ISU will play Sam Houston State twice, No. 22/24 Baylor twice, and Northern Illinois once at the Getterman Classic
Feb. 6, 2012
NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State softball team will begin the quest for its fourth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance with five games in Waco, Texas, from Thursday, Feb. 7 through Friday, Feb. 9 as part of Baylor's Getterman Classic.
The Redbirds will play the Sam Houston State Bearkats at 3:30 p.m., and No. 22/24 Baylor at 5:30 p.m., on Friday, before taking on Northern Illinois at 11 a.m., and Baylor again at 4 p.m., Saturday. The season-opening tournament concludes for ISU with another game against the Bearkats, Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Scouting the Bearkats
The Bearkats are coming off of a 29-21 season, including a 17-4 mark in the Southland Conference, and are projected to win the league in 2013 by both the league's coaches and sports information directors. The squad made the finals of the Southland Conference Tournament before falling to Texas State in the championship game. Senior first baseman Kim Damian (.362, 11 HR, 35 RBI), the 2012 Southland Conference Hitter of the Year, headlines an impressive group of
returning offensive players. The Bearkats placed seven on the league's preseason all-conference squads, including junior pitcher Shelby Lancaster (12-8, 2.52 ERA, 116.2 IP).
Illinois State and Sam Houston State will meet for the 11th and 12th times this weekend in Waco, Texas. The two teams haven't met since playing a double-header in Huntsville, Texas, on March 10, 1998. The Redbirds won Game One, 3-0, and Game Two, 5-0. All-in-all, ISU holds an 8-2 mark against the Bearkats.
Scouting the Bears
The Bears return 10 letterwinners and seven starters from last season's 34-22 (10-14 Big 12) team that advanced to the NCAA Regional in Lafayette, La., in addition to returning three players that redshirted. Picked to finish third in the league, Baylor welcomes back 2011 NFCA All-America Second Team pitcher Whitney Canion, who went 5-1 with a 0.35 ERA in eight appearances last year before tearing her ACL. Holly Hull (.335, 1 HR, 17 RBI) and Kathy Shelton (.333, 1 HR, 17 RBI) will lead the Baylor offense, a unit that places more emphasis on hitting for average and speed (.267, 99-110 SB) than power (14 HR, .334 slg%).
The two meetings between the Redbirds and Bears on Feb. 7 and Feb. 8 will bring the total number of games between the two squads to seven. Illinois State holds a 4-1 record against BU, including wins in the last four meetings. ISU defeated the 10th-ranked Bears, 6-4, in their last meeting on March 3, 2012, which was the Redbirds' first win over a ranked team since 2010. The two games at Getterman Stadium will be the first in series history not played at a neutral site.
Scouting the Huskies
The Huskies enter 2013 with a new coach at the helm in former Miami (OH) assistant Christina Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe will seek to turn around a squad that went 19-34 last season, and 7-15 in the Mid-American Conference. Returning to lead the NIU offense will be junior outfielder Nicole Gremillion. The All-MAC First Team selection led the Huskies in 17 categories and the league in hits (70) and triples (4), while being second in batting average (.395) and fourth in runs scored (47). As a team, NIU hit .288 last year, but struggled in the circle, posting a 4.69 team ERA mark. The Huskies will have to replace Megan Dortch (11-13, 3.28 ERA), who led the squad in most pitching categories.
Illinois State and Northern Illinois will square off twice in 2013, with the first coming Feb. 8. A common non-conference foe for the Redbirds dating back to 1978, Northern Illinois has played ISU a total of 75 times, with the Redbirds holding a 46-28-1 mark in those contests. The two teams met last year in DeKalb, Ill., with ISU registering a 5-0 win. They will meet again later in the season, on April 3 in Normal, Ill.
Expectations to Soar High
- The Redbirds open 2013 as the co-favorites in the Missouri Valley Conference, tying Southern Illinois atop the preseason coaches' poll.
- ISU defeated SIU, 13-3, in last year's MVC Tournament championship game to clinch a spot in its third-consecutive NCAA Tournament. The Redbirds reached the final of the Columbia, Mo., NCAA Regonal, before being eliminated by No. 9 Missouri, 2-1.
- Along with the top ranking, the Redbirds garnered three MVC Preseason All-Conference selections in senior outfielder Jhavon Hamilton (.304, 12 HR, 37 RBI, 11-11 SB in 2012), senior infielder/catcher Elizabeth Kay (.263, 7 HR, 31 RBI) and senior outfielder Lauren Kellar (.298, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 11-11 SB).
- ISU is in the "Receiving Votes" category of the preseason USA Today/NFCA Coaches' Poll for the third time in the last six seasons.
The Legend Continues
- Head coach Melinda Fischer enters her 28th season at the helm of the Redbirds, and 30th overall, with a 922-616-4 career-record.
- A 2010 National Fastpich Coaches Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame inductee, Fischer ranks in the top-20 all-time for NCAA Division I wins, and is 12th among active coaches.
- The all-time winningest coach in Illinois State athletics and Missouri Valley Conference softball history has led Redbird teams to all nine of the program's NCAA Tournament appearances, including the last three years. She has also won 10 MVC/Gateway regular-season titles and five MVC/Gateway Tournament championships.
Filling a Void in the Circle
- With the departures of senior pitchers Jordan Birch and Megan Warner, the Redbirds enter 2013 having lost 88 percent of their innings pitched from last season.
- Birch, in particular, had a standout 2012 campaign, going 25-14 with a 1.59 ERA in 238.1 innings on her way to First Team All-MVC accolades.
- Sophomore Sophia Perez and junior Taylor Baxter are the two returning pitchers for the Redbirds. Perez had a solid freshman season, tallying a 3-0 record and a 2.80 ERA, while striking out 42 in 35.0 innings. Baxter went 0-1 with a 9.26 ERA, and did not pitch after March 31, but went 4-3 with a 3.40 ERA as a freshman in 2011. She threw only the second perfect game in program-history against Central Connecticut State on Feb. 27 that season.
- Newcomers Erin Rodriguez (Corona, Calif./Santiago) and Regan Romshek (Gibson City, Ill./GCMS) are expected to contribute as well.
Experience Throughout the Diamond
- Countering the inexperience in the circle, ISU returns eight of ten starters in the batting order from last season.
- The infield of Elizabeth Kay (third base), Lindsey Greene (shortstop), Kolby Hoffman (second base) and Laura Canopy (first base) combined to start 213 games last season, with each remaining penciled into those spots for 2013.
- Lauren Kellar, Nichelle Harrison and Jhavon Hamilton, who started a combined 162 games last season in outfield and DP roles, are projected as starters as well.
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