Illini Meet Southern Illinois at Eichelberger FIeld

Junior starting pitcher Pepper Gay secured a pair of wins at No. 22 Michigan,
Junior starting pitcher Pepper Gay secured a pair of wins at No. 22 Michigan,

May 1, 2012

University of Illinois Softball Notes

Illinois (23-23 overall) vs. Southern Illinois (32-16)
Wednesday, May 2 // Eichelberger Field // Urbana, Ill. // 4 p.m. CT

Printable Notes: Illinois Get Acrobat Reader
BTN Student U: Available on (Spencer Turkin & Shanna Diller)
Live Stats: GameTracker
Illinois-Southern Illinois Series: Illinois leads, 6-1
Last Meeting: W, 5-2, in Carbondale, Ill., on March 23, 2011
Overall Streak: W 4
Home Streak: W 2

Quick Hits
In 2012, Illinois is...
• 17-1 when leading after six innings.
• 18-5 when scoring at least three runs.
• 17-5 when allowing two or fewer runs.
• 16-6 in games decided by two or fewer runs.
• 15-3 when scoring the first run of the game.
• 10-1 when playing perfect defense.

Southern Illinois Insider
After playing host to Murray State on Tuesday, May 1, Southern Illinois will travel to Urbana, Ill., for a Wednesday, May 2 contest against Illinois, with first pitch at 4 p.m. CT on Eichelberger Field. With one game to play, SIU owns a 32-16 overall record and 10-4 mark in games away from Carbondale, Ill.; however, the Salukis are 2-4 in their previous six contests.

Five Southern Illinois batters are hitting over .300 through 48 games, including Mallory Duran's team-leading .368 average (53-for-144). Duran also paces the Salukis in stolen bases (15) and attempts (17) while drawing the most walks, 42. Allie VadeBoncouer has been the most successful power-hitter for the squad, sporting a .342 average - tied for second-highest with Haley Gorman. VadeBoncouer has seven home runs, five doubles and one triple to secure a .575 slugging percentage, also drawing 28 walks for a team-high .537 on-base mark. In total, SIU is hitting .297 (368-for-1239) while owning more doubles, 60-57; RBIs, 242-168 and walks, 206-125, while only striking out 189 times this season.

A trio of pitchers have split the work in the circle, with Alyssa Wunderlich (12-2) sporting the lowest ERA of the group, at 2.88. Wunderlich has thrown 90 innings over 28 appearances while opponents hit .252 against her. Brittney Lang follows with a 3.83 ERA and 9-4 record in 102 1/3 innings, giving up 56 earned runs while striking out 64 batters. Katie Bertelsen has seen the most frames, 123 1/3, while sporting a 3.97 ERA and 11-10 record with 70 earned runs allowed on 82 hits and 39 walks. As a group, the SIU pitching staff has totaled a 3.61 ERA and 18 complete games, tossing three shutouts. The Salukis have allowed 341 hits and 163 earned runs, issuing 125 walks while striking out 156.

The last time these teams met, the Illini traveled to Carbondale, Ill., and came away victorious, 5-2, on March 23, 2011, to improve to 6-1 all-time against Southern Illinois. Orange and Blue starting pitcher Pepper Gay limited SIU to just three hits and two walks on the contest while giving up one earned run. Danielle Vaji led the offense with a 2-for-4, one run scored performance that included a triple, while Alex Booker also totaled two hits and Danielle Zymkowitz, Kelley Wedel, Jessica Davis and Erin Bradarich all secured one base knock during the game, with Zymkowitz also tripling and Davis crushing a home run in the sixth to put Illinois ahead, 4-0.

Upcoming Softball Promotions
With four games remaining in the home schedule, here is a list of upcoming Illinois softball promotions being held at Eichelberger Field in conjunction with contests. To pre-register for Girl Scout Day, please contact Marketing Coordinator Brooke Buzard at 217-333-8782 or

Screen-Free Week // Student Home Run Derby - Wed., May 2
Women's basketball head coach Matt Bollant will throw out the first pitch on Wednesday, May 2 while kids will be given the chance to run the bases following the game. There will be an Illinois student HR derby after the contest, with five participants who sign up at the game chosen following the fourth inning. The winner will be given a VIP World's Largest Softball Tailgate package, with a reserved parking spot, dinner with a guest at the On-Deck Circle BBQ and a clubhouse tour.

World's Largest Softball Tailgate - Saturday, May 5
Illinois will host the ninth-annual World's Largest Softball Tailgate on Saturday, May 5 against Penn State. Fans are encouraged to arrive early as inflatable games, face painting and live music will be provided for all tailgaters beginning at 11 a.m. CT. Marketing Coordinator Brooke Buzard will also be completing periodic giveaways at Eichelberger Field during the day's events.

Full Promotion Schedule
May 2 -- Screen-Free Week; Illini student home run derby
May 5 -- World's Largest Softball Tailgate IX
May 6 -- Senior Day

Illini Live Media Coverage
The Fighting Illini will receive considerable live coverage from various media outlets this season, with a total of 13 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 three 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 	        L, 0-8
April 28	at Michigan     	W, 5-1 (8)
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 W, 5-1 April 21 Purdue (DH) W, 3-1 // L, 2-4 May 2 Southern Illinois 4 p.m. May 6 Penn State 2 p.m.

Illini Sports Network - WDWS 1400AM (CT) April 4 Illinois State L, 0-1 April 14 Wisconsin L, 0-8 April 21 Purdue (Game 1) W, 3-1 May 5 Penn State (Game 1) 1 p.m.

