Three Top-10 Teams Highlight Schedule at ASU Littlewood Classic
Feb. 13, 2014
NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State softball team continues its 2014 non-conference slate with five games at the ASU Littlewood Classic in Tempe, Ariz., Feb. 14-16. The Redbirds will take on three top-10 teams, all of which made the Women's College World Series in 2013, including defending national champion Oklahoma.
Play begins on Friday with a doubleheader against No. 3 Washington at 10 a.m., CST, followed by a contest against No. 11/7 Oklahoma, the defending national champions, at approximately 4:45 p.m., CST. Saturday's slate once again begins at 10 a.m., CST with a game against San Jose State, before the Redbirds take on No. 5 Arizona State at approximately 2:30 p.m., CST. ISU's slate concludes Sunday against SIUE at 10 a.m., CST. ISU's original schedule at the event was adjusted on Wednesday.
The Redbirds began the 2014 campaign last weekend by going 1-3 at the USF-Wilson DeMarini Tournament in Tampa, Fla. While ISU did lose three times, each one came at the hands of a 2013 NCAA Tournament team, including two Women's College World Series squads. Despite the defeats, head coach Melinda Fischer saw some positives that she is hoping her squad builds on this weekend.
"I felt that we saw some great things in a lot of areas," Fischer said. "I thought how we evaluated things in the preseason actually did happen. Our defense really stepped up from a field perspective and from a pitching perspective. Our weakness was the inexperience in the offensive lineup, but I thought we really battled and showed a lot of toughness."
Scouting the Huskies (5-0)
The third-ranked Huskies finished third at the 2013 Women's College World Series and have picked up right where they left off in 2014, as they won their first five games at the UNLV/Sportco Kick-Off Classic by a combined score of 39-8. Junior Kylee Lahners led the UW offense in week one, slugging three homers and tallying 13 RBI to earn USA Softball Collegiate National Player of the Week accolades. UW returned three starting pitchers from last year, including senior Bryana Walker, who started three games for the Huskies last weekend and went 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA.
The all-time series between the Redbirds and Huskies is equal at 1-1. The two squads have not met since 1999, when the Redbirds upset No. 4 Washington, 3-2.
Scouting the Sooners (3-2)
Defending national champion Oklahoma got off to a surprisingly slow start last weekend at the Easton Tournament in Fullerton, Calif., losing its first two games of the season before bouncing back with three-straight victories. Junior Lauren Chamberlain led the way offensively last season for the Sooners, hitting .458 with 30 home runs and 84 RBI, but is hitting just .286 with one long ball and three RBI thus far in 2014. It has been junior Georgia Casey slugging the best for OU, as she is hitting .412 with three home runs and six RBI. OU lost Keilani Ricketts to graduation after she went 35-1, but sophomore Kelsey Stevens has stepped up to go 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA.
Illinois State and Oklahoma will meet for the 14th time, Sunday, with the Sooners holding a 12-1 all-time edge. The two teams most-recently met twice during the 2007 season in Miami, Fla. No. 16 OU won 3-1 on Feb. 9 and 4-2 on Feb. 11.
Scouting the Spartans (6-0)
SJSU started 2014 on an impressive note, winning all six games it played at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., last weekend. The Spartans lost a lot from last year's WAC champion and NCAA Tournament squad, returning just eight letterwinners, but have had some key contributions early on. Sophomore Jessie Hufstetler was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week after hitting .700 (14-for-20) with two home runs and six RBI last weekend. Allison Lang led the way from the circle, being named MWC Pitcher of the Week after tallying a 4-0 record with a 0.84 ERA in six appearances, all of which came in relief.
The Redbirds and Spartans have played three times previously, with SJSU holding a 2-1 all-time advantage. The two teams split a double header in San Jose on March 10, 2009, in their most-recent meetings.
Scouting the Sun Devils (6-0)
The host Sun Devils join Washington as teams to enter this weekend's tournament undefeated, as they went 6-0 at the Kajikawa Classic last weekend, which they also hosted. A year after crushing 95 home runs en route to a 50-12 campaign and Women's College World Series appearance, ASU has already hit seven long balls in 2014, including three from All-American Cheyenne Coyle and one from reigning Pac-12 Player of the year Amber Freeman. The combination of seniors Dallas Escobedo, a two-time All-American, and Mackenzie Popescue has combined to post a 0.22 ERA this season.
The Redbirds and Sun Devils have met in 17-consecutive seasons, all in Tempe. Overall, the two programs have met 31 times, with ASU holding a 29-2 edge. The Sun Devils won last season's meeting on Feb. 16, 7-1, thanks to three home runs.
Scouting the Cougars (0-4)
The Cougars are off to an 0-4 start after going winless in a tournament at LSU last weekend. With seven returning starters from a 2013 squad that went 35-13, however, improvement is expected. Junior Alex McDavid was named the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year last season after hitting .425 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI, but scuffled to a 1-for-11 start last weekend. The Cougars excelled in the circle last year, posting a team ERA of 1.97, and returned both sophomore Haley Chambers and senior Erin Greenwalt. Chambers has started three of SIUE's four games thus far, posting a 2.21 ERA.
Friday afternoon's contest between the Redbirds and Cougars will be the first all-time.
Stability In, Inexperience Out
The Dynamic Duo is No More
New Power Source
The Legend Continues
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