For the first time since 2004, the Fighting Illini softball team advanced to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals with a 3-0 win over 12th-seeded Penn State behind a three-hit, complete game shutout from senior pitcher Breanna Wonderly on Friday (May 12) afternoon at Wilpon Complex/Alumni Field.
The Illini now move on to face Big Ten regular season champion and No. 1 seed Minnesota in the tournament semifinals on Saturday (May 13) at 12 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network. The Illini earned the lone victory over the Gophers during the league play with a 4-3 walk-off win on April 1 at Eichelberger Field.
"We played quality Illini softball today," said head coach Tyra Perry. "Breanna Wonderly's leadership in the circle was a key component to our success and senior Alyssa Gunther executed early in the game to help us score first."
Wonderly (20-13) earns her 20th win of the season after giving up just one walk along with the three hits and struck out four in the outing. The senior allowed just two base runners past first base, while registering 14-straight outs between the end of the first inning and the beginning of the sixth.
The Illini (37-17) jumped out quickly with a pair of runs in the opening frame as sophomore Kiana Sherlund led off the game with an infield single up the middle and came home on senior Alyssa Gunther's first triple of the season to deep center field. A fielder's choice sacrifice bunt from senior Ruby Rivera then plated Gunther for the 2-0 lead.
Rivera then added an insurance run in the fifth with her second RBI of the day on a sharply hit single through the left side to score Sherlund, who reached on a Nittany Lion fielding error earlier in the inning. It would all the Orange and Blue needed as they advanced in the bracket with a 3-0 victory.
The Illini totaled four hits on the day, with Rivera leading the way with two RBI and a hit, while Sherlund added two runs and a hit and Gunther posted a run, a hit and an RBI in the win.