Big sixth inning dooms Illinois in NCAA opening round loss to Virginia Tech

Illini

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WCIA) — Sierra Walton hit a 3-run pinch hit home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a 2-2 tie and give No. 22 Virginia Tech the lead for good in a 6-2 in over Illinois in the opening round of the NCAA softball tournament Friday afternoon at John Cropp Stadium.

The Illini (32-24) fell behind early but battled back to tie the game twice. Down 1-0 in the third inning, Katie Wingerter hit a solo home run to even it up. Illinois had its best chance to score in the top of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and no outs. Veronica Ruelius hit into a double play though, scoring a run to tie the game but costing the Illini two outs.

“I wish we would’ve won today, but knowing that the next game that we play could be our last allows us to put a lot more fight, a lot more heart behind every pitch,” Illinois senior pitcher Taylor Edwards said after working 5.1 innings, giving up four runs and taking the loss. “This team is a very close-knit group of girls and we love playing together. Just step on the field knowing it could be our last, I think we will put a lot of special stuff behind each ball that’s thrown or each ball that’s hit.”

Illinois now faces elimination in Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game against Toledo (29-27) after the Rockets lost to host No. 14 seed Kentucky.

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