Illinois Set to Host WLST, Senior Day vs. Penn State

Freshman center fielder Brittany Sanchez leads the Illini in batting average over the previous four games, with five hits - including a double - in 12 at bats (.417).
Freshman center fielder Brittany Sanchez leads the Illini in batting average over the previous four games, with five hits - including a double - in 12 at bats (.417).

May 4, 2012

University of Illinois Softball Notes

Illinois (24-23, 7-11 B1G) vs. Penn State (17-27, 8-10)
Saturday, May 5 // Eichelberger Field // Urbana, Ill. // 1 & 3 p.m. CT
Sunday, May 6 // Eichelberger Field // Urbana, Ill. // 10:30 a.m. CT

Printable Notes: Illinois Get Acrobat Reader | Penn State Get Acrobat Reader
Television: Big Ten Network (Sunday-only; Dan Kelly & Stacy Phillips)
Radio: WDWS 1400AM (Saturday game one-only; Brian Moline & Tim Ditman)
BTN Student U (Saturday-only): Game One | Game Two
Live Stats: Game One | Game Two | Game Three
Illinois-Penn State Series: Illinois leads, 15-11
Last Meeting: W, 12-2 (5), in Urbana, Ill., on April 3, 2011
Overall Streak: W 1
Home Streak: W 1

Quick Hits
In 2012, Illinois is...
• 18-1 when leading after six innings.
• 19-5 when scoring at least three runs.
• 18-5 when allowing two or fewer runs.
• 17-6 in games decided by two or fewer runs.
• 15-3 when scoring the first run of the game.
• 10-1 when playing perfect defense.

World's Largest Softball Tailgate IX
WLST Information | WLST Promotional Video | WLST IX Release | Jason & The Haymakers
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, beginning at 1 p.m. CT. Special musical guest and country music favorite Jason & The Haymakers will provide entertainment for all tailgaters this year, while 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.

Penn State Insider
Penn State arrives in Urbana, Ill., on a four-game winning streak, including taking the last three wins in walk-off fashion, after losing the four previous contests. The Nittany Lions are 17-27 overall this season, but picked up their play to a degree once Big Ten play began, owning an 8-10 record in conference games. While Penn State has found success at home (9-2), traveling has been less kind, with the Nittany Lions going 2-13 in true road games.

Cassidy Bell is the only Penn State player hitting over .300, going 31-for-78 (.397) in 26 games played and started. Bell owns the team lead in home runs (9), total bases (63), slugging percentage (.808) and on-base percentage (.505), while also totaling 18 runs scored and 13 walks. Alyssa Renwick follows with a .282 average (37-for-131), playing and starting all 44 games, while Lauren Yao has also started each contest this year, sporting a .272 line (34-for-125) with a team-high nine doubles in addition to 18 RBIs and 17 runs scored. As a team, Penn State is hitting .242 (275-for-1136) with 39 doubles, 21 home runs, 130 RBIs, a .334 slugging percentage, 115 walks against 252 strikeouts and a .326 on-base percentage.

Three pitchers have combined to toss Penn State's 289 innings this season, with Lisa Akamine leading the squad. Akamine owns a 11-16 record and 4.45 ERA in 30 appearances, including 19 starts. Akamine has tossed 160 1/3 innings, allowing 177 hits and 107 walks, giving up 102 earned runs while striking out 163 batters. Opponents are hitting .277 against the senior, including slugging 26 doubles, five triples and 16 home runs. Marissa Diescher follows with 77 2/3 innings in the circle, totaling a 5.05 ERA and 5-8 record with a .294 batting average against and 56 earned runs allowed on 92 hits and 85 walks. Jordan Wheatley is the final Nittany Lions to throw this year, going 1-3 in 17 appearances and seven starts, accumulating a 5.22 ERA on 38 earned runs allowed. As a unit, the PSU pitching staff owns a 4.75 ERA with 22 complete games and a pair of shutouts. Opponents hit .290 on the season against Penn State, with 338 base knocks and 227 walks drawn against 215 strikeouts.

