April 30, 2011
Site: Urbana, Ill. (Eichelberger Field)
Score: Illinois 5, Northwestern 4
Records: NU (22-14, 4-7 Big Ten), Illinois (21-20, 8-7 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: May 1, 2011 -- at Illinois (Eichelberger Field), 2 p.m. CT
URBANA, Ill. -- On a day when the wind was blowing out to left at over 30 miles per hour, Illinois overcame Northwestern with its third home run of the day, a two-run, walk-off homer that gave the Illini a 5-4 win over the Wildcats.
Northwestern falls to 22-14 overall on the season with its loss, 4-7 in the Big Ten. Illinois now is 21-20 on the year, 8-7 in the conference with its win.
Sophomore Emily Allard (Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley) led off the game with a triple all the way to the fence in center, but despite a later base on balls to Adrienne Monka (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga) and subsequent stolen base by pinch runner Lauren Ackerman (St. Louis, Mo./Home schooled), a couple of foul outs contributed to Allard ending the frame still standing at third.
Illinois' leadoff batter drew a walk against NU starter Jessica Smith (Encinitas, Calif./La Costa Canyon) in the bottom of the first, but catcher Paige Tonz (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) immediately threw her out trying to steal. From there Smith allowed only a dink two-out single to retire the side and send the game scoreless to the second.
Northwestern began the second with back-to-back walks issued to Kristin Scharkey (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza) and Mari Majam (Pine Valley, Calif./Mountain Empire). One out later, Kelly Quinn (Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook North) loaded the bases on an infield single that the second baseman did very well to keep on the dirt behind second base. Allard then put a ball in play that the second baseman tried to bring home, but the throw sailed high and wide of the catcher for an error, allowing both Scharkey and Majam to score for a 2-0 NU lead.
After Smith K'ed the first two batters in the bottom of the second, Illinois got runners to first and third thanks to a two-out walk and single. The next batter grounded to Robin Thompson
(Detroit, Mich./Martin Luther King) at third, though, to end the threat.
In the bottom of the third, Illinois got on the board with a one-out solo home run before a two-out, two-run homer put the Illini in the lead, 3-2.
Northwestern battled back in the top of the fourth. Tonz drew a leadoff walk in the inning before Quinn sacrificed her to second. Allard then beat out an infield single to push Tonz to third before stealing second herself. With runners on second and third and one out, a wild pitch brought Tonz to the plate before Allard alertly scored on a Thompson groundout to give NU the lead back, 4-3. The third walk issued to Monka in the game then brought about a pitching change for the Illini; Pepper Gay (15-13) replaced starter Jackie Guy in the circle. Michelle Batts (Bloomingdale, Ill./Glenbard North) singled to start Gay's day, but that was all the further the inning went for the Wildcats.
Illinois put runners at the corners with two outs in the bottom of the fourth -- the fourth and fifth Illini to reach base in the game after there were two outs with empty bases in a frame. Smith got a high pop fly out of the next batter that danced in the wind while Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) danced with it. The second baseman eventually reached out and snared it to end the inning and preserve NU's lead going into the fifth inning.
The teams traded zeros in the fifth, then Northwestern again did not score in the top of the sixth. In that frame, however, Monka drew her fourth walk of the game to break her own NU single-season record with 49 this year. She has reached base in 18-straight plate appearances dating to April 16. The top of the sixth ended when Batts hit a high fly to the barrier in right center that was caught as the fielder crashed into the fence.
Smith continued to keep Illinois under control with her second-straight 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the sixth, getting the final out on a great grab of a low liner near the dirt by Thompson at third. After Northwestern did not score in the top of the seventh (and with Illinois returning the favor by putting out Scharkey on a blistering liner in the general direction of the second baseman), Illinois got its leadoff batter in the bottom half on via a single before a walk-off home run ended the game, 5-4.
Smith (7-8) took the loss, giving up five runs on nine hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 6.0-plus innings of work.
Allard led NU at the plate with a pair of hits including a triple. Monka walked four times in four plate appearances and Scharkey reached twice on walks, stealing a pair of bases.
Northwestern and Illinois conclude their series with game two at 2 p.m. CT tomorrow, Sunday, May 1. The game is available on a pay-per-view basis in high definition at BigTenNetwork.com.
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