Hollie Pinchback and the Illini take on the Michigan State Spartans this weekend.
April 30, 2010
Illinois-Michigan State Series: Illinois leads 11-6
Last Meeting: Illinois 13, Indiana 3 (3/28/2009)
Streak: Illinois has won two straight
Illinois is off to a 35-5 start to the 2010 season, handily marking the best start in program history. The previous best start for the Illini was in 2003, when the Orange and Blue started the year 21-7. Four of the Illini's losses have come to ranked opponents in No. 2 Michigan, No. 9 Stanford, No. 18 Oklahoma State and No. 20 Ohio State. San Diego State stopped Illinois' 10-game winning streak on March 14, which was just one off the school record of 11 consecutive wins, set in both 2001 and 2003. Moving Up The Rankings
Illinois remained at No. 18 this week in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 after earning the same ranking last week. The Orange and Blue recieved their first ranking of the season on March 2, coming in at No. 21. The Illini also are ranked No. 19 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. The Orange and Blue are approaching their highest ranking in school history, as the team finished the 2004 season ranked No. 17 in the NFCA poll.
Perry Earns Big Ten Honors
Sophomore Pitcher Monica Perry was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week on Monday, April 19 after leading the Illini to a sweep over Penn State last weekend. Perry matched her career high 12 strikeouts in Saturday's game and followed up with eight more strikeouts on Sunday. The series improved Perry's record to 17-4 for the season with 25 appearances out of 37 games. This marks the third Big Ten Player of the Week honor Illinois has received this season, following first baseman Meredith Hackett on March 21 and third baseman Kelley Wedel on March 1.
Zymkowitz on a Tear
Junior second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz looks to already be in her 2009 All-American form, as she is batting .420 to rank third in the Big Ten. Zymkowitz also ranks third in the league in runs scored (46) and has a total of 58 hits, which puts her at second in the Big Ten. The team captain has gotten a hit in 32 of 40 games this season. Her career batting average is currently .372, which ranks first in Illinois history.
Zymkowitz broke the single season stolen bases record against Ohio State on April 10. She now has 32 stolen bases for the season to surpass the old record of 23 stolen bases in a season set by Rachelle Coriddi in both 2003 and 2006. Zymkowitz is also second on the career stolen bases with 66. Coriddi has the Illinois record with 87 stolen bases from 2003-06. Zymowitz ranks fourth in the country and third in the Big Ten for stolen bases.
How About That Offense
The sixth official NCAA statistical report came out on April 27, with the Illini offense ranked among the nation's best in several categories. Below is a list of where they stack up compared to the rest of the country through games played as of April 25:
Category NCAA Rank Stat
Runs Scored (avg.) 8 6.97
Win-Loss Percentage 3 .868
Batting Average 10 .326
Doubles per Game 9 1.66
Slugging Percentage 19 .516
Best In The Big Ten
Illinois has found success throughout the lineup this year, leading the Big Ten in almost every offensive category. As a team, the Illini rank first in the league in batting average (.326) and on-base percentage (.410). The Illini come in at second in the conference for the categories of hits (355), slugging percentage (.516), runs scored (279), doubles (64) and RBIs (243). For the season, the Illini are outscoring opponents 279-96 and have scored seven or more runs in 24 out of 40 games.
Individually, offense features three batters hitting above .400 to rank among the best in the Big Ten. Sophomore first baseman Meredith Hackett holds the second-place position batting .422, while junior second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz ranks third with a batting average of .420. Senior outfielder Hope Howell ranks fourth with a .418 batting average.
Last Time Out
The Illini took home the sweep over the Indiana Hoosiers in a midweek doubleheader this Wednesday, scoring 5-4 and 9-0 victories. Monica Perry struck out eight batters in game one, and Pepper Gay came in for her third save of the season. Gay improved her record to 12-1 on the season after striking out seven batters and allowing only four hits in game two. Meredith Hackett was hot at the plate going 4-for-4 with three runs and four RBI in game two, while Hollie Pinchback hit a career-best two homeruns in the same game.
Scouting the Spartans
Michigan State is coming off of a sweep over the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies on Thursday. The Spartans took the 5-4 win in extra innings in game one, and followed up with a 4-0 victory to secure the sweep in game two. These wins end an eight-game losing streak for the Spartans.
Last year vs. Michigan State: The Illini defeated the Spartans 13-3 last year at Eichelberger Field. Monica Perry allowed only three hits in the game. Hollie Pinchback hit a grand slam to lead the Illini to the victory, she was 2-for-2 at the plate with four RBIs and three runs.
Big Ten Honor For Hackett
Sophomore first baseman Meredith Hackett was named Big Ten Player of the Week on March 22, receiving the accolade after batting .400 (8-of-16) at the USF - The Game Tournament and leading Illinois to a 4-1 weekend record. The Corona, Calif. native hit three home runs for a slugging percentage of 1.063, also leading the team with eight RBIs.
Illini Solid On The Mound
The Illinois pitching staff has been very successful so far thisseason, holding a team ERA of 1.95 that ranks second in the Big Ten. The Orange and Blue are much improved from last year, when the team posted an ERA of 4.17. The Illini have also already tallied twelve shutouts in 2010, compared to just four in all of last season. Freshman Pepper Gay is off to a 12-1 start with an ERA of 1.64, while sophomore and staff ace Monica Perry is 19-4 with 136 strikeouts.
