Illinois Outlasts Marshall in Opener of Lexington Regional

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Illinois’ Nicole Evans singled into right center field to lift the Illini to a 3-2 win in the bottom of the 12th inning over Marshall in the opener of the Lexington Regional on Friday at John Cropp Stadium. 

The two teams battled through five scoreless innings after the Thundering Herd scored a run on a suicide squeeze in the top half of the sixth to tie the game at two runs apiece. 

Illinois improves to 38-18 overall and Marshall falls to 41-11. Illinois’ Breanna Wonderly worked all 12 innings, yielding eight hits and two earned runs. She struck out eight and walked just one batter. Marshall’s Jordan Dixon also went the distance with 11.1 innings tossed. She gave up 11 hits and two walks, while striking out four. 

Illinois advances to the winners’ bracket and will play the winner of the Kentucky-DePaul game at Noon ET at John Cropp Stadium on Saturday. TV designation will be determined this evening. Marshall will take on the losing team of Friday’s second game in the second game of the slate on Saturday at approx. 2:30 p.m. ET. 

The Illini’s Annie Fleming enjoyed a 3-for-5 day at the dish, including a home run in the bottom of the fourth. Kiana Sherlund was 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Evans had two hits in six at bats with the game-clinching RBI. 

Morgan Zerkle led the Thundering Herd with a 2-for-6 outing at the plate and a run scored. Taylor McCord drove in a run on her bunt single in the sixth. 

For continuing coverage of the Lexington Regional visit the tournament central page on UKAthletics.com. 
 

Quotes


2017 LEXINGTON SOFTBALL REGIONAL
JOHN CROPP STADIUM
GAME ONE
MARSHALL VS. ILLINOIS
May 19, 2017

Illinois Head Coach Tyra Perry

Opening statement …
“We’re excited to start out the tournament with a win against a very tough Marshall team. They’re very well coached. Very fast, as you can see. Our team hung in there, kept pushing behind the arm of Bre Wonderly. She did an excellent job, and then Nicole [Evans], our No. 4 hitter. Both seniors came up for us.”

On how back and forth the game was …
“It was definitely a staring contest, like who was going to blink first, especially the flow and pace of that particular game. We just kept talking about, ‘Who cares what happened?’ We wanted to get the big hit earlier. We had a couple of miscues, but we had to let it go and focus on the present and win the next pitch and I thought we did that well.”

On Breanna Wonderly’s focus in the top of the eighth with a Marshall runner on third …
“You know, in the Big Ten we play some pretty competitive competition and we’ve been in some pretty tough situations similar to that. So, Bre had that experience just from conference play and she competes. We know that when you get in those types of situations, it’s not really a fundamental battle then, it’s a mental battle. It’s a battle of will, and I just believe Bre really stepped up.”

Illinois Student-Athletes

#40, Nicole Evans, OF, Sr.

On advantages of being the home team and playing extra innings …
“Having the advantage of being the home team is something that we worked towards all season. Like coach said, Marshall is a great team, but we knew that we were going to have to come out and do more than they did. In the dugout we were just saying, ‘Outlast them.’ We were going to play as long as we had to win the game.”

On getting a game-winning hit … 
“To be honest, going into that inning my only thought was to end this for Breanna Wonderly. She pitched her butt off out there so I wanted to end it for the team, end it for Breanna, and I didn’t need to hit a home run. I just needed to get it to the outfield because we have great speed. Kiana Sherlund got on for us at second, so I really just needed to get it into the outfield and that’s where it went so it worked out.”

#20, Breanna Wonderly, P, Sr.
On having the home team advantage and going extra innings ...
“Being the home team it’s an advantage, and like Nicole said we’ve been working for it. It was just mentally for the pitcher, I just had to get three outs and I knew my offense was going to scratch a run for us eventually.”

On the amount of pressure she had on her shoulders, knowing Marshall is going to try and up the tempo and speed up with runners on the bases … 
“They tried to speed the game up, but we focused every day on slowing the game down for ourselves and I have the best defense out there.”

