Illini rally late to keep NCAA hopes alive

Illini rally late to keep NCAA hopes alive

MADISON, Wis. — Earlier in the week, Tyra Perry laid it simply: It's a Big Ten tournament title or bust for her Illinois softball team as the Illini seek a third straight berth into a NCAA regional.

Illinois, which will be required to win four games in three days, inched one step closer to that feat on Thursday — although it wasn't easy against Maryland. The Illini rallied from a two-run deficit and used a three-run sixth inning to pull past the Terrapins en route to a 5-3 victory during a first round game of the Big Ten tournament at Goodman Diamond in Madison, Wis.

"It was super ugly," Perry said. "As far as the way we approached, we came out a little bit tight. It's not totally unexpected. This is kind of, again, an older team but an inexperienced team, and our reactions were that of an inexperienced team."

Now, sixth-seeded Illinois (37-17) will face third-seeded Indiana (25-29) at approximately 1:30 p.m. today on the Big Ten Network. The Hoosiers and Illini didn't meet in the regular season.

Maryland (18-37) took a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning against Illini starter and Arcola native Taylor Edwards, who allowed those three runs on five hits. She lasted only 3 1 / 3 innings.

That's when Perry turned to Emily Oestreich. The junior pitched out of a fourth-inning jam, and held the Terrapins off the scoreboard the rest of the way.

Illinois stemmed the tide in the sixth when Bella Loya lashed a game-tying triple, Rhein Trochim scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball and Maddi Doane added an insurance tally by scoring on a fielder's choice.

Oestreich (16-9) allowed only two Terrapins to reach base — both on walks — finishing 3 2 / 3 innings.