MADISON, Wis. — Sydney Sickels has been mostly unhittable this softball season.
Wisconsin found out just how hard it it to produce clean contact against the Illinois right-hander. Sickels struck out 12 and threw her third shutout of the season as Illinois used a late offensive surge to defeat the Badgers 4-0 on Friday afternoon.
Sickels (7-2) held Wisconsin (4-13, 4-13 Big Ten) to only five hits in the first game of a four-game series as Illinois (12-5, 12-5) won its second straight game.
The Illini scored all four of their runs in the sixth inning, with second baseman Avrey Steiner lacing a one-out triple to plate pinch-runner Miranda Gallardo and giving Illinois a 1-0 lead. First baseman Kailee Powell added a bunt RBI single to score Steiner before Powell and center fielder Jaelyn Vickery came around to score on two errors by the Badgers.
The two teams are back at it at noon on Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader.
“Avrey was relentless at the plate,” Illinois coach Tyra Perry said. “Her leadership has been a key component to our success. I am proud of our overall effort. We have to stay focused and come out ready from the first pitch (Saturday).”
In women’s gymnastics
Season concludes at regional. Illinois finished third out of four teams during Friday evening’s session at an NCAA Regional in Athens, Ga., ending the Illini’s season.
Illinois had a score of 196.375 behind Florida (197.950) and North Carolina State (196.775). Only the top two teams from Friday’s session moved on to Saturday’s regional final. Mia Townes tied for third in the vault with a score of 9.875, and Shaylah Scott tied for third in the floor exercise with a score of 9.900 for the best showings by the Illini.
Cornhuskers rally late. Illinois led 4-2 after six innings against Nebraska on Friday night in the opening game of a three-game series at Illinois Field, but the Cornhuskers rallied against the Illini bullpen for an 8-6 win in Champaign.
Shortstop Braden Comia paced Illinois (7-9, 7-9) by going 3 for 5, while center fielder Taylor Jackson (2 for 4) and first baseman Justin Janas (2 for 5, RBI) also contributed.
Win streak ends. No. 8 Purdue jumped out early and held off Illinois on Friday evening, sweeping the Illini 25-10, 27-25, 25-20 at Holloway Gymnasium in West Lafaytte, Ind.
The loss by Illinois (6-11, 6-11 Big Ten) ended its four-match win streak. Raina Terry produced a team-high 11 kills for Illinois, with Diana Brown (24 assists) and Taylor Kuper (21 digs) also chipping in.
Illinois is set to conclude its season against the Boilermakers (14-5, 14-5) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
In men’s tennis
Illini roll at home. Buoyed by strong singles play, No. 12 Illinois topped Wisconsin 6-1 on Friday afternoon at Atkins Tennis Center to run its win streak to nine.
After dropping the doubles point, the Illini (13-2, 10-1 Big Ten) won all six singles matches to secure the win. Aleks Kovacevic won 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 singles, Alex Brown earned a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 2 singles, Zeke Clark won 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3 singles, Noe Khlif won 6-7 (7), 6-3, 10-5 at No. 4 singles, Hunter Heck won 7-5, 6-2 at No. 5 singles and Kweisi Kenyatte won 6-3, 6-1 at No. 6 singles.
In men’s track and field
Wells wins twice. Jonathan Wells secured two event wins for Illinois on Friday at the Big Ten North Florida Invitational in Jacksonville, Fla.
Wells placed first in the high jump by clearing 7 feet, 1 inch and also took home a title in the long jump with a leap of 25 feet, 71/2 inches. Manning Plater (weight throw) and Colin Yandel (1,500-meter run) added third-place finishes for the Illini.
In women’s track and field
Howell claims title. Olivia Howell shined in the 800-meter run for Illinois, winning the event with a time of 2 minutes, 11.11 seconds during Friday’s Big Ten North Florida Invitational in Jacksonville, Fla.
Jess McDowell chipped in with a second-place finish in the 400-meter dash with a time of 55.30 and Ayah Aldadah added a runner-up finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.