|Redbird softball falls to rival Illinois on the road|
|Written by Emily Warner, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Thursday, 18 March 2010 00:10|
Similar to a red wine stain on a white carpet, there was little that could be done to erase the mark No. 21 Illinois left on the scoreboard after the first inning in Wednesday’s contest at Eichelberger Field in Urbana, Ill.
Despite a late-in-the-game rally, the Illinois State softball team was vanquished, 8-7.
The ‘Birds fell flat in the first inning with their first three batters striking out. The lackluster offense rolled over to defense in the first as the Illini took charge of the game, scoring four runs off of two hits.
“I thought we played a horrendous first inning,” ISU head coach Melinda Fischer said on WJBC. “Anytime you give a team that can hit the ball like Illinois a four run spot in the first inning, you have a chance throughout the rest of the ball game, but you’re really trying to dig yourself out of a hole.”
Senior center fielder Beth Current helped lessen the blow in the top of the second inning with a double to center field to drive in a run for the Redbirds.
ISU held its own in the beginning of the third inning, getting back-to-back outs to ice Illinois. But the Illini did not stay cold for long as a home run extended their lead to 5-1.
The Redbirds chalked up two outs to start off their at-bat in the top of the fourth inning, yet the scent of a possible rally was traveling through the air after freshman right fielder Lauren Kellar hit an RBI-single up the middle.
The scent evaporated in a hurry, however, when ISU left three runners stranded to end the inning after working its way up to bases loaded with two outs.
Illinois plated a run in the fourth to go up 6-2.
The fifth inning had a déjà vu feeling as the ‘Birds garnered two outs in the start of the inning. Senior first baseman Michelle Henderson hit a single to left field. Senior shortstop Niki Stansell quickly put ISU in a spot to make a run for the victory by hitting a two-run homer to shorten the Illini’s lead 6-4.
But Illinois collected another run in the bottom of the fifth, leaving ISU chasing three runs. The Redbirds were at an ideal place in their line-up to make a comeback with two runners on base and junior third baseman Abby Olson up to bat.
“I felt if we could get two on, Abby had a shot at at least tying the ball game,” Fischer said.
Olson was 0-3 as she stepped in the batters box for her fourth turn at bat, but the fourth time was the charm for Olson, who sent the ball soaring for a three-run longball to tie the game at 7-all and nab her eighth homerun of the season.
“It’s tough to contain [Abby] three times and I really thought she had much better pitch selection her third time at bat,” Fischer said. “It was a big hit and it got us back in the ball game.”
But ultimately, Illinois prevailed with a run in the bottom of the sixth that the Redbirds were not able to match in their last round at bat, resulting in the 8-7 loss.
ISU (10-10) will kick-off Missouri Valley Conference play this weekend when it hosts Drake for a three-game series. Play begins on Saturday at noon.