Michigan Series Recap
Illinois went to No. 22 Michigan and became the first Big Ten team to take two games from the Wolverines in Ann Arbor since Iowa did so from April 28-29, 2001 - a span of exactly 11 years. The Illini took game one, 5-1, in eight innings, securing their first win over a ranked team this season in the process. After dropping a heartbreaking 2-1 decision to begin a Sunday doubleheader, Pepper Gay shut down the UM lineup during a 2-0 victory to clinch the series.

In the first contest, the Illini drew the most walks issued in one game by Michigan this season (8), going ahead in extra innings with a five-run eighth frame that included plating four with two away. Jessica Davis tallied an RBI-groundout to break the scoreless tie before Meredith Hackett added a run-scoring single up the middle and Jess Perkins followed with a three-run home run well over the fence in left-center field. Gay secured the win, her 18th, with five strikeouts and 14 stranded Wolveirne baserunners.

In the first half of Sunday's doubleheader, Michigan opened up a 2-0 lead on a homer in the fourth, the only offense the Wolverines would muster on the day as they finished just 10-for-46 (.217) at the plate against the Illini pitching staff. With pinch runner Jaclyn Crummey on second, Michigan starting pitcher Haylie Wagner sent a fly ball into the first row of seats in the right-center field bleachers to put UM up two. Illinois cut its deficit in half during the seventh in an attempt to mount a last-frame comeback. Stephanie Cuevas earned the first collegiate home run of the catcher's career, sending a 2-1 pitch over the fence in left-center field; however, the Illini left two runners on following Cuevas' homer.

In game three, Gay came through in the clutch to help secure a Co-Pitcher of the Week honor from the Big Ten, shutting out the UM offense over a complete-game effort. With the bases loaded in the second, Perkins raced home on a ground ball and slid in ahead of the throw from first base to break the scoreless tie. Illinois added to its the lead in the fourth with Perkins doubling, moving to third on a dropped third strike and scoring on a wild pitch. Gay tallied her 19th win by only allowing four hits while striking out five.

Illini Take Two At No. 22 Michigan
When the Illini secured their series victory at No. 22 Michigan with a ground out to second baseman Jami Schkade, the Orange and Blue became the first Big Ten team in exactly 11 years to go to Ann Arbor, Mich., and come away with a series win and two victories (Last: Iowa, on April 28-29, 2001).

Pepper Gay and Jess Perkins were singled out among the Illini that came through in the clutch, with Perkins taking home Big Ten Co-Player and Freshman of the Week while Gay was tabbed Co-Pitcher. Brittany Sanchez led all Illini with a .556 average (5-for-9) during the three-game series, doubling and scoring a run while accruing a .600 on-base percentage courtesy of one additional walk. Alex Booker and Stephanie Cuevas both hit .333, with Booker going 4-for-12 and Cuevas, 3-for-9. Among Cuevas' hits was the junior's first collegiate home run, which came in the seventh inning of game two. The pair of wins over a ranked opponent marked the 35th and 36th in program history.

Perkins, Gay Recognized By Big Ten
Jess Perkins and Pepper Gay were honored by the Big Ten on Monday, April 30, with Perkins tallying Co-Player and Freshman of the Week and Gay earning Co-Pitcher laurels. With the duo sharing a piece of or outright owning each of the three weekly awards, Illinois became the first team this season to secure each honor during the same week.

Perkins went 5-for-11 (.455) at the plate with three runs scored and three RBIs, knocking a double and home run over the three contests. Perkins' home run came with two out in the eighth inning in Saturday's 5-1 Illinois victory, while the freshman scored both runs during the Illini's series-clinching 2-0 shutout on Sunday afternoon. Gay was dominant in the circle in 15 innings, holding the UM lineup that entered the three-game slate hitting .393 at home and .338 in Big Ten play to just one extra base hit and one run, striking out 10 Wolverines to earn a pair of victories, improving to 19-13 on the year in the process.

Playing Anywhere and Everywhere Redshirt-senior Danielle Vaji is finishing out her Illini career as the definition of a utility player, having started mainly at second base and left field while also playing shortstop, first base and right field this year. Rotating positions is not new territory for the Plano, Texas, native. In addition, Vaji has also served as the starting designated player and has spent time as a pinch hitter and pinch runner, while playing at least two and as many as six different positions in every healthy season.

For her career, which spans 198 games played and 152 starts, Vaji is hitting .268 (118-for-440) with 13 doubles and four triples while scoring 81 runs, driving in 34 more, drawing 61 walks and stealing 20 bases. Below is a list of Vaji's games started and additional appearances where Vaji subbed into a contest at a specific position, as well as her total number of appearances at each spot.

Position	    GS	    GP	    Total App.
Shortstop	    71	    3	    74
Designated Player   33	    12	    45
Left Field	    22	    5	    27
Pinch Runner	    -	    24	    24
Second Base	    16	    2	    18
Pinch Hitter	    -	    15	    15
First Base	    5	    -	    5
Right Field	    5	    1	    6

Four Years At First Base
In her fourth seasons as a starter, senior Meredith Hackett has started 187 of a possible 194 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 five contests for personal reasons during the 2012 season.

At first base, Hackett has consistently been a sure-handed player, earning a .984 career fielding percentage behind 1,088 putouts and 63 assists in 1,170 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 (.628), second in home runs (41), third in on-base percentage (.436), doubles (42) and walks (94) and fourth in RBIs (150) and total bases (341).

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. Gay currently ranks second behind Amanda Fortune (2001-04) on the career strikeouts listing at Illinois, with 437 in 492 1/3 innings of work with the Orange and Blue. On the current season, through games of April 29, Gay ranks third among all Big Ten pitchers with 176 strikeouts, while the junior is averaging 6.21 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.