bats were silence over the last five frames. Reliever Laura Tarnawa navigated the dangerous Purdue lineup for four innings before running into trouble in the sixth. The Boilermakers were able to score six runs in the inning, four unearned, to create the difference in the game.

With No.2-nationally ranked Michigan in town, the Illini fell behind early before attempting late-innings comebacks in both contests. However, the deficit proved too great for the Illinois offense in each game, falling two runs short of tying the Wolverines in both contests.

In game one, Michigan rushed out to a 5-1 lead through two innings and an 8-2 advantage in the sixth before the Illini began chipping away at the deficit. Illinois broke through against Michigan starting pitcher Jordan Taylor in the bottom of the sixth with four runs. Jackie Guy singled with one out while Danielle Zymkowitz moved the Buena Park, Calif., native to second with a single to left field. Two batters later, Meredith Hackett drilled a two-run double to left field and Jessica Davis followed Hackett with a two-run homer to left-center field to bring the Illini within two runs, 8-6.

In game two, Michigan again earned an early advantage, taking an 8-3 lead into the second inning. The Wolverines were only able to muster one more run over the final five innings as the Illini offense again found success against one of the strongest pitching rotations in the nation. Guy drove her first collegiate home run over the left field fence in the fourth to cut the Michigan lead to 8-4. After the Wolverines added one in the fifth, Illinois responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning to make it 9-6. Kelley Wedel doubled down the right field line to plate Hackett and pull the Illini within four, 9-5. before Pinchback raced home from third in the following at bat as Guy reached safely on a fielding error by Michigan first baseman Dorian Shaw. Hollie Pinchback connected for a solo homer to left-center field in the seventh inning to reach the final score, 9-7.

Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award Recognition
Senior second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz was selected as one of 10 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award finalists on Monday, March 28. Zymkowitz was one of only two players from the Big Ten selected as a candidate, with Zymkowitz joined by Michigan’s Dorian Shaw on the ballot.

In 2011, Zymkowitz continues to steal bases at a program-best rate, finding success on 14-of-17 attempts. Against Longwood on March 4, Zymkowitz broke the program record for career runs scored, needing only 175 games to record her 168th run scored, besting Angelena Mexicano’s program total of 167. The West Hills, Calif., native continues her streak of consecutive starts throughout 2011, securing second base for the Illini in all 36 games this year to total 197 consecutive starts at second since her freshman season at Illinois in 2008. Zymkowitz also sits among current NCAA leaders in triples and runs scored per game. In the most recent NCAA statistical update, the 2009 All-American is tied with three other player for third in the nation for triples, with six, while she is tied for 10th overall in runs per game with 42 in 36 games played (1.17).

Last year, Zymkowitz earned her second consecutive All-Big Ten First Team award after finishing with a .409 batting average and a single-season Illinois record of 76 hits, while the Chaminade College Prep graduate scored 59 runs to go with 23 RBIs and 93 total bases. Zymkowitz’s hits, runs scored, RBIs, total bases and stolen base (36) marks on the season all bested her 2009 All-America numbers, while her stolen bases total ranked first in single season thefts in Illini history.

Zymkowitz sports a .372 career batting average, the highest in Illinois softball history. Zymkowitz is also the career leader in stolen base percentage, finding success on 82 of 95 attempts (.863) while her career thefts total ranks second all-time. Zymkowitz is also featured on 13 more Illinois career lists, including highest on-base percentage, most hits and most runs scored.

In addition to her work on the field, Zymkowitz remains active in the community through the Illini Jock Jams fundraiser, the Hometown Heroes outreach program and visits to the Cantebury Ridge assisted living community. Also, Zymkowitz continues to be a leader on the Illinois softball team, receiving the Illini Igniter and Power Awards following the 2010 campaign. The Illini Igniter Award was given in recognition of her ability to get the team in game mode and keep the “fire” throughout the contest while the Illini Power Award was earned due to her hard work in practice and in the weight room to set the standards for Illinois players.

Constantly Connecting
Since beginning Big Ten play against Michigan State on March 26, a group of Illini have connected at a high rate. Through the last 12 games, 10 against conference opponents and two more against non-conference foes, Danielle Zymkowitz leads all Illinois hitters with a .564 batting average. Zymkowitz also owns the top spot in hits (22), triples (2), walks (9), on-base percentage (.646) and is tied for the lead in runs scored (15) and at bats (39).

Jessica Davis has also found success as of late, tallying a .455 batting average with a team-high seven homers among her 15 hits. Davis also owns 12 runs scored, 16 RBIs, eight walks, a team-best 38 total bases and a squad-high 1.152 slugging percentage. Meredith Hackett follows Davis with a .395 batting average. The Corona, Calif., native is slugging .789 with six doubles and three homers to go with a the most RBIs among Illini (19). Senior captain Audrey Gallien rounds out the group with a .303 batting average (10-for-33) with five doubles, four runs scored and four RBIs while her eight walks and one hit by pitch increase her on-base percentage to .452.

