Redbirds, Salukis Split Softball Doubleheader
Kara Nelson
Kara Nelson

April 28, 2007

NORMAL, Ill. - Sophomore first baseman Amber Smith hit a decisive home run and drove in two RBI to lead the No. 22 Illinois State softball team to a doubleheader split with 19th-ranked Southern Illinois at Redbird Softball Complex Saturday afternoon. The Redbirds dropped a 4-2 decision in game one, but posted a 5-0 victory in the nightcap, handing Southern Illinois its first shutout in Missouri Valley Conference play.

Illinois State moves to 38-13-1 on the season with a 14-7-1 Valley slate. The Salukis, who have won six of their last seven outings, moves to 37-10 and 16-4.

ISU head coach Melinda Fischer was especially pleased with her team's defensive effort in game two. The Redbirds were able to get out of three jams in which Southern Illinois had runners on second and third base, and were still able to pitch a shutout.

"I was pleased with how we stayed tough and got out of those situations," said Fischer. "I thought that gave us some problems last weekend against Creighton, and we really responded well today. Southern has some really good team speed, and does a great job putting the ball in play. Creighton really hurt us playing that way last weekend, and we did a much better job of stopping that attacking style today. It was a great win for us in game two."

The Salukis claimed the early advantage in game one with a two-run second inning. Jayme Wamsley reached first base on an ISU outfield error, and was replaced by pinch runner Clare Ford. Two batters later, Katie Wilson singled to left field, scoring Ford. Krystal Stein's RBI single two batters later gave the Salukis the early 2-0 lead.

Illinois State closed the gap to one-run (2-1) in the bottom of the fifth, after Kaprice Williams launched a solo home run to left field, but Jackie Williams struck out to end the inning and threat.

 

 

SIU added two more runs in the ensuing top of the sixth stanza. After another outfield error by ISU, Wilson struck again, singling in Wamsley. Stein tallied her second RBI of the afternoon on a single to center field, allowing Wilson to cross home for a 4-1 advantage.

ISU followed with one-run in the bottom half of the sixth. Kara Nelson started the rally with an infield single, and she was advanced to second after a sacrifice by Tiffany Prager. Smith followed with a single to left field, and Nelson scored. Kelsey Warning and Jessie Buker were retired in order to end the frame.

Wilson was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI to lead the game one Saluki offensive attack. Nelson, Smith, Stacy Birk, Casey Gorrell and Kaprice Williams each tallied a hit for the Redbirds in the setback.

Illinois State broke open a defensive-oriented contest with four runs in the top of the sixth inning to pull away with the 5-0 victory in game two of the twinbill. Smith's solo home run in the bottom of the first inning gave the Redbirds a 1-0 edge that they held for the next five innings.

In the sixth stanza, the Redbirds scored four runs on as many hits. Nelson doubled to left field to start the rally, and two batters later, Smith walked, putting runners at the corners. Warning followed with an RBI single, scoring Nelson. One batter later, Buker singled to center field, as pinch runner Vicki Klopf crossed home. Gorrell's two-RBI double to left center field scored both Buker and Warning, as SIU hurler Ashley Hamby was replaced by Scroggins. She retired the side one batter later, as Kaprice Williams fouled out to third base.

"After Amber's home run in the second inning, I thought our bats went to sleep a little bit," added Fischer. "But Kara Nelson really got us going in the sixth, and we were able to score some important runs."

The three-game series between the `Birds and Salukis will conclude Sunday. First pitch from Redbird Softball Complex is scheduled for 12 p.m.