Illinois State softball has always been known for its premier pitching corps, and the leader of that group is a man who knows the dynamics of pitching fastpitch softball better than anyone else in central Illinois: Bill Kennedy.
A former standout pitcher for the national Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA) power Bloomington Hearts, Kennedy has produced four all-American pitchers for the Redbirds in his 23 years as the ISU pitching coach. Former Redbird pitchers Jodi Burch, Nicole Kurth, Shannon Nicholson and Audra Rast all owe their all-American accolades to Kennedy's attention to detail and experience. Simply put, Kennedy's teaching skills have made Illinois State pitchers the tops in the circle in the Missouri Valley Conference and in the Midwest.
Kennedy honed his softball pitching teaching skills while he earned more than 600 pitching victories from 1960-84 with the Bloomington Hearts. He also managed the Hearts from 1985-89. Kennedy is a member of the Illinois Softball Hall of Fame.
Finesse, coupled with experience, have been Kennedy's markers for success throughout his 23 years alongside head coach Melinda Fischer. The 2007 Redbird pitching staff combined for 38 wins and 14 shutouts, while ISU recorded a school record 101 strikeouts looking to go along with 288 total strikeouts. In 2007, Nicholson became the latest Redbird pitcher to earn all-American plaudits under Kennedy's tutelage, as the then-senior made a courageous comeback from a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in her right knee midway through the season to lead all ISU pitchers with a 21-8 record and a team-best 1.53 earned-run average (ERA).
Another of Kennedy's mentees, Stacy Birk, earned Valley Rookie of the Year honors in 2004, picking up where Audra Rast left off as Valley Pitcher of the Year in 2002 and 2003. In 2007 alone, Kennedy directed two seniors, Birk and Nicholson, to first-team All-MVC distinctions.
Kennedy, who retired as a principal and teacher in the Heyworth School District after 30 years of service, earned both his undergraduate and master's degrees from Illinois State.