Senior Nicole Evans hit her 52nd career home run to set the all-time program record as the Fighting Illini softball team celebrated its 2017 senior class with an 11-6 win over Ohio State in front of over 700 fans on a sunny Saturday (May 6) afternoon at Eichelberger Field.
With the win, the Illini equal their win total from a season ago, improving to 36-16 and 14-7 in the Big Ten, while the Buckeyes fall to 32-15 and 14-8 in the league standings.
OSU got on the board in the opening frame as an Illini fielding error turned into a 1-0 lead on a RBI double to right field.
The Illini wasted little time in responding, putting up six runs in the bottom of the first as senior Ruby Rivera and junior Annie Fleming knocked RBI singles to start the rally. After junior Leigh Farina drew a bases-loaded walk, a Buckeye fielding error brought in two more runs, before a double steal executed by Farina and junior Maddi Doane pushed the lead to 6-1.
Back-to-back home runs from Evans and sophomore Stephanie Abello gave the Illini an 8-1 advantage in the fifth as Evans' dinger set the program's all-time career home run record.
The Buckeyes battled back with three runs in the sixth to cut the lead to 8-4, but the Illini came right back in the bottom half of the inning with three runs of their own on another bases-loaded walk, a Fleming RBI single up the middle and an RBI grounder from junior Rowan McGuire.
A one-out, two-run OSU home run closed the gap to 11-6 in the top of the seventh, but senior pitcher Breanna Wonderly would get the next two batters to secure the win.
The Illini registered 12 hits, but committed two errors in the win. Evans led the Illini with a 3-for-3 performance at the plate with a run and an RBI, while Fleming went 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run. Sophomore Kiana Sherlund also added a 3-for-4 effort with two runs on the day.
Wonderly (19-13) earned the win on Senior Day, allowing six runs – four earned – on nine hits and struck out five in a complete game.