It was a tough week for Illinois Softball, as it dropped all five games it played. The Illini have now lost their last eight games, and are only 6-14 in conference play. Once a Top-25 team, Illinois has found itself on the bubble in the past few weeks, and is now on the outside looking in.
Traveling to Evanston to face the best team in the Big Ten, Illinois was not able to take down Northwestern, who is undefeated in conference play. The Wildcats walloped Illinois 8-0 in the first game, which only took five innings as the Illini only had four baserunners.
The second game was more competitive with the only offense for either team coming off of home runs. Northwestern had a grand slam in the third inning, while Illinois’ Veronica Ruelius hit a two-run shot in the fourth. Neither team produced much more offense for the rest of the game, as Northwestern won 4-2.
Ohio State Series
Illinois traveled to Ohio State this weekend to take on the Buckeyes against a similarly ranked team according to RPI (Ohio State 41, Illinois 45). It was not an ideal weekend for the Illini, who were swept in a must-win series.
The series’ first game was absolutely dominated by Ohio State, as they no-hit the Illini in a slaughter-rule game, which the Buckeyes won 9-0 in five innings.
Ohio State’s offense continued to hammer Illinois in the second game, plating nine runs once again. Stephanie Abello led the Illini counterattack, driving in two runs on a 1-for-3 day with a home run, but it wasn’t enough as Ohio State won 9-2.
In the series finale, Illinois jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a Kailee Powell double, and then added two more in the second off of a Kiana Sherlund home run. That was the extent of the Illini offense however, and Ohio State was able to string together five unanswered runs to pull away with the victory and the series sweep.
Where They Stand: OUT
Losing eight straight games is tough for any team, but for a team like Illinois who was sitting on the bubble, it’s been brutal. With only a week left in the regular season, it’s going to take some good luck for the Illini to make the tournament as it currently stands.
With one game against DePaul and a series against Purdue, there is potential for the Illini to pick up some big wins. DePaul is an underrated team, and has gone 31-12 with its biggest win being against Northwestern. Meanwhile, Purdue is tied with Illinois for ninth in the Big Ten and is 30-23 overall.
While I have Illinois currently out, they still stand a chance at sneaking in as an at-large bid. First, the Illini need to win at least three of their four remaining home games, and then win at least two Big Ten Tournament games. If the Illini are unable to do both of those things, I don’t think they stand a chance. And even if they do manage to accomplish both of those tasks, they’re still going to be a bubble team. It’s gonna be a fight to the finish for the Illini, as they look to return to the NCAA Tournament.
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