Last season the Illini and Nittany Lions split a series at Eichelberger Field from April 2-3. After Penn State used four unearned runs in the top of the third to secure the first game, 4-2, the Orange and Blue offense came alive for 12 tallies in the second contest, en route to a 12-2 five inning mercy-rule victory. Meredith Hackett paced the offensive outburst with a 2-for-2, four RBI, two-run scored game, which included an RBI-double and a three-run home run. Danielle Zymkowitz went 2-for-2 with three runs scored, an RBI and a walk while Hollie Pinchback hit a two-run home run and Danielle Vaji added a two-run double. Pepper Gay earned the win while holding Penn State to only two hits without giving up an earned run.

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 W, 3-2 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.

Upcoming Softball Promotions
With three 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

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. Country music favorite Jason & the Haymakers will provide live entertainment and 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.

Senior Day - Sunday, May 6
The Orange and Blue will recognize the graduating class of Meredith Hackett, Nikki Simpson, Danielle Vaji and Kelley Wedel against Penn State on Sunday prior to the 10:30 a.m. first pitch. Illinois concessions will be offering its `Sunday Funday' packages, which includes a hot dog, drink and chips for $5.

Full Promotion Schedule
May 5 -- World's Largest Softball Tailgate IX
May 6 -- Senior Day

Southern Illinois Recap
Starting pitcher Pepper Gay notched the junior's 20th victory of the season with a complete game performance, while senior designated player Kelley Wedel returned from a hand injury to double and score the eventual winning run as the Illini rallied by Southern Illinois, 3-2, at Eichelberger Field on Wednesday afternoon. The come-from-behind victory marked the 10th on the season for Illinois, with Wedel's return to the lineup coming after the senior missed 19 games due to a hand injury sustained in practice.

Trailing, 1-0 through 2 1/2 innings, Illinois erased the deficit with one run in the third and two more in the fourth to go ahead of the Salukis, 3-1. Alex Booker scored on a wild pitch in the third before Jami Schkade put Illinois in front by a run with an RBI-single in the fourth two batters before Wedel raced home on a run-scoring ground ball by Booker to third.

The Salukis attempted a comeback of their own in the top of the seventh, notching an RBI-double by Orsburn to pull within one of tying. However, the Illinois defense stifled the rally attempt one batter later, as Schkade snagged a VadeBoncouer line drive headed up the middle with a diving catch for the final out of the contest. Gay (20-13) threw her 20th complete game of the year to earn the win, allowing six hits and four walks while striking out six with two earned runs given up.

Wedel Returns To The Lineup
After missing 19 games due to a broken right index finger sustained in practice prior to the series at Iowa (March 31-April 1), senior Kelley Wedel returned to the lineup against Southern Illinois, belting her 10th double of the season in her second at bat back. Wedel was cleared to resume playing on Monday, April 31, and was only able to practice once prior to going 1-for-3 while scoring the eventual winning run against the Salukis on May 2.

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 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.

Four Years At First Base
In her fourth seasons as a starter, senior Meredith Hackett has started 188 of a possible 195 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 2012.

At first base, Hackett has consistently been a sure-handed player, earning a .984 career fielding percentage behind 1,098 putouts and 63 assists in 1,180 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 (.627), second in home runs (41), third in on-base percentage (.437), doubles (42) and walks (96) and fourth in RBIs (150) and total bases (341).

Setting Them Down On Strikes
Pepper Gay continues to set batters down on strikes at an impressive rate, owning the third-most in the Big Ten on the current season with 182 in 202 innings pitched. Gay is averaging 6.31 strikeouts per seven-inning game this year, and with the second-most career Ks of any Illini in program history (443), Gay has struck out an average of 6.21 per seven innings, the second-highest career average for an Illini ever. Gay has struck out seven or more batters in 11 appearances, setting a season-high with 11 punchouts against Alabama-Birmingham on Feb. 11.

Comeback Kids
In 2012, The Orange and Blue have come away victorious in 10 contests during which they trailed their opponent. These wins are the difference between Illinois being 24-23 currently or 14-33 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)
4/22	Purdue  	2-0	 1/2	        8-6
4/22	S. Illinois  	1-0	 2 1/2	        3-2

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 199 games played and 153 starts, Vaji is hitting .267 (118-for-442) with 13 doubles and four triples while scoring 81 runs, driving in 34 more, drawing 62 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
Right Field	    6	    1	    7
First Base	    5	    -	    5

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
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.

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.