The regular season came to a close on Sunday for the Fighting Illini softball team, as they dropped the season finale to Nebraska by a score of 6-3 and finished with a record of 36-17 (13-8).
After a short break this week, the team will head up to Madison and take part in the conference tournament. Their first game will be held on Thursday at 1:30 p.m., and the Illini will face off against No. 11 seed Maryland. The Illini totally overwhelmed the Terps in their only three game series of the season, winning by scores of 11-0, 7-1, and 20-2.
Pacing the Illini offense are junior outfielders Kiana Sherlund and Carly Thomas, hitting .406 and .369 respectively, and junior catcher Stephanie Abello, hitting .361 with a team-high .475 on-base percentage. Junior pitchers Emily Oestreich (15-9) and Taylor Edwards (14-7) have ERAs of 3.38 and 3.41 respectively. Oestreich also leads the team with 96 strikeouts.
The winner of the matchup between the Illini and Terps on Thursday will then go on to play No. 3 seed Indiana on Saturday. The Illini have not played the Hoosiers this season. Also vying for the championship is No. 2 seed and defending tournament champion Minnesota, as well as No. 1 seed Michigan, which locked up its 10th conference title over the past 11 seasons with a win against Ohio State on Saturday.
Competition is stiff among Big Ten softball teams, but notching at least a few wins in the conference tournament would bolster Illinois’ chances of making the NCAA tournament. You can catch all of the games on BTN2Go.