URBANA — Pepper Gay threw a two-hit shutout in the opener and Kelley Wedel hit a walkoff RBI double in the nightcap to lead the streaking Illinois softball team to a Big Ten-opening doubleheader sweep of Minnesota on Saturday at Eichelberger Field.
Gay outdueled 2011 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Sara Moulton as the Illini prevailed 2-0. Illinois then overcame an first-inning 2-0 deficit in Game 2 to defeat the Gophers 4-3. Wedel broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh by driving in Jessica Davis from first base with a drive that bounced off the outstretched glove hand of Minnesota left fielder Erica Meyer.
"I was just looking to put the ball in play," Wedel said. "In the previous inning I swung at a really bad pitch in the dirt and struck out. All I was trying to do was put the ball in play, knowing I had a runner on and had to get her home."
Illinois, which has won eight of its last nine games, improved to 15-10. The Illini and Gophers (18-9) will conclude their three-game series at 1 p.m. today.
Illini first baseman Meredith Hackett drove in three runs in the two games, including a game-tying two-run homer in the fifth inning of the nightcap.
Gay (10-3), who pitched the final two innings in Game 2, limited Minnesota to four hits in nine innings and did not allow an earned run.
In women's tennis:
Illini topple ranked foe. Marisa Lambropoulos rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the third set to pull out a win that lifted the Illini to a 4-3 Big Ten victory against No. 25 Nebraska at Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex.
Illinois, which defeated a Top 25 opponent for the second time in four days, ended the Cornhuskers' 14-match winning streak.
"I have a special group of girls," coach Michelle Dasso said after her Illini improved to 9-5, 1-1 Big Ten. "They continue to impress me with their toughness every day, and today was a huge win over a very tough team."
After the Cornhuskers (15-2, 1-1) captured the doubles point, Illinois won three of five singles matches to tie the score at 3. With the outcome in the balance, Lambropoulos outbattled Stefanie Weinstein 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 at No. 3 singles.
In women's gymnastics:
Joannides shares title. Illini senior Kelsey Joannides tied for the balance beam title at the Big Ten Championships in Iowa City, Iowa. Joannides and Nebraska's Emily Wong, the all-around winner, each scored 9.900 on the beam.
Illinois placed fifth in the eight-team meet with a score of 195.850. Nebraska captured the title with 197.100 points.
Illini pummeled. One day after scoring 11 runs in a series-opening victory at Nebraska, the Illini gave up 11 runs in one inning en route to an 18-5 Big Ten loss to the Cornhuskers.
It was the most runs allowed by Illinois since March 7, 2009, when then-No. 1 LSU defeated the Illini 22-10.
Trailing 3-0, Nebraska scored 11 runs in the second inning. UI starter John Kravetz (3-1), who entered with a team-best 1.99 ERA in five appearances, did not retire any of the nine batters he faced in the second. The freshman right-hander allowed five hits and nine runs and hit two batters in one-plus inning.
Senior center fielder Willie Argo tied Todd Schmitke's 30-year-old Illini record for career stolen bases with a pair of thefts, raising his total to 83.