Tough Field Awaits ISU Softball in Clearwater
Feb. 23, 2012
CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Illinois State softball team has faced two-nationally ranked opponents this season and will matchup with three more this weekend in Clearwater, Fla., at the NFCA Leadoff Classic. The Redbirds are slated to play No. 12/12 Michigan Friday at 2:30 p.m. CST, No. 7/10 Tennessee Saturday at 9:30 a.m. CST and No. 17/20 Georgia Tech Sunday at 11:30 a.m. CST. The other two opponents for ISU are South Florida, who is receiving votes in both national polls and defending American East co-champion Boston.
Illinois State enters the weekend with a 6-3 overall record, after going 3-2 last weekend at the Littlewood Classic in Tempe, Ariz. The Redbirds recorded wins over Iowa State, Iowa and Central Michigan, before falling to Minnesota and No. 4/4 Arizona State. Senior Caiti Kopp earned Missouri Valley Player of the Week honors for her performance at the Littlewood Classic, as she went 6-for-13 at the plate with three doubles, six runs scored and seven RBI. The Normal, Ill., native also threw out a pair of would-be base stealers and has allowed just four stolen bases in seven opportunities on the year.
Redshirt sophomore Sara Bradley also drove in seven runs last weekend and leads ISU with 10 RBI on the season. Junior Lauren Kellar is hitting a team-high .379 has is tied for the team lead with two home runs. Six Redbirds, including Bradley (.350), Kellar and Kopp (.353) boast batting averages over .300 and ISU is hitting .302 as a team through its first nine games.
In the circle, senior Megan Warner led Illinois State last weekend in Tempe, going 2-0 in the circle for her first two victories of the season. On the year, Warner has a 3.61 ERA in 21.1 innings of work. Fellow senior Jordan Birch stands at 4-2 overall, after going 1-2 in three starts last weekend and leads the team with a 2.13 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 23.0 innings.
Boston will open its 2012 season against the Redbirds and went 34-18 last season with a 14-4 mark in league play to earn a share of the American East regular-season title. The Terriers return 14 letterwinners from last year's squad, including the league's pitcher of the year in Holli Floetker. Floetker finished 14-5 in the circle with a league-best 1.69 ERA. Offensively, Chelsea Kehr, the 2011 AE Rookie of the Year, will look to lead the BU offense after hitting a team-high 10 homers and driving in a conference-best 46 RBI last season.
Michigan stands at 8-1 on the year, with its lone loss coming last weekend to Maryland in Boca Raton, Fla. Lauren Sweet leads the Wolverine offense with a .409 average, while Amanda Chidester has driven in a team-best nine RBI and is one of three Michigan players with two home runs. In the circle, Big Ten Pitcher and Freshman of the Week Haylie Wagner leads the team with a 4-0 record and has a 1.15 ERA. As a staff, the Wolverines have posted a 1.05 ERA this season.
Tennessee will bring a 6-2 record to Clearwater, after going 1-1 last weekend with a win over Illinois and a loss to No. 8/8 Texas. Ashley Andrews is hitting a team-best .417 and Lauren Gibson enters the weekend with a .391 batting average and leads the Lady Volunteers with 10 RBI and four homers. Reigning Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year Ellen Renfroe leads UT in the circle with an unblemished 5-0 record and a 1.79 ERA.
South Florida, who Illinois State will play twice this weekend, is 6-1 on the season and went 3-0 last weekend at the USF Invitational. The Bulls' lone loss came to No. 1/3 Florida, a 3-2 setback, two weekends ago. Jessica Mouse leads USF offensively with a .438 average and is tied for the team lead with six RBI. Four other South Florida players are hitting over .300 on the year. In the circle, Lindsey Richardson leads the Bulls with a 4-0 record and a 0.69 ERA in 20.1 innings. Fellow pitcher Sam Greiner has yet to allow a run this season in 12.1 inning and is 1-0 with 19 strikeouts.
Georgia Tech comes to Clearwater with a 7-3 record and went 1-2 at last weekend's ACC/SEC/Big 12 Challenge in Auburn, Ala. The Yellow Jackets defeated then-No. 4 Oklahoma and fell to No. 2/2 Alabama and host Auburn. The Georgia Tech offensive is led by Alysha Rudnik, who is hitting .444, and Kelsi Weseman, who leads the team with four homers, nine RBI and a .900 slugging percentage. The Yellow Jacket pitching staff has an ERA of 4.43 and is led by Hope Rush and Lindsey Anderson. Rush is 3-2 on the year with a 3.25 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 36.2 innings of work, while Anderson is 4-1 with a 5.19 ERA.
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