Illini Defeat Liberty in Extras, Drop Matchup with Clemson
CLEMSON, South Carolina – The Fighting Illini softball team opened the Clemson Tiger Invitational on Saturday, defeating RV Liberty in extra innings before dropping a game to No. 17/15 Clemson.
The Illini defeated the Flames to start the day, beating RV Liberty 5-4 in eight innings. On the plate, senior Kailee Powell led the Illini in three runs on two hits, while freshman Stevie Meade hit in the winning race in extras. In the circle, senior Sydney Sickles retired six batters as a sophomore Tori McQueen came into the game and pitched 2.1 scoreless innings en route to victory.
“We are always a team trying to find its true identity. Today we started strong, but we stalled a bit in the following rounds” head coach Tyra Perry noted. “Relaxing against a team like Liberty can be problematic because they’re so well trained. We talked with the team to find different ways to win and we found a way in the first game.”
In the second game of the day, Illinois went down early and threatened to come back several times, but ended up falling to No. 17/15 Clemson 1-3. In the circle, second left-hander Tori McQueen fought back after giving up two runs early to strike out eight batters in the game. On the plate, junior red shirt Danielle Davis hit in Illini’s only run in the afternoon while scoring a 3-for-3 day at home plate.
“We had our chances against Clemson today. Tori McQueen was balanced on the mound. She gave us the opportunity to win. We’ll watch a movie, regroup and get back to it tomorrow” head coach Tyra Perry noted.
FIRST GAME // ILLINOIS 5, RV LIBERTY 4
The Bats wasted no time getting hot, as Powell doubled in Avrey Steiner after his first single. Powell came to score on a brace by Jaelyn Vickeryand the Illini led 2-0 to one after a 1-2-3 inning by Sickels.
Both teams threatened to score in the third inning but no run ended up on the plate. In the fourth, the Illini added two more runs on a two RBI single from Powell, extending the lead to 4-0.
Sickels continued to pitch well, striking out three more batters in the fourth and fifth innings. However, the Flames scored four runs late in the sixth to tie the game down to four a play.
The Illini threatened at the start of the seventh, with Neighborhood Megan hitting her third hit of the game, but was caught stealing to end the Illini’s half of the seventh. With McQueen in the circle, second got two quick strikeouts and the last batter to fly away, sending the game to extra innings.
With the international tiebreaker rule in place, putting Ward second to start the eighth inning, Steiner advanced Ward on a groundout and Meade hit a single down the middle to put the Illini up 5-4 in the eighth. .
McQueen entered the circle again in the bottom of the eighth to close the game. After two straight walks, one of which was on base, Illinois earned a strikeout and a steal to center field to end the game in favor of the Illini.
GAME TWO // ILLINOIS 1, CLEMSON 3
Clemson hit early in the game, scoring two runs late in the first inning on a two RBI single. In the second, Illinois threatened to cut the Tiger’s lead after Powell reached third base, but was ultimately left on base.
Although the Tigers scored early, McQueen settled into the game by sitting the Tiger bats in order in the second and third innings, totaling three strikeouts in that span. Clemson added another run in the fourth, however, on an RBI single.
The Illini threatened at the start of the fifth round after Bella Loya simple, pinched runner Gaby Robles advanced a base on a wild pitch and stole third. Davis then went to the plate and singled, scoring Robles and cutting the deficit to two. Illini’s run ended after Davis was caught in a pickle trying to score on a fielding error.
Clemson put a runner up for third in the bottom of the fifth, but McQueen retired the last batter to keep the deficit at two, and continued to work around a single down the sixth to keep the deficit at two entering the final frame. . Despite a Davis single in the top of the seventh, Illinois was unable to bring him to the plate, and the game ended in favor of the Tigers 3-1.
The Illini will wrap up the Clemson Tiger Invitational tomorrow morning, playing back-to-back games against Liberty at 9:00 a.m. CT and Clemson at 11:30 a.m. CT. Live stats will be available for both games, while the Clemson game will be streamed live on ACC Network Extra.