Redbirds Split Doubleheader at UNI
May 5, 2012
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - The Illinois State softball team split a doubleheader with Northern Iowa Saturday afternoon in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to open the final weekend of Missouri Valley Conference regular-season play. The Redbirds won the opener, 1-0, behind a shutout from senior pitcher Jordan Birch, prior to dropping the nightcap, 3-0.
Birch picked up her 21st win and 10th shutout of the season for Illinois State (33-31, 18-8 MVC) in game one, as she outdueled UNI's (38-15, 21-4 MVC) Jamie Fisher. The duo entered the weekend ranked first or second in the Valley in nearly every pitching category and combined to allow just five hits in the contest. Birch gave up just two hits and walked only one, while recording 10 strikeouts to win her seventh-straight start.
Junior Jhavon Hamilton provided the only run of the game in the top of the sixth, when she led off the frame with a solo home run to right center for her team-leading 11th homer of the season.
The Panthers did not have a runner advance beyond first base until the fifth. Whitney Plein led off with a single to left field and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and a ground out. Birch stranded her there by inducing an inning-ending fly out to left.
Illinois State had a chance to add to its lead in the seventh, when senior Caiti Kopp singled to lead off the inning and moved to third on a pair of sacrifice bunts, before Fisher ended the inning with a ground out of freshman Kelsey Turczyn.
In game two, UNI got on the board quickly, as it scored a run in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead. Mackenzie Daigh led off the inning with a double to shallow left and scored on an RBI single by Gina Brown.
ISU stranded a runner in scoring position in each of the first two innings and Northern Iowa failed to extended its lead in the third as Illinois State starter Megan Warner was able to pitch out of a jam, after the Panthers put runners on second and third with just one out.
UNI pushed its advantage to 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth. Daigh singled to right to start the inning and Laura Turner followed with a two-run blast to left that chased Warner. Freshman Sophia Perez came out of the bullpen and allowed just one hit and struck out three in the final 1.2 innings.
Northern Iowa starter Jaye Hutcheson allowed just three Redbirds hits on her way to the seventh shutout of the season. Hutcheson struck out 11, including the final four ISU hitters she faced.
With their win and losses by Southern Illinois and Creighton earlier in the day, the Redbirds clinched the No. 2 seed for the State Farm MVC Softball Championships next weekend in Carbondale, Ill.
Illinois State and UNI will meet in the rubber match tomorrow at noon.
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