Freshman Kylie Johnson turned some heads in the fall, hitting .667 with a triple and five stolen bases.
Oct. 19, 2012
Urbana, Ill. – The University of Illinois softball team had a successful fall season, backed by a dominant pitching staff and a solid mix of power and speed on the base paths. The Illini hosted Nebraska-Omaha, DePaul, Valparaiso and Wright State, going 4-1 in five games, including a 10-0 no-hitter against the Crusaders.
“We accomplished exactly what we set out to do this fall with nine newcomers,” said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. “We learned about the versatility of our position players, what style of play can become our strength, and how we can creatively use our lineup this spring. We have a lot of work to do before February, but this team is highly motivated, enthusiastically works TOGETHER, and gets what the BIGGER PICTURE is all about.”
The Illini pitching staff had a successful showing, allowing just two earned runs in 36 total innings pitched. The returning crew of Pepper Gay, Jackie Guy and Shelese Arnold all had solid outings, combining for 37 strikeouts, while allowing just 16 hits and 13 walks.
The trio teamed up for a no-hitter against Valparaiso on Sept. 23. 2011 All-Big Ten and NFCA All-Region pitcher Pepper Gay started in the circle, Arnold came in to relieve her, and Guy closed out the game. They then followed that outing with a pair of shutout victories over Wright State on Oct. 5.
Sophomore hurler Arnold led the Illini with 16 innings pitched throughout the fall, striking out 10 batters, while allowing nine hits, three walks and just one run. Senior Gay struck out 16 through 13 scoreless inning, allowing just three hits and five walks, and fellow senior Guy had 11 K’s in seven innings, allowing four hits, five walks and one earned run.
“To win championships and make a run in June, pitching is still the name of the game in softball,” said Sullivan. “Our players and coaches feel confident that we are solid in the circle with the numbers Pepper, Jackie, and Shelese put up. They know what it takes to win as a staff, and worked extremely hard this summer to prepare for our coming season.”
Power and speed categorized the Illini’s offense, led by Alex Booker, Kylie Johnson, Jessica Davis and Jess Perkins. As a team, the Orange and Blue put together 15 doubles, a triple and four home runs in the five games. Freshman outfielder Johnson led the pack with a .667 batting average, going 8-for-12 with a triple, four runs, five stolen bases and an RBI. Perkins, a sophomore, hit .556, going 5-for-9 with three doubles, four runs and seven RBI. Junior outfielder Booker hit .500 with six hits in 12 at-bats, while stealing four bases, scoring five times and knocking in a run. Senior Davis hit .454 with five hits, including two home runs, had seven RBI, three runs and two stolen bases in 11 at bats.
“Our team was excited about the balance of power and speed we showed at practices, scrimmages, and in our five exhibition games,” said Sullivan. “Consistently bringing both will be a key factor in facing the challenges of our 2013 schedule.”
The Illini open the 2013 spring season against the 2012 NCAA Champion Alabama Crimson Tide on Feb. 8 at the UNI Dome Tournament in Cedar Falls, Iowa. For the complete spring schedule, visit: http://www.fightingillini.com/sports/w-softbl/sched/ill-w-softbl-sched.html.