Heading into the weekend with a paltry 3-6 record, the Illinois Softball team looked to kickstart its lackluster beginning of the season. Apparently all that was needed was a tournament in Carbondale, Illinois.
The Illini took home the crown this weekend at the Coach B Classic, winning all five games and improving to 8-6 on the season.
Game 1: Illinois 10, Northern Illinois 2
Emily Oestreich started for Illinois, lasting 3.2 innings, striking out seven and walking one. She was relieved by Danielle Brochu, who went 2.1 innings, allowing 2 ER on 2 H, while receiving the win. On the offensive side of the ball, Kiana Sherlund and Sam Acosta provided two hits a piece, while Carly Thomas drove in two runs, and Stephanie Abello and Bella Loya drove in three runs a piece.
Game 2: Illinois 14, Southern Illinois 1
The Illini offense once again found their stride, bringing their Day One run total up to 24 runs scored. Sherlund contributed 3 H and 3 RBIs, while Thomas went 4-5 with 4 RBIs. Maddison Demers added 3 RBIs, while Leigh Farina and Maddi Doane contributed 2 RBIs a piece. On the mound, Oesterich threw 3 IP, striking out three, while Taylor Edwards also threw 3.0 IP, allowing the Salukis sole run.
Game 3: Illinois 7, Murray State 2
The offense cooled down slightly for the Illini in game three, but that still was plenty for them to come away with a comfortable W. Sherlund had another productive day, driving in four runs on her Grand Slam in the bottom of the Sixth. Oestreich threw a complete game, allowing just one ER and striking out six.
Game 4: Illinois 5, Southern Illinois 0
Illinois continued its dominance in the tournament, earning a shut out to advance to the championship game. Abelo and Rowan McGuire each went 1-3 with 2 RBIs, and Oestreich threw her second complete game of the day, allowing just one hit and striking out five. The Illini moved above .500 for the first time since the season opener, and they were on to the championship game in Carbondale.
Game 5, Championship: Illinois 2, Northern Illinois 1
The Illini got off to a quick start, with two runs in the bottom of the first frame. Sherlund hit a lead off single, and Thomas drove her home on a single. Abello hit a double to make it 2-0 Illinois. Despite those being the only runs scored for the Illini, they were enough, as the pithing duo of Oestreich and Edwards kept the Huskies to 1 ER on 9 H, while striking out five.
In their third tournament of the season, the Illini finally come up with the championship trophy, and walk away from the weekend undefeated. The players that really helped this weeked were certainly Oestreich, who pitched 24.2 innings, going 3-0 with a 0.57 ERA. On the offensive side of the ball, Sherlund and Abello both contributed a substantial amount.
If the Illini can keep the hot bats going, they will have a good chance to take four of their next five games, with two a piece against UMASS Lowell and Mississippi State, and one against Bradley, which would help them improve to at least 12-7 in 2018, a really strong start to non-conference play as home games are just one week away.