Birk Helps `Birds Split in Bowling Green
March 11, 2006
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Stacy Birk hit a pair of home runs and picked up a win in the circle but it wasn't enough as Illinois State managed just three hits against host Western Kentucky and fell 3-1 in their opening game at the WKU Invitational. The `Birds then pounded out a season high 12 hits in claiming a 10-3 victory over Austin Peay in the second game of the day. The loss to the Hilltoppers snapped the Redbirds' seven-game winning streak.
"We really struggled all day, especially in the first game," ISU head coach Melinda Fischer said. "Western Kentucky's pitcher kept us off balance the entire game and we had trouble making good decisions at the plate. I don't think we gave it our best shot.
"In the second game we made some good adjustments. We took advantage of some errors, which is something we'd been able to do before the Western Kentucky game. We put the ball in play more against Austin Peay, but we got into a little lull after the first few innings. We've got to be better at staying focused and staying intense."
Birk continued her hot hitting from the Plant City Tournament as she hit two home runs. Her first one was a shot over the right field pole giving the Redbirds a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning against Western Kentucky. It was ultimately the `Birds' only run of the game.
However, the Hilltoppers (14-9) got the run back in the bottom half of the inning. They put their first two runners on after a single to leadoff the frame and a batter who was hit by a pitch. A sacrifice bunt moved both Hilltoppers into scoring position. It looked as if Western Kentucky was going to get on the board as Redbird catcher Casey Gorrell lost the ball behind the plate, but third baseman Tricia Gaither picked up the ball just outside the batter's box and tagged the runner before she was able to tie the score. But Sam Cronk's single up the middle drove in the tying run before the end of the stanza.
In the third Western Kentucky's Bailey Rolfs sent the first pitch she saw over the fence in left center, making it 2-1 as the Hilltoppers took a lead that they would never relinquish. ISU starter Shannon Nicholson then surrendered a single to Alana Towns, giving way to Birk in the circle. WKU's Shelby Smith hit a one-out single to right center and centerfielder Randi Patton's throw to the plate was on but Towns got in under the tag for a two-run Hilltopper advantage and that was all Western Kentucky needed to claim the win.
Nicholson (3-5) took the loss for the `Birds, allowing all three runs and five hits while striking out two in the first two innings of play. In relief, Birk scattered three hits, fanned three and walked two.
Against Austin Peay (4-8-2) in the bottom of the first, Tricia Gaither reached on a leadoff walk, advanced to second on a throwing error by the catcher on a pickoff attempt and crossed the plate after a pair of wild pitches. Randi Patton, the second batter in the lineup, then drove a double into the left centerfield gap and stole third base just before Amber Smith was hit by a pitch putting Redbirds on the corners. After Smith stole second, Kelsey Warning singled through the left side as the `Birds put another run on the board.
Following a pitching change, Birk struck out but a wild pitch on the strikeout allowed Smith to score from third and both Warning and Birk got into scoring position. After a caught foul ball for the first out, Casey Gorrell hit a two-run single through the left side giving ISU a 5-0 advantage. Illinois State finished the first frame against the Lady Governors with three hits, as many as they had in the entire first game against Western Kentucky.
The Lady Govs put up a run in the second after their first batter reached on a single and moved the second on a sacrifice bunt. Another single put runners on the corners before Stephanie Eggers hit a two-out RBI single to right field to get APSU on the scoreboard.
Birk got the run back for ISU in the third inning, as she saw one pitch to start the frame and sent it right over the fence in centerfield for her second home run of the day and her fourth this season.
Austin Peay threatened with a pair of runs in the sixth but Illinois State (9-7) then took offense literally, using five straight hits in the bottom half of the inning to score four runs as it pushed the lead back up to seven runs for the final score.
Birk (6-2) picked up the win in the nightcap, fanning six while giving up eight hits. Patton led the `Birds at the plate with three hits, while Gaither contributed two.
"Offensively I thought Tricia, Randi and Stacy had a really good day," Fischer said. "We did some nice things defensively, but our three, four and five hitters really struggled putting the bat on the ball. Plus our bench didn't really help us today and that's something that we've been able to count on usually."
Sunday, the `Birds face Belmont at 10 a.m. Their second opponent, as well as the game time, will be determined based on how the rest of the field fares. If the `Birds win they will likely play in the championship game at 2 p.m., however, a loss would probably mean a 4 p.m. contest.