WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Purdue Sports) – The Boilermaker softball team racked up 14 hits including seven for extra bases in an 11-0 mercy-rule win over Illinois in the Big Ten series opener on Friday.
Senior Andie Varsho went 3-for-3 including a home run, while senior Danielle Fletcher was 2-for-2 with a double. Junior Ashley Burkhardt and sophomore Lexi Valone also had two hits in the game. The Boilermakers scored their 11 runs on 14 hits, including four doubles and three home runs. Freshmen Katy McJunkin and Kristen Hoppman each registered their first career long ball.
Sophomore Lilly Fecho and junior Lexy Moore saw time in the circle, allowing the Illini just four hits. Fecho (16-10) picked up the win, striking out one batter in three innings of work, while Moore gave up just one hit in two innings of relief. Illinois, meanwhile, used three pitchers in the game. Brandi Needham gave up all eight runs in an inning and two thirds. Shelese Arnold allowed three runs in a third of an inning, while Jade Vecvanags struck out two and did not allow a hit in the final two stanzas.
Illinois got its first hit of the game with a first-pitch single by Allie Bauch, but Bauch was later caught stealing to end the inning.
The Boilermakers put up four runs on five hits in the bottom of the inning. Varsho led off with a single and went to second on a ground out, before scoring on a Burkhardt single to right field. Fletcher followed with a single. A towering three-run shot to center field by McJunkin made it 4-0 Boilers. Valone added a double, but a grounder ended the stanza.
After Fecho pitched over an Illinois one-out single in the top of the second, the Boilermaker bats backed her up with four more runs on five hits in the bottom of the inning. Hoppman was hit by a pitch and went to second on a wild pitch to start the stanza. Varsho added a single and swiped second to put two in scoring position. A fielder’s choice play at the plate and fly out followed, but Purdue began a string of four-straight two out hits to bring in the runs. Burkhardt posted an RBI single to plate Varsho. Fletcher doubled to deep right field to bring home Lindsey Rains, who reached on the fielder’s choice, and Burkhardt. McJunkin switched spots with Fletcher on an RBI double to left center. Valone added her second hit of the game with a single, but a ground out left it at 8-0 after two complete innings.
The Illini had their best scoring chance in the third, putting two aboard with a single and a walk with just one out. A liner to the right fielder and an infield grounder stranded both.
The Boilermaker bats rapped out three runs on four straight hits in the third to cap the scoring. Hoppman led off with a shot to left center and Varsho copied the effort with a homer to left. Rains reached on a bunt single and came home on a double to left center by senior Tori Chiodo to make it 11-0. Vecvanags took over in the circle and forced a liner and two strikeouts to prevent further damage.
After taking over in the circle to start the fourth, Moore retired five straight before giving up a two-out single in the fifth. The defense erased the hit with a grounder to first base to wrap up the game.
The Boilermakers (23-20-1, 10-3 Big Ten) and Illini face off at 5 p.m. Saturday live on the Big Ten Network. It is social media day and alumni day. Fans are encouraged to tweet along with the game using the hashtag #PurdueILLSB. The team also will honor its alumnae before the game at 4:45 p.m.