Going into the season, Illinois Softball had much hope of improving on its 39-20 permanence in 2017. Then, the Friends of Jaclyn Invitational at UCF came to open the season, and the Illini went 1-4. The Illini got their lone win in the season opener, a 9-1 victory over Providence. However, that was all they could muster to this point in the season, losing their next four games by a combined score of 27-15.
Now, I am being a bit dramatic to this point, but the Illini are really going to need to step up their out of conference game this upcoming week with games against North Carolina and Pittsburgh if they want to keep up their hopes of being an NCAA Tournament host this season. Now, on to the results.
Game 1: Illinois 9, Providence 1
Junior transfer Emily Oestreich (1-0) got the W in her first career appearance with the Illini, throwing 5 Innings (a complete game) allowing 5 hits and one earned run. Kiana Sherlund went 2 for 3, driving in two runs and stealing one base. The Illini were supported by a six-run fourth inning, and left with a win in the morning game.
Game 2: North Florida 5, Illinois 3
Junior Taylor Edwards (0-1) started for the Illini, and allowed three unearned runs in two innings pitched before being replaced by sophomore Akilah Mouzon, who allowed one earned run on five hits. The Illini got nine hits in the game, with two apiece from Sherlund, Sam Acosta and Carly Thomas. Illinois could not overcome four errors and 11 runners stranded on base.
Game 3: South Alabama 10, Illinois 3
Edwards (0-2) once again took the loss, allowing 3 ER in just 1.1 innings of work. She was removed in favor of Oestreich, who lasted just 0.2 IP while also allowing 3 ER. Danielle Brochu came to the rescue, throwing four innings of one-run ball, while striking out seven. However her performance was too little, too late, and the Illini could not climb out of a seven run deficit.
Game 4: UCF 3, Illinois 2
Illinois was able to get an early lead. Acosta drove in Stephanie Abello on an infield single, and then a later single from Maddi Doane drove in Thomas to give the Illini a 2-1 lead at the end of the third. Oestreich (1-1) had a fantastic game on the mound, going seven innings, allowing 2 ER and striking out eight Knights. Unfortunately, the Illini were burned by the international tiebreaker rule, which places a runner on second once the game goes to extra innings.
Game 5: Louisville 9, Illinois 7
Oestreich (1-2) started for the Illini, but she had her worst performance yet. In 2.2 innings, she allowed nine hits and seven runs (4 ER). Brochu finished out the game, working 4.1 innings, allowing 2 ER and striking out three. Alexis Carrillo went 2 for 3, with 3 RBI, while Abello also went 2 for 3, driving in two. Despite managing to climb back from a 7-2 deficit and tie the game at seven in the sixth inning, the Illini still fell short in this one, falling to 1-4 on the season.