LINCOLN, Neb. — The bus ride to the Big Ten softball tournament for Illinois was long.
The return trip to Champaign-Urbana might feel even longer for the Illini.
Sixth-seeded Illinois lost its first-round game 5-2 to 11th-seeded Penn State, ending the Illini’s season.
“Throughout the season we saw that when we played our best softball we could beat anyone,” UI coach Terri Sullivan said. “When we didn’t, anyone could beat us. We didn’t play to the level you need to and should have to be at to win in the postseason. We had five underclassmen in the lineup that will remember that.”
Illinois (22-27) came into the tournament having won 11 of its final 12 regular season games. The Illini never led, with Penn State (16-33) taking a 2-0 lead before Illinois batted in the bottom of the first inning.
A two-run home run by Jess Perkins in the bottom of the first tied the game at 2, but the Nittany Lions answered with two runs in the top of the second to take a 4-2 lead they would never relinquish.