In a game they should have easily won, the Illinois Fighting Illini were upset by the Penn State Nittany Lions, 5-2, in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
After winning eleven out of their last twelve games to end the regular season, the Fighting Illini seemed to have that momentum carry over into the first inning. However, Penn State matched the intensity.
Both teams were able to plate two runs each in the first inning.
In the top of the first, Penn State scored their first run on a Macy Jones single to the pitcher and then another on a wild pitch by Illinois’ Pepper Gay.
The Illini matched PSU in the bottom half of the first as they scored both of their runs on a Jess Perkins homer to left field.
However, the Nittany Lions were not done offensively. They were able to add two more runs in the second inning off of a Kailyn Johnson triple and then added one more insurance run in the seventh inning off of a Cassidy Bell lead-off home run.
One of the biggest weaknesses of the Nittany Lions coming into the conference tournament was the youth of their team. They have less than seven seniors and, as a team, have experienced some growing pains this season.
Bell, their biggest senior leader, had a huge game for the Nittany Lions. She went 3-for-3 with three runs and one RBI. She also walked once.
Illinois had six hits in the game, but couldn’t do much with their baserunners. The only hit that generated runs for the Illini was Perkins’ homer run in the first inning.
The winning pitcher for Penn State was Macy Jones. She pitched a complete seven innings while giving up only two runs on six hits. She also struck out six Illini batters.
The losing pitcher for Illinois was Pepper Gay. Gay also pitched a complete seven innings, but gave up five runs on six hits. As it has been all season, the Achilles’ heel for her in the game was walks as she walked five Nittany Lions on Thursday.
After the game, head coach Terri Sullivan said:
Throughout the season we saw that when we played our best softball we could beat anyone, when we didn’t, anyone could beat us. Today we didn’t play to the level you need to and should have to be at to win in the postseason. We had five underclassmen in the lineup that will remember that.
The Illinois Fighting Illini finish the year 22-27 overall and 11-12 in the Big Ten.
The season is most likely over for the Illini. It was a hard-fought year with it’s share of ups and downs. Its just a shame that the season could not go on for the Fighting Illini.
What do you think, Illini nation? How would you rate this season for Illinois? Who would be you Illini season MVP?
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