Softball team loses late lead
URBANA — Illinois’ Brandi Needham was cruising along, carrying a one-hit shutout and a 2-0 lead into the top of the seventh inning Friday against Iowa.
Hawkeyes pitcher Kayla Massey had other ideas, though, in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Massey hit a two-run home run to send the game to extra innings, and she delivered an RBI double in the ninth to lift Iowa to a 4-3 victory at Eichelberger Field.
“Bee (Brandi) was throwing very well in her Big Ten debut. Then we let Iowa hang around and had some costly lack of execution,” UI coach Terri Sullivan said. “You can’t sit back in Big Ten play, and we won’t (today).”
Alex Booker went 3 for 4 for Illinois (14-8, 0-1 Big Ten). Allie Bauch went 2 for 4 with a run, and Kylie Johnson (RBI triple) and Jess Perkins (home run) each went 1 for 3.
“I liked how we came out,” Sullivan said. “Allie and Book got us on the board early.”
Needham (9-4) allowed one hit and two walks during the first six innings. She struck out a career-high 10 batters, the most by an Illini in more than two years.
Xavier takes opener. Reid Roper homered and Cody Sedlock delivered a strong performance in relief, but the Illini lost 6-2 to Xavier on Friday at Illinois Field.
Roper’s two-run blast in the sixth inning cut Illinois’ deficit to 3-2, but the Musketeers added three runs in the ninth inning.
“We didn’t get a great start from a pitching standpoint and didn’t swing the bats well overall,” UI coach Dan Hartleb said. “We got back into the game with the big home run by Reid Roper but couldn’t get anything going after that. Cody did a great job out of the bullpen, but then we let it get away from us in the ninth. We need to do a better job at the plate and take advantage of opportunities early in the game.”
Illini starter Drasen Johnson (2-3) left the game in the third, when Xavier had four hits and scored three runs. Sedlock ended the Musketeers’ threat with a strikeout and pop-up to third.
Sedlock struck out the side in the seventh inning, finishing with 52/3 scoreless innings of relief and striking out a career-high five.
In women’s tennis:
Casati paces squad. Alexis Casati won at No. 1 singles and teamed with Melissa Kopinski at No. 1 doubles, leading the Illini to a 6-1 home victory against Southern Illinois.
“(Friday) was exciting because we got to play outside,” UI coach Michelle Dasso said. “It wasn’t the most ideal conditions, but that’s part of it. We get a lot of wind, and I think we will be playing in that type of wind later this season. I think playing outside in those conditions is going to help us.”
The Illini clinched the doubles point with an 8-6 victory from Julia Jamieson and Audrey O’Connor at No. 3.
In singles, Misia Kedzierski won 6-1, 6-0 at No. 5. Casati won 6-2, 7-6.
Other UI singles winners included Kopinski (No. 2), Louise Kwong (No. 3) and Jerricka Boone (No. 4).