Perry had a stand-out performance against New Mexico at the Children's Hospital Invitational, pitching her third complete game shutout of the season and striking out eight batters. On April 17 she threw a one-hitter against Penn State and struck out a season-high twelve batters. Gay's highlight thus far has been her performance at the NFCA Leadoff Classic, when she picked up three victories with a tournament ERA of 1.11, striking out seven batters and earning a shutout against Radford. The two pitchers combined for a one-hitter against Indiana State on March 31, with Perry leading the way with six strikeouts in five innings.
Hackett Heats Up
Sophomore first baseman Meredith Hackett has been swinging the hottest bat on the team as of late, boasting an eleven-game hitting streak and six home runs over an eleven game span ending on April 10. She was the only player to reach base more than once against #2 Michigan on March 27, going 2-for-2 with a home run and a walk. Hackett now leads the Illini and ranks second in the Big Ten with a .422 batting average after hitting .229 last year. She has already surpassed her RBI total from last season with 44 RBIs so far this year compared to 21 as a true freshman. She had four RBIs against Indiana on April 28 when she was 4-for-4 with three runs.
Home Sweet Opener
Illinois opened its season at Eichelberger Field on March 17, defeating in-state rival Illinois State 8-7 in a back-and-forth game. The Illini were able to take advantage of five Redbirds' errors, scoring four unearned runs. Catcher Audrey Gallien had a big day at the plate, with a double, home run and three RBIs.
NFCA Leadoff Classic Champs
Illinois was crowned champions of the NFCA Leadoff Classic on Feb. 28, going a perfect 5-0 over the weekend. In the 23-team field that featured seven ranked teams, the Illini and Missouri were the only teams with an undefeated weekend record, with the Orange and Blue earning the title due to their run differential over opponents. It was Illinois' second tournament title of the season, as the team opened 2010 with a perfect 5-0 record at the UNLV Sportco Kick-Off Classic.
Wedel Earns Conference Accolade
Sophomore third baseman Kelley Wedel became the first Illini to be named Big Ten Player of the Week in 2010, earning the honor on March 1. At the NFCA Leadoff Classic, Wedel led the team in batting average (.538), hits (7) and runs (7) while adding two doubles and a home run with a slugging percentage of .923. She had a particularly good game in the 12-2 win over Mississippi Valley State, with a double, home run, three runs scored and a career-high four RBIs.
Sophomore third baseman Kelley Wedel and redshirt freshman shortstop Jessica Davis were both named to the NFCA Leadoff Classic All-Tournament Team after leading Illinois to the tournament title. Wedel batted .538 (7-for-13) for the tournament with a slugging percentage of .923, while Davis hit .400 (6-for-15) with a slugging percentage of .867 and two big homers, including a walk-off against No. 22 Florida State on Feb. 26.
Illinois picked up its second victory over a ranked opponent on Feb. 26, with a thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind win over No. 22 Florida State at the NFCA Leadoff Classic. The Illini's third victory over a ranked opponent was also a come-from-behind win (3-2) over No. 20 Ohio State. Redshirt freshman Jessica Davis gave Illinois the walk-off win in the bottom of the seventh with a home run to dead center against Florida State, and Junior Ashley Conrad did the same against Ohio State.
Senior captain Hope Howell was exceptional at the plate in Illinois' four wins at the Stanford Nike Invitational, batting a scorching .714 (10-for-14). She led the team over the weekend with 10 hits and six runs scored while also contributing four RBIs. In the Illini victories, the senior also led the team with an on base percentage of .733 and a slugging percentage of .786.
The Big Ten Network released its 2010 spring schedule, with Illinois softball receiving unprecedented exposure. The Illini will have five games televised nationally on the BTN, while an additional eight games will be streamed on BTN.com. For a complete schedule, see the box at the bottom of page 3. In addition to the BTN coverage, WDWS AM 1400 will broadcast at least three Illini home games in 2010. Those games will also be streamed on fightingillini.com. The following is a list of the scheduled radio broadcasts: Illinois on WDWS AM 1400
Thursday, April 15 vs. Eastern Illinois, 6 p.m.
Saturday, April 24 vs. Wisconsin, 3 p.m.
Saturday, May 15 vs. Minnesota, 1 p.m.
First Grand Slam of `10
Sophomore third baseman Kelley Wedel hit Illinois' first grand slam of the season against Kent State on Feb. 14, breaking a scoreless tie in the fourth and propelling Illinois to a 10-0 win. It was the first grand slam of Wedel's career and the 20th in program history.
Another Tough Slate
Illinois and head coach Terri Sullivan are known for scheduling the toughest schedule possible, embracing the theory that to be the best you have to play the best. In 2010, the Illini will face 19 teams that qualified for the 2009 NCAA Tournament, including four teams that advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals and two 2009 Women's College World Series participants in Missouri and Michigan. In total, five Illinois opponents in 2010 are ranked in the latest USA Today/NFCA poll.