Illinois Softball Notes for NCAA Regional

Audrey Gallien (10) and the Illini open NCAA Tournament play on Friday.
Audrey Gallien (10) and the Illini open NCAA Tournament play on Friday.

May 19, 2010

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Familiar Territory
Illinois is heading to the Columbia Regional for the second straight year. Last season the Illini opened against host Missouri, falling 5-1 before being eliminated by DePaul, 6-0.
• Illinois is facing DePaul for the second time in 16 days. The Blue Demons downed Illinois 3-2 on May 6. DePaul scored three runs after two were out in the second inning. Illinois rallied for two unearned runs in the fifth. Danielle Zymkowitz had two of the four hits off of DePaul ace Bree Brown. Pepper Gay pitched the final three innings for Illinois, allowing just one hit while striking out three.

NCAA Tournament history
Illinois is making its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance and second straight. The Illini are 5-6 all-time in the tournament, going 4-2 and reaching the Regional Final in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. That year the 48-team field consisted of eight six-team regionals and was prior to the era of the Super Regionals.
All-Time Illinois NCAA Tournament Results
2003 (at Tuscaloosa, Ala.) -- Illinois 5, Georgia Tech 3; Alabama 4, Illinois 2; UMass 5, Illinois 4
2004 (at Waco, Texas) -- Illinois 3, UTSA 0; Baylor 5, Illinois 0; Illinois 3, Houston 2; Illinois 2, Seton Hall 0; Illinois 4, Baylor 0; LSU 4, Illinois 1
2009 (at Columbia, Mo.) -- Missouri 5, Illinois 1; DePaul 6, Illinois 0

Illini streaking into post-season
• Illinois has the fewest losses (6) of any team in the tournament, tied with Washington and Michigan.
• The Illini have won 16 of their last 17 games. The only loss in that stretch has come to DePaul. The Illini won 12 straight prior to that meeting and ended the season winning four in a row.
• In that stretch, Illinois is hitting .333, has a .982 fielding percentage and a 1.08 ERA
Meredith Hackett has seven home runs in the last 17 games, while hitting .420 with five doubles and 23 RBI (good for a .940 slugging percentage). Danielle Zymkowitz is batting .469 with 11 stolen bases and 22 runs scored.

Senior Moments
Illinois senior Hope Howell went 3-for-3 with a first inning home run, a double and four RBI in her final game at Eichelberger Field. She earned the Big Ten Player of the Week honor for her effort. The Lithonia, Ga., native batted .538 for the week, connecting seven times in 13 at bats, scoring five runs and knocking in six RBI. Howell ends the regular season ranked fourth on the Illinois all-time batting list. She also ranks sixth in doubles, fifth in triples, 10th in home runs and seventh in RBI in the Illini records book.
• Fellow senior Ashley Wright pitched two perfect innings of relief, striking four of the six batters she faced.

Illinois in the rankings
Illinois holds the No. 18 spot this week in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25. 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. 18 in the Softball poll. Illinois has been ranked as high as No. 17 this year. The Orange and Blue matched their highest ranking in school history during the week of May 3, as the team finished the 2004 season ranked No. 17 in the NFCA poll.

Guy a hit at designated player
Jackie Guy has spent the year as Illinois' No. 3 starter, posting a 0.88 ERA in 15 appearances and 32 innings pitched. Guy has started the last four games at desingated player. She has a hit in every game, batting .600 (6-for-10) with a team-leading six RBI.

Zymkowitz on a Tear
Junior second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz has been up to her 2009 All-American form, as she is batting .421 to rank first in the Big Ten and 21st in the country. Zymkowitz also ranks third in the league in runs scored (55) and has a total of 72 hits, which puts her at first in the Big Ten. The team captain has gotten a hit in 40 of 49 games this season. Her career batting average is currently .375, would rank first in Illinois history. Angelena Mexicano batted .347, the current record holder

Zymkowitz broke the single season stolen bases record against Ohio State on April 10. She now has 35 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 69. Coriddi has the Illinois record with 87 stolen bases from 2003-06. Zymowitz ranks sixth in the country and third in the Big Ten for stolen bases.

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 (.329), on-base percentage (.410) and hits (438). The Illini also come in at second in the conference for the categories of slugging (.519), doubles (76), runs scored (344), RBI (302), and total bases (692). For the season, the Illini are outscoring opponents 344-113 and have scored six or more runs in 41 out of 49 games.

Individually, offense features three batters hitting above .400 to rank among the best in the Big Ten. Junior second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz ranks first in the league with a batting average of .421. Sophomore first baseman Meredith Hackett ranks third with a .418 batting average, while senior outfielder Meredith Hackett holds the fourth-place position batting .416 also.

Illini Solid On The Mound
The Illinois pitching staff has been very successful so far this season, holding a team ERA of 1.86 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 tallied 15 shutouts in 2010, compared to just four in all of last season. Freshman Pepper Gay holds a 16-1 record with an ERA of 1.53, while sophomore and staff ace Monica Perry is 23-5 with 163 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.

Freshman Jackie Guy and senior Ashley Wright have also been effective in relief for Illinois, giving up just seven runs in 20 combined appearances.

No-hitter in season finale
Sophomore Monica Perry and senior Ashley Wright combined for a five-ining no-hitter the last time out against Minnesota . Perry pitched the first three innings, allowing just a lead-off walk while striking out five of the last nine batters she faced. Wright struck out four in pitching a perfect fourth and fifth 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 third in the Big Ten with a .418 batting average after hitting .229 last year. She has 55 RBI so far this year compared to 21 as a true freshman and she ranks 13th in the country for RBI. 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.