Senior Breanna Wonderly went all 12 innings and classmate Nicole Evans knocked in the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 12th inning as the Fighting Illini softball team opened the Kentucky NCAA Regional with a 3-2 walk-off win over Marshall at John Cropp Stadium on Friday (May 19) afternoon.
The marathon game lasted three hours and 26 minutes and was the second-longest game in program history after a 15-inning affair against Minnesota during the 2001 season.
The Illini will now face tournament host and No. 14 overall seed Kentucky on Saturday (May 20) at 11 a.m. CT. TV assignments will not be made until Saturday morning, but the game will be available one of the ESPN networks.
"We are excited to start out the tournament with a win against a very tough Marshall team," aid head coach Tyra Perry. "They are a very well coached and very fast, as you can see. Our team hung in there and kept pushing behind the arm of Breanna Wonderly. She did an excellent job, and then Nicole Evans, our No. 4 hitter. Both seniors came up big for us."
Wonderly (21-14) went the distance for the Illini – a career high innings pitched – allowing just two earned runs on eight hits and one walk and striking out a season-high eight in the outing.
"Being the home team it is an advantage, and like Nicole said we have been working for it," said Wonderly. "It was just mentally for the pitcher, I just had to get three outs and I knew my offense was going to scratch a run for us eventually."
Marshall struck first as back-to-back infield singles led to a double steal attempt for the early 1-0 lead.
Junior Annie Fleming then tied things up with a bomb to centerfield - her sixth home run of the season – before sacrifice fly from sophomore Kiana Sherlund brought home junior Leigh Farina gave the Illini (38-18) a 2-1 advantage in the fifth.
A Thundering Herd suicide squeeze in the top of the sixth knotted the score at 2-2 and from there the two teams battled through five scoreless innings.
After singles from Sherlund and senior Ruby Rivera put two runners on in the bottom of the 12th innings, Evans delivered the winning hit with an RBI single to right centerfield to plate Sherlund.
The Illini totaled 11 hits in the win, with both teams suffering two errors. Fleming paced the Illini with a 3-for-5 effort plus and RBI and a run. Sherlund added two hits, an RBI, a run and a stolen base, while Evans also posted a pair of hits.
Marshall pitcher Jordan Dixon also went the distance with 11.1 innings tossed. She gave up 11 hits and two walks, while striking out four.