Redbirds Ready for Disney Citrus Classic

Feb. 28, 2012

disney citrus classic| march 1-3| orlando, fla.
Location: Orlando, Fla. (ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex)
Friday 3/1: vs. LIU Brooklyn (10 a.m.); vs. Georgetown (2:30 p.m.)
Saturday 3/2: vs. No. 5/9 Texas A&M (11:15 a.m.); vs. James Madison (3:45 p.m.)
Sunday 3/3: vs. No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette (8 a.m.)
Game Notes: Illinois State
AudioNow: 213/493-0196 (Listen to play-by-play via landline or cellular phone)
Tiwtter: @ISU_Softball

NORMAL, Ill. - For the third straight season, the Illinois State softball team (8-8) will take part in the Disney Citrus Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. The Redbirds will play a total of five games from Friday, March 1 through Sunday, March 3.

ISU opens up against LIU Brooklyn and Georgetown Friday, and will take on No. 5 Texas A&M and James Madison Saturday, before concluding play with a rematch against No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette, Sunday. The Blackbirds, Aggies and Ragin' Cajuns all made the NCAA Tournament last season.

Scouting the Blackbirds

After winning the Northeast Conference Tournament last season to make their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in program history and returning eight of 10 starters, the Blackbirds have opened 2013 at 2-12 overall. Lauren Morizi and Emily Kakuska are each hitting .400, but, as a team, the Blackbirds hit .226 with no home runs. Cassie Vondrak has started nine of 14 contests in the circle for the squad, which boasts a 2-1 win on Feb. 16 over No. 14 Michigan on its resume. LIU is coming off a 0-5 weekend at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, Calif.

The meeting between the Redbirds and Blackbirds on March 1 will be the fifth all-time between the two squads. Illinois State leads the series 3-1, with LIU's only win coming in 2010. The two teams met last season Tampa, Fla., with ISU winning, 9-0, in five innings.

Scouting the Hoyas

The Hoyas enter the weekend 1-10 after going 1-3 last weekend at a tournament hosted by USC Upstate in Spartanburg S.C. Coming off of a 19-32 (3-15 BIG EAST) season in 2012, the Hoyas have yet to get on track offensively in 2013, entering the weekend with a .174 average and 1.18 runs-per-game. Shikara Lowe is hitting an even .300 to lead the squad offensively, while Megan Hyson has paced the Hoyas in the circle, going 1-5 with a 3.49 ERA in seven appearances, six of them starts.

Illinois State and Georgetown met for the