Finding Ways On
Junior Meredith Hackett (23 walks), senior Ashley Conrad (21), redshirt sophomore Jessica Davis (16) and senior Danielle Zymkowitz (16) have combined to earn 57.1 percent of the team’s bases on balls (76-of-133) this season. In addition to their hits, Hackett and Davis have been struck by four pitches while Conrad was hit three times. Currently, Hackett leads the Orange and Blue with a .500 on-base percentage, Zymkowitz is second with a .476 on-base mark, Davis places third at .444 and Conrad earns fourth on the team by reaching 44.0% of the time she steps to the plate.

No Easy Outs
Through the first 36 games, six Illini batters have hit at a rate of at least .275, earning a combined average of .335 (224-for-669) in the process. Danielle Zymkowitz leads the team with a .409 average following her strong play since opening the Big Ten season, as Zymkowitz sports a .594 batting average (19-for-32) against in-conference opponents. Meredith Hackett is second on the team at .382, connecting for 39 hits in 102 at bats, including a Big Ten-leading 15 doubles. Jessica Davis earned her way up to .340 following a 4-for-6 weekend against No. 2-ranked Michigan, while Danielle Vaji (.303), Kelley Wedel (.292) and Hollie Pinchback (.279) round out the Illini hitters connecting for base knocks in at least 27% of their at bats.

As a team, Illinois earned a .295 clip, good for fourth among Big Ten Conference squads. Within the Big Ten, Illinois sits in fourth or better for runs (218), doubles (47), triples (11), home runs (31), RBIs (187), total bases (448), sacrifice fly outs (9), slugging percentage (.462), on-base percentage (.395) and hit by pitches (33).

Hitting With The Best of Them
One season removed from earning first in the Big Ten in batting average, junior Meredith Hackett is once again an offensive leader among conference players. In addition to being in the top-20 in batting average (.382), Hackett is currently first in doubles (15), tied for the lead in sacrifice fly outs (3) and is in fifth for RBIs (41) and slugging percentage (.765) as she continued to find ways to devastate opposing pitchers despite being pitched around. In the field, Hackett has been equally impressive, recording the most double plays turned (13) on the season. In addition, Hackett’s single-game performance of 11 total bases against UTSA on Feb. 12 ranks first among all Big Ten Conference players while she is tied with teammate Jessica Davis and Purdue’s Molly Garst for the second-most RBIs recorded in one game (6).

Situational Strengths
When put into various situations, certain Illini have come through in the clutch and performed extraordinarily. A group of nine Illini have found success in at least some of the following: with runners on base, the bases loaded, as the leadoff batter, with runners in scoring position, with runners on third and less than two outs and successfully advancing the runners.

With runners on base, Danielle Zymkowitz leads the Illini with a .551 average (27-for-49) while Meredith Hackett follows with 30 hits in 65 at bats (.462). Zymkowitz is also successful with the bases loaded, producing at a .667 clip (6-for-9) while the West Hills, Calif., native also is consistently productive at advancing the runners (.709) with 39 hits in 55 at bats. Seven other Illini move the runners up at least 50 percent of the time they step to the plate with the opportunity. Hackett is hitting .603 (47 advances, 78 opportunities) and Jenna Mychko is 6-for-10 (.600) when moving the runner. Jessica Davis follows with a .588 (40-for-68) clip while Danielle Vaji is one-one hundredth of a percentage point behind Davis at .587 (37-for-63). Hollie Pinchback (.563, 45-for-80), Kelley Wedel (.527, 39-for-74) and Ashley Conrad (.514, 19-for-37) round out the Illini moving runners over at least 50% of the time.

Alex Booker has been the most successful Illini as the leadoff batter, reaching base in seven of 11 chances (.636) while Zymkowitz is second (.492, 32-for-65). Davis comes in at third by reaching base in 12 of 25 chances (.480). Audrey Gallien (9-for-21) and Hackett (6-for-14) both reach as the leadoff in 42.9 percent of their opportunities while Wedel is 7-for-17 to earn a .412 mark as the leadoff hitter during an inning.

Three Orange and Blue players hit at least .400 with runners in scoring position. Zymkowitz is 18-for-28 to secure an outstanding .643 batting average with the opportunity to drive runners in. Hackett is the second-most successful Illini, sporting a .488 line with 20 hits in 41 at bats, while Ashley Conrad is third with eight base knocks in 20 at bats (.400). Wedel owns a .714 (10-for-14) average with a runner on third and less than two out to lead the Illini with Hackett in second with a .692 clip on nine hits in 13 at bats. Pinchback also has nine hits with a runner on third and less than two out, using 17 total at bats to do so for a .529 average.