Redbirds Drop Two to Alabama and Missouri in Tampa
Feb. 25, 2011
TAMPA, Fla. - The Illinois State softball team dropped a pair of games to No. 2/5 Alabama and No. 15/16 Missouri to open the USF Fairfield Inn and Suites Tampa North Tournament Friday afternoon in Tampa, Fla. The Redbirds (7-4) fell, 7-0, to the Crimson Tide in the opener, before falling, 8-2, to the Tigers in the nightcap.
ISU entered the weekend hitting .345 as a team, but Alabama's Jackie Traina silenced the Redbird bats, limiting Illinois State to just three hits in earning the victory in the circle for the Crimson Tide.
"I didn't think our bats were with us at all today," head coach Melinda Fischer said. "In the Alabama game, they were able to get the two-out hits and score the run and we weren't able to get the hit. It was a matter of executing and not executing and we didn't execute."
Alabama used a combination of timely hitting and solid defense to preserve the shutout, as the Crimson Tide scored all seven of their runs with two outs and came up with several hard shots that appeared to be hits for Illinois State.
The potent Alabama lineup wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, as Cassie Reilly-Boccia delivered a two-out single up the middle to give UA an early 1-0 lead after one. The Crimson Tide added single runs in the third, fourth and fifth to build a 4-0 lead after five innings.
The Redbirds' best opportunity to push a run across came in the bottom of the fourth after junior Liz Andrews singled through the left side and advanced to second on ground out by freshman Laura Canopy. Andrews moved up to third on a passed ball, but was stranded 60 feet from the plate after Traina got junior Caiti Kopp to strike out to end the inning.
The Crimson Tide opened up the game in the top of the seventh on a three-run home run from Traina that pushed the Alabama advantage to 7-0. Reigning Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year, Kelsi Dunne entered the contest in the bottom of the frame and walked Canopy before retiring the next three ISU batters to end the game.
Senior pitcher Chrissy Burton was saddled with the loss after tossing four strong innings and limiting the powerful Alabama lineup to four runs on seven hits in her 4.0 innings inside the circle. Senior Abby Olson, sophomore Lauren Kellar and Andrews recorded the only three hits for Illinois State.
In game two, the Redbirds seemed to regain their offensive stride as Andrews belted a solo homer to deep center to give ISU the early 1-0 lead and was followed by Canopy, who doubled to left center. However, Missouri responded with three runs on three hits in the third off ISU starter Megan Warner and led, 3-1, after three innings.
"Against Missouri, we were able to score first and got our bats going with Lizzie's home run and Canopy's double behind her, but after that our offense stopped," Fischer said. "We weren't able to generate anything else back-to-back. It seems like when we got the leadoff runner on, we weren't able to do anything with it."
The Redbirds managed to get runners on base in the third and fourth, but could not manufacture a run and it would be the Tigers that would come up with the big inning in the top of the fifth to put the game out of reach. Rhea Taylor led off with a double to short left field and scored on a one-out single by Ashley Fleming to start the Missouri rally. Mizzou plated two more runs after a pinch-hit double by Marla Schweisberger and Kathryn Poet capped the scoring with a two-out double to left that scored Brianna Corwin.
Illinois State would get the first two batters on to start the sixth after Olson and sophomore Elizabeth Kay walked. Canopy singled to second to score Olson and give ISU runners on the corners with just one out, but the Redbird bats would go quiet once again with a pair of pop outs to end the threat and preserve the win for Missouri.
Canopy finished the game 2-for-2 at the plate with a walk and an RBI. Warner fell to 3-2 on the year after allowing seven runs, six of them earned, on seven hits in 4.2 innings. Freshman Taylor Baxter tossed 2.1 innings in relief, allowing a run on four hits and recorded a strikeout.
"You have to get prepared, both mentally and physically, for the elements, and I think being in the heat and humidity might have taken a little something out of us today," Fischer added.
The Redbirds will look to get back on track tomorrow when they take on host South Florida and Temple in back-to-back games beginning at 5:30 p.m. CST.
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