Feb. 7, 2014
UIC 4, EIU 3
ILL 12, UIC 2
ROSEMONT, Ill. – The UIC softball team opened its season at the Total Control Sports Invitational on Friday by taking a 4-3 come-from-behind win over Eastern Illinois in the bottom of the seventh before falling to Illinois, 12-2, at the Dome. Senior Jacki Fletcher led the Flames with four hits on the day, followed by senior Natalie Hernandez and junior Paige Peterson with three apiece.
“We were happy to get our season underway in Rosemont today and to have our fans at the Dome was awesome,” head coach Michelle Venturella said. “Jacki (Fletcher), Jenna (Marsalli), Paige (Peterson) and Erica (Hampton) had good at-bats in both games.”
“I was happy that Courtney (Heeley) came through with the game-winning hit (against Eastern Illinois), since she struggled earlier in the game. Anytime you can come back and win a game, that is a good sign. We came out strong against Illinois with the triple by Natalie (Hernandez), scoring in the first, but they did a better job making adjustments offensively. We are looking forward to playing two great opponents tomorrow.”
UIC’s first game of the day against Eastern Illinois was tied early on, as the Panthers scored in the top of the first and the Flames answered right back after Peterson hit a shot to left field to score Fletcher. With the Panthers holding a 2-1 lead in the third, Erica Hampton reached on an error by EIU’s Ashleigh Westover to allow Jenna Marsalli to score. The two teams went scoreless in the fourth and fifth innings before the Panthers retook the lead in the top of the sixth.
With the score knotted at 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, the Flames stepped to the plate. After Marsalli singled to right, Peterson hit a single in the same direction and each of the runners advanced an extra base on the throw. With one out and two on, senior Courtney Heeley ripped a shot to centerfield and brought in both Marsalli and Peterson for the game-winner.
Freshman Elaine Heflin earned her first collegiate win after she pitched all seven innings against Eastern Illinois and allowed just two hits while striking out eight batters. The Flames collectively tallied nine hits in 28 at-bats to overcome the Panthers.
In its second game against Illinois, UIC came out swinging as Hernandez led off and powered her first pitch to right field to earn a triple. Fletcher then came in and singled a shot up the middle to score Hernandez. The Fighting Illini would come back in the top of the second to score four runs off three hits and an error before Hernandez would continue her hot hitting with a solo shot over the left field wall.
Hernandez’s home run would mark the last run of the game for the Flames, as Illinois would score another two in the top of the fourth and cap off the game in the top of the fifth after a scoring drive of six runs off four hits to contribute to its game total of 11 over UIC’s four.
Sophomore-transfer Alice Fitzpatrick got her first start in the Flames uniform and went three innings while blanking four batters before sophomore Bridget Boyle came in as relief. Boyle pitched the remainder of the game and struck out one.
The Flames are back at the Dome on Saturday for day two of the Total Control Sports Invitational and are set to face Central Michigan at 2 p.m. CT and Loyola at 7 p.m.