Redbirds Lose Slugfest to Fighting Illini, 16-8
April 16, 2008
URBANA, Ill. - In a game that featured a combined 27 hits, along with career-high hitting performances from sophomores Diciembre Vaca and Michelle Henderson, the Illinois State softball team (18-16 overall, 8-4 Missouri Valley Conference) lost a wild game to Illinois (24-23), 16-8, in six innings Wednesday night at Eichelberger Field at Martin Stadium in Urbana, Ill. The game featured a total of three lead changes and ties, as Redbird pitchers allowed a season-high 16 runs in the game.
Senior second baseman Tiffany Prager recorded her fourth three-hit game of the season, as she went 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. Vaca was 2-for-4 in the game, while Henderson went a perfect 3-for-3 with two RBI.
Pitching in relief of starter Amber Smith, freshman Chrissy Burton (3-4) suffered the loss, as she allowed five runs (all earned) on six hits in 1 2/3 innings pitched. Two other Redbird pitchers saw action in the game, as junior Rachel Smith pitched one full inning and gave up two runs, while freshman Amy Mitchell pitched the final 1 2/3 innings for ISU, where she gave up six runs on just three hits.
"We had nothing in the circle that could keep Illinois off balance," said Illinois State head coach Melinda Fischer. "Despite all of that, I really that we battled offensively throughout the entire game. The bats were going for both teams throughout the game, but the pitchers for both sides couldn't get it going.
"We were struggling throughout the game to find someone to contain Illinois' bats. We were also a little shy in the field at fielding some ground balls, which hurt us. We need to regroup from this loss and prepare for a busy weekend (three games versus Wichita State Saturday and Sunday and two games versus Creighton Monday)."
Illinois State got its offense started early thanks to some shaky Illinois defense to start the game. Leadoff batter Kara Nelson reached base on an infield single to Fighting Illini shortstop Angelena Mexicano that was thrown wide of first base, and one batter later, Mexicano booted Prager's ground ball, as the Redbirds placed runners on first and second base with no outs. ISU then took advantage of some erratic pitching from Illinois' Clarie DeVreese, as two-straight walks led to the Redbirds' first run of the game, and then a wild pitch with Vaca at bat allowed Nelson to score, as ISU took a 2-0 lead.
The Fighting Illini answered back in their half of the first inning with a single run. After an error by shortstop Kaprice Williams allowed Mexicano to reach base with one out in the inning, a walk and then a single by Lana Armstrong pushed Mexicano across the plate and cut the Redbird lead in half, 2-1.
An two-out, RBI single by Prager down the left field line in the top of the second inning drove in ISU's third run of the game, as Williams came around to score after leading off the inning with a single.
Amber Smith's time in the circle lasted just one full inning, as she was forced out of the game with no outs in the bottom of the second inning after allowing four runs on three hits. A leadoff walk in the inning gave way to a single and an RBI double by right fielder Hope Howell, as Illinois cut the Redbird lead to 3-2. Two batters later, the Fighting Illini took a 4-3 lead on a single by Mexicano. Illinois continued its offensive onslaught, as a sacrifice fly ball by Armstrong scored Mexicano and put the Fighting Illini ahead, 5-3.
Burton's outing in the circle started ominously, as she gave up a home run to the first batter that she faced in the bottom of the third inning, Makenzie Smith, to give the Fighting Illini a 6-4 lead.
ISU answered right back in the top of the fourth with five runs on six hits, as 11 Redbirds came to bat in the inning. Three-straight singles by Katie Mathis, Nelson and Prager to start the inning drove in ISU's first run of the frame, as Prager's single scored Mathis. Two batters later, junior left fielder Jessie Buker doubled into left field to score Prager and Mathis. A single by Henderson on the very next play scored both Amber Smith and Buker, and then the Redbird offensive rally ended when a double by Vaca scored Henderson.
Continuing the game-long trend of a team being down and then having a big offensive inning in their next at-bat, Illinois regained the lead (10-8) in the bottom of the fourth, as the Fighting Illini rapped out four runs on five hits. One inning later, a three-run home run by Armstrong extended the Fighting Illini lead to 13-8.
The Fighting Illini finished the game in dramatic fashion, as a three-run home run by Mexicano - her team-high 16th of the season - in the bottom of the sixth inning gave Illinois a 16-8, six-inning victory via the eight-run rule.
Illinois State will return to Missouri Valley Conference action this weekend when it plays host to Wichita State Saturday and Sunday at the Redbird Softball Complex. First pitch of Saturday's doubleheader is set for noon.