Wonderly embracing role as Illini ace

Sports

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois was a done deal after Breanna Wonderly’s father said so.

“As soon as we got in the car after my visit he was like, ‘You gotta go here.  This is your chance.  This is the best opportunity for you,'” Wonderly said.

Looks like Dad knows best, even if he’s a Tigers fan.

“We had to throw out all of our Mizzou stuff when I signed here,” she joked.

As the only senior on the Illini pitching staff, Wonderly has cemented her role as the team’s ace.  She’s leading the club in strikeouts and is holding opponents to a .231 batting average, 11th best in the Big Ten.  She threw her first no-hitter over the weekend at Iowa.

“She’s definitely earned that ace title and she’s definitely been our consistent asset in our pitching circle,” Illinois pitching coach Lance McMahon said.  “She’s done a lot for us not only this year but the previous couple of years that she’s been here at the University of Illinois.

Credit some of that skill to Wonderly’s father, her first and only pitching coach before she arrived at Illinois.

“He took me to a camp when I was really little just so he could learn them because I was too young to actually comprehend everything at the camp,  but he learned everything and then just took it from there and taught me,” Wonderly said.

Now Wonderly has Illinois pitching coach Lance McMahon to lean on, a fellow Missouri-native.

“It’s kind of been weird for me because she’s gotten better as the season has gone on, and that happens a lot in games too,” McMahon said.  “She finds a way to win.”

Wonderly will need to continue to find those ways to win as the Illini look to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for just the sixth time in program history.  They could take a big steps towards doing so when Minnesota comes to town this weekend for a three-game series.

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