World's Largest Softball Tailgate XI: Illinois vs. Nebraska
Awarded 2006-07 Best Single-Game Promotion for an Olympic Sport by the Big Ten Conference
Highlights from The World's Largest Tailgate IX
What started out as an idea to give fans a chance to fire up their grills, pull out their coolers and enjoy their tailgating rituals during the spring has become one of the most popular and beloved spring traditions in the Urbana-Champaign community. The World's Largest Softball Tailgate, now in its 10th year, originated when University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics representatives developed a plan to provide Illini fans with an electric atmosphere full of live music, interactive games, face-painting and of course, tons of tailgate food and top-notch softball. It also gave the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics a chance to put on a premier event in conjunction with one of its emerging sports - softball.
The World's Largest Softball Tailgate came to fruition on April 24, 2004, as a then-record crowd of 756 fans piled into the stands at Eichelberger Field to watch the Orange and Blue top Big Ten foe Ohio State, 1-0. The results of the first tailgate were a rousing success and the idea spawned the development of the annual event. Since then, World's Largest Softball Tailgate crowds have come out in force year-in and year-out to cheer on the Fighting Illini.
From the first tailgate in 2004 to the one held in 2007, the crowd nearly doubled, setting a new single-game record with 1,445 fans at the fourth annual tailgate, held against regional rival DePaul. Since 2007, the crowds have eclipsed 1,000 fans three times, including 1,259 at the 2012 tailgate.
Several members of the Illini community have joined in tailgate festivities throughout the years. Illini head basketball coach Bruce Weber threw out the first pitch of the 2005 tailgate game, while Alice Martin opened the game in 2006. Martin is an important part of the Illini softball family, as she and her husband Rex used their foundation to make a million-dollar contribution for the construction of a new press box, locker room, concession stand and restrooms for the softball facility.
Illinois vs. Ohio State // Rainout (Photo Gallery) The 10th-annual World's Largest Softball Tailgate drew an excellent turnout, as Illinois fans from far and wide came to enjoy a Kentucky Derby-themed morning of activities. However, when game time rolled around, the conditions were too wet to play, so the game was postponed until the following day. Despite the weather, the stands were full of Illini fans hoping to catch the Orange and Blue in action until the game was officially called off.
Tailgate IX - May 5, 2012
Illinois 4, Penn State 2 // Illinois 6, Penn State 3 (Recap and Photo Gallery) The Illini swept Penn State in a Saturday doubleheader, putting up big numbers early in both games. The Orange and Blue exploded for four runs in the first inning in game one, due to sloppy defense by the Nittany Lions and a pair of singles by Brittany Sanchez and Stephanie Cuevas. Pepper Gay maintained the Illini lead, allowing just two runs in the complete game. Illinois jumped out on top again in the second game, scoring six runs in the first two innings, fueled by a first-inning grand slam by Kelley Wedel. Jackie Guy allowed just three hits through the first four innings, and Gay walked three with no hits allowed in her three-inning save, as the Illini won, 6-3.
Tailgate VIII - May 7, 2011
Illinois 3, Western Illinois 2 // Illinois 2, Western Illinois 0 (Recap and Photo Gallery) The Illini scored three unanswered runs in the first contest before shutting out the Leathernecks to earns a doubleheader sweep of Western Illinois. Pepper Gay tossed 11 and 2/3 innings of scoreless softball to earn both victories, only allowing two hits while striking out 13. Meredith Hackett provided a run-scoring single to create the difference in the first contest, while Jessica Davis drilled a solo homer to left-center field and hit a sacrifice fly out to right field to tally both runs in the finale.
Tailgate VII - April 24, 2010
#21 Illinois 6, Wisconsin 0 (Recap) The top three batters of the lineup got the Illinois offense going, finishing the day 7-for-11 with five RBIs and five runs scored. First baseman Meredith Hackett produced two home runs and four RBIs while second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz went 3-for-4 with two runs scored as the Illini pounded on Wisconsin early, plating two runners in the first and four in the second. Hope Howell went 2-for-3 with one RBI and one run scored as well. Sophomore starter Monica Perry logged a complete game in the circle to earn her 18th win on the season. Perry only allowed one hit and three walks on the day, striking out eight.
Tailgate VI - April 18, 2009
#8 Michigan 8, Illinois 2 // #8 Michigan 8, Illinois 3 (Recap and Photo Gallery) Designated player Katrina Ross was on fire, driving in four runs on the day and belting her fifth home run of the season. First baseman Meredith Hackett also went deep, smashing her seventh long ball of the season.
Tailgate V - May 3, 2008
Iowa 5, Illinois 2 (Recap) Illinois third baseman Shanna Diller went 2-for-3 and belted her ninth home run of the season, a two-run blast over the right field wall to give the Illini an early 2-0 lead.
Tailgate IV - April 24, 2007
#11 DePaul 3, Illinois 2 (Recap) Illini designated player Katrina Ross hit her first career home run in the fourth inning, a two-run shot to right field that put Illinois in front, 2-1.
Tailgate III - May 6, 2006
#12 Northwestern 3, Illinois 0 (Recap and Photo Gallery) Future All-American Jenna Hall led the Illini offense, going 2-for-3 while Rachelle Coriddi and Shanna Diller each added one hit on the day. Claire DeVreese started in the circle for the Orange and Blue, pitching a complete game. DeVreese gave up the three runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out one.
Tailgate II - April 30, 2005
Illinois 7, Minnesota 6 // Illinois 6, Minnesota 5 (Recap and Photo Gallery) Illinois used two late rallies to sweep a doubleheader against the Golden Gophers. Molly Lawhead drove home the game-winner with a single, scoring Jenna Hall after Rachelle Coriddi scored the game-tying run on Julie Balicki's sacrifice fly in game one. Shanna Diller drove in the game-winning run in the seventh inning of game two.
Tailgate I - April 24, 2004
Illinois 1, Ohio State 0 (Recap) Sherri Taylor delivered a solid performance in the circle, giving up no runs and just four hits in her four innings of work to improve to 9-7 on the season. Amanda Fortune relieved Taylor and gave up just one hit while striking out three in recording her third save of the year. Lindsey Hamma led off the game with a double to left field then moved to third on Rachelle Coriddi's sacrifice bunt. Jenna Hall drove her in with a line-shot single off the right-field wall.