On how she felt physically as the game went on and if she has any signs of fatigue ...
“No, adrenaline kicks in. You just want to keep fighting for the team.”

On if this was the longest game she’d been a part of …
“Single game it might be, yes.”

Marshall Head Coach Shonda Stanton

Opening statement …
“First of all, thanks to UK. Great host as always. Very professional. The staff here, everybody is working hard to get things going. It’s been great. Two competitive ball clubs. Exciting for ESPN2 to be airing all the regionals. What (more) could you want as a fan? That was an exciting game. The margin of winning or losing – we always talk to our team – is very small, but the feeling is so great. You’ve got to give credit to them (Illinois). They made more plays than we did. I felt (Jordan) Dixon was a warrior out there. I thought our defense was exceptional. I felt we had our chances and our opportunities. We got to third and then we froze a little bit and we didn’t stay with our identity by taking the next 60 feet. We probably had some chances early to steal that game. So credit to Illinois. As a fan, two competitive ball clubs that went out there, grinded and fought for what, 13 innings? How many did we go? Twelve innings. But, I’m proud of these kids and how they represent Marshall University. Tomorrow we have to come out lions and not gazelles on the base paths.”

On if this is the deepest they’ve gone this year in terms of extra innings in a game …
“That’s a good question. Scott (Hall), is it? [Yes, it is.] You forget. They kind of all run together. Yeah, I think we would want to look at that last inning and the two mistakes we made there, but, you know, the game is not lost on one play, and throughout Illinois just made more plays than we did. We had our opportunities and we had our chances. I feel for our student-athletes because you want them to shine. We just let that one slip away, I felt.”

On how this game compared with their other extra innings games this season …
“Well every game is different. They all kind of ebb and flow differently, but I will say through the 12 innings our pitcher was strong. I liked what I was seeing there. I liked our defense. Offensively we were bad, and typically, if you have two of the three you’re going to win a ball game. I thought we had good pitching, good defense until a few moments, right? And then offensively our whole identity is ‘want the next 60 feet.’ Get to third base and then you can score a number of ways. For some reason we got a little tight over there. We just kind of were afraid to fail. That’s where they’ve got to trust their abilities and they’ve got to trust me as a coach. If I get you hosed at the plate it’s on me. I felt we didn’t go and attack and take what we wanted. That’s where we talk about being a lion and not a gazelle. We’re quick. We steal second. We steal third. A lion’s gonna pounce on home. A gazelle is just gonna take what’s given to you. That’s why we have to come out tomorrow and we’ve got to be ready to fight. These are four great, quality teams. I feel like the fans got their money’s worth today. It was a great game.”

On the team being aggressive …
“That’s how we play. So when you go you go all the time. You play hard. We want to shoot the moon every time. I’m all in. Our team knows that. You don’t go one time, and then not the other time because if you go all the time you might be 50-50. I think in that situation today, if we went all the time - like we’re supposed - to we’re safe two of the three times.”

Marshall Student-Athletes

#9, Jordan Dixon, P, Sr.
On what it was like battling back and forth against Illinois …
“I think every game is the same. You’ve just got to attack every single batter, every single pitch. They’re a good hitting team, and so you just have to stay focused all 12 innings today.”

On if her arm is feeling tired after both pitchers threw more than 170 pitches today …
“Yeah, I think just staying in it. The energy from the crowd really helped. With the adrenaline and everything I didn’t feel tired. I just was ready to play.”

On whether it felt like a home game …
“Definitely.”

#18, Morgan Zerkle, UT, Jr.
On coming back to Lexington after being here in 2013 for the NCAA Regional …
“Definitely very similar atmospheres with the crowd being super involved, hearing the ‘We are Marshall’s,’ going the extra innings. Hopefully we get a better outcome tomorrow.”

On how important the crowd will be tomorrow after going 12 innings today …
“Yeah, I think that’s one of the reasons we stayed in it as long as we did is because we have them and we want to show out. We played really well at home this year, so we kind of have that same thing going here with half the stands in green.”

On takeaways from the game today …
“Yeah, I think we can learn from some of the mistakes we made today and know to trust our abilities and be more aggressive tomorrow.”