Redbirds Co-Favorites, Three Named All-Conference in Preseason MVC Poll
Jan. 23, 2013
ST. LOUIS - The Illinois State softball team is a co-favorite to finish atop the Missouri Valley Conference, along with Southern Illinois, as voted on by the league's coaches and announced Wednesday afternoon. Additionally, seniors Jhavon Hamilton, Elizabeth Kay and Lauren Kellar were named preseason all-conference.
The Redbirds and Salukis each received two first-place votes, while tallying 85 points apiece. Last year's regular season champion, Northern Iowa, placed third with 82 points and three first-place votes. Also receiving three votes for the top spot was Creighton, who came in fourth with 80 points. Rounding out the poll is Drake, Missouri State, Bradley, Wichita State, Evansville and Indiana State.
ISU is coming off a second-place Valley finish in 2012, as it went 37-23 overall and 18-8 in league play. The Redbirds went on to win the MVC Tournament, knocking off the Salukis 13-3 in the championship game. ISU advanced to the final of the Columbia, Mo., NCAA Regional before being eliminated by No. 9 Missouri 2-1.
The Redbirds enter 2013 looking for the 13th regular-season MVC crown, seventh MVC Tournament title and 10th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. A spot in the field of 64 would also be the fourth-straight for ISU, with the current three-year streak already being a program-best.
Hamilton, a 2012 NFCA All-Mideast Region First Team and three-time All-MVC Second Team choice, led the Redbirds last season with 12 home runs and 37 RBI. Kay was voted NFCA All-Mideast Region First Team in 2011, and All-MVC First Team in 2010 and 2011. She was second on the team in 2012 with seven home runs and 31 RBI, while also receiving the team's Best Defensive Award for her play at third base. Kellar garnered her first individual recognition last year by being named All-MVC Second Team, as she hit .298 and led the team with 12 stolen bases.
While the Redbirds return seven of nine offensive starters from last year, a key to continuing the program's success will be replacing departed pitchers Jordan Birch and Megan Warner in the circle. The duo combined for 88-percent of the team's innings thrown last year. Junior Taylor Baxter, sophomore Sophia Perez and freshmen Erin Rodriguez and Regan Romshek will make up the Redbird stable of arms in 2013.
The Redbirds also received two votes in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Preseason Poll, and ranked 37th overall. ISU will play a total of 11 games against eight teams ranked in the poll. The season begins on Feb. 7, with games against Sam Houston State and No. 24 Baylor in Waco, Texas.
Head coach Melinda Fischer, along with Baxter, Kay and Kellar, will address the media in the season-opening press conference Monday, Jan. 28, at 1:30 p.m. The event will be streamed on GoRedbirds.com.
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