Buker Homers Twice in Redbird Victory; Fischer Records 750th Win at ISU
April 29, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - Two home runs by junior left fielder Jessie Buker, the reigning State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week, highlighted head coach Melinda Fischer's 750th-career victory at the helm of the Redbirds, as the Illinois State softball team (26-18) held off a late charge by visiting Northern Illinois (12-27) to secure a 5-4 victory over the Huskies Tuesday night at the Redbird Softball Complex.
The all-time winningest head coach in Illinois State Athletics history, Fischer owns a 750-501-4 (.598) career mark at Illinois State, while her all-time head coaching record now stands at 782-518-4 (.600). Prior to coming to taking over the Redbird softball program, Fischer coached two seasons (1979-80) at Eastern Illinois. Fischer's 782 career coaching victories rank 42nd all-time among all NCAA Division I head softball coaches.
Buker's two home runs highlighted a 2-for-3 batting performance for the Macon, Ill., native, as she recorded a season-high-tying three RBI and scored two runs. Sophomore first baseman Michelle Henderson was the only other Redbird batter to record multiple hits in the game after she went 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and a single.
"Jessie had a great game (Tuesday night)," said Fischer. "I think that it was especially big for her to come back strong after receiving the honor from The Valley (player of the week) Monday.
"The 750th-career victory isn't such a big milestone for me. I was just happy that we finished out the game with a win, especially after we allowed Northern Illinois to come back late in the game and score four runs."
Junior right-hander Amber Smith (13-7) picked up her 13th win of the season, as she pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits. Amber Smith initially pitched 5 2/3 innings and then gave way to reliever Rachel Smith, who went just two-thirds of an inning and surrendered one run on three hits. Amber Smith then closed the game out for ISU when she returned to the circle with one out in the top of the seventh inning.
Northern Illinois' Taryn Hagemann (4-11) earned her team-high 11th loss of the season after she pitched six full innings and gave up four earned runs on six hits.
Illinois State had a prime opportunity to score in its half of the second inning, as the Redbirds placed their first two runners on base, which gave way to junior catcher Casey Gorrell at the plate with two runners on and no outs. Unlike Sunday's series finale against Drake, in which Gorrell delivered a game-winning solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Olathe, Kan., native was not able to produce in the clutch, as she grounded a Hagemann pitch back to the NIU third baseman, who stepped on the bag to nail the lead Redbird runner and then fired across the diamond to throw out Gorrell at first base.
After squandering a scoring opportunity one inning earlier, the Redbirds wasted no time getting their offense back in gear in the bottom of the third inning, as consecutive extra-base hits by junior center fielder Katie Mathis (double) and sophomore third baseman Kara Nelson (triple) plated ISU's first run. Nelson was credited with the RBI on her team-high sixth triple of the season. One batter later, Amber Smith hit a long sacrifice fly ball to center field that scored Nelson and gave the Redbirds a 2-0 advantage.
The Redbirds continued to pour on the offense in the inning, as Buker delivered a solo home run with two outs on the ninth pitch of her at bat.
Buker once again displayed her power in the bottom of the fifth inning, as she unloaded for a two-run home run that put ISU up, 5-0. She has now hit four home runs in her last seven games and has overtaken Amber Smith for the team lead with eight long balls this season.
Northern Illinois' offense started to rally in the top of the sixth, as the Huskies scored three runs off Amber Smith in the inning. After the Huskies' leadoff batter reached on a throwing error by Gorrel, NIU strung together a pair of singles to load the bases. A ground ball back to senior second baseman Tiffany Prager was hit too softly to get the lead NIU runner at home, as the Huskies scored on the play and cut ISU's lead to 5-1. The Huskies then scored two more runs after reliever Rachel Smith's wild pitch got past Gorrell, and then a single up the middle by Allie Parker scored Andrea Colosimo.
After Rachel Smith allowed two-straight NIU runners to reach base in the top of the seventh, Amber Smith came back to pitch with two runners on and one out. Amber Smith walked the first-two batters she faced, which forced in another run for the Huskies. With the winning run on at second base for the Huskies and facing a 3-2 count, Parker grounded sharply back to Nelson at third base, who stepped on the bag and preserved the 5-4 victory for Illinois State
Illinois State will conclude the regular-season portion of its 2008 schedule this weekend when it travels to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to take on Northern Iowa Saturday and Sunday. First pitch of Saturday's doubleheader from UNI's Robinson-Dresser Sports Complex is slated for noon.