Williams Duo Topple Illinois, 10-7
April 17, 2007
URBANA, Ill. - Senior Jackie Williams launched two home runs in front of a hometown crowd and Kaprice Williams drove in the game-winning RBI to lead the No. 18 Illinois State softball team over Illinois, 10-7, Tuesday night at Eichelberger Field in Urbana, Ill. The Redbirds hit three home runs in the win, as junior Tiffany Prager added a long ball in the fifth inning, and the team has now hit 68 homers on the year to set a new Missouri Valley Conference Record for home runs in a single season.
Picking up their eighth run in a row, the `Birds are currently riding their longest winning streak of the season and move to 37-9, 13-3 in the Valley. The loss pushed Illinois' record to 26-16 overall.
"Jackie had been struggling a little bit at the plate but she really battled, had two great at bats with those home runs and also laid down a sacrifice bunt when we needed her to," said Fischer. "I was really proud of Jackie and actually, our entire hitting lineup. I was proud of all of them for hanging in there. We really battled at the plate and hit the ball well, as did Illinois. It was a great ballgame."
It was bound to happen considering the Illini are leading the country in homers, entering the game with 71 long balls on the year but Illinois certainly wasted no time adding to that total. With one out in the bottom of the first, catcher Lana Armstrong roped a two-run shot into centerfield that hit off the scoreboard to give the Fighting Illini an early 2-0 lead.
The next run on the board came also came in dramatic fashion courtesy of Redbird Jackie Williams, as the senior collected her first hit in 12 at bats, blasting a home run into deep left center field. Playing in front of her hometown crowd, the center fielder got her way out of her hitting slump and pushed the team round tripper total to 66 on the year.
Illinois put a pair of runners on base in both the second and third innings but Shannon Nicholson's off-speed pitch stifled the Illini bats and the Redbird defense held strong, not allowing another run to cross. But shortstop Angelena Mexicano changed that in the bottom of the fourth when she hit the game's third home run, another two run shot into left field. The homer was the 73rd on the year for Illinois and the 14th of the season for Mexicano, as the Illini took a 4-1 advantage.
Williams confirmed that her hitting slump was over, smacking her second long ball of the game in the top of the fifth. The Urbana, Ill., native earned two more RBI, driving in catcher Casey Gorrell, who drew a walk off Illinois starter Vicky Brown to open the inning. Freshman leadoff batter Kara Nelson continued the hot hitting, smacking a ball back to Brown and out-running the throw to first. But it was junior co-captain Prager who gave the `Birds their first lead of the game, 5-4, when the second baseman took her first pitch, a fastball, over the right field fence for her second shot of the season. Prager's homer plated two runs and was the 68th of the year for Illinois State, as the team took the Missouri Valley Conference record for home runs in a single season.
Illinois was forced to change pitchers at that point, bringing in Claire DeVreese for Brown. But DeVreese struggled to find her rhythm after Kelsey Warning hit a long single to center field. Warning took second on a passed ball and then moved to third on a wild pitch as DeVreese intentionally walked Amber Smith. Another wild pitch plated Warning to put the `Birds up, 6-4.
The `Birds tacked on another run when Kaprice Williams, who reached on a single to right field, crossed in the top of the sixth when Prager reached on an error by Mexicano. Prager's hard hit ball to the Illinois shortstop hit off Mexicano's glove as she attempted to back hand the hit and make the play at first. Prager did not tally an RBI on the error but Williams' run increased the ISU lead to 7-4.
It wasn't over yet as with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, Makenzie Smith roped a two-out double to right center field for Illinois that tied the game at seven all. But there was no silencing the Redbird bats in the top of the seventh when Warning started things off with a double to deep left field. Andrea Shifflet came in to run for Warning and was joined on the bases by Smith, who drew a walk to take first. Freshman Vicki Klopf entered the game, also taking on pinch running duties. Stacy Birk then singled to the pitcher as Shifflet and Klopf each advanced a bag to load the bases. Kaprice Williams then stroked a single to plate a pair of RBI, giving Illinois State a 9-7 lead. It was the third straight game that Williams responded, breaking a tie score and driving in the game-winning run. Birk then plated an insurance run for the `Birds, scoring on another passed ball for the final score of 10-7.
"Kaprice had been out for a couple weeks with her broken thumb but got back into the hitting lineup last week," said Fischer. "She just needed to see some live pitching. I really thought she made great adjustments to DeVreese and settled in for a hit, the first hit off her. Kaprice really got her timing and drove the ball."
Nicholson picked up the win in the circle, improving to 16-4 on the year. The senior pitched the full seven innings, earning all seven runs and striking out five Illini batters.
Continuing the roadtrip, Illinois State travels to Terre Haute, Ind., for a single game at Indiana State on Wednesday. The Missouri Valley Conference matchup will begin at 2 p.m. (CT) from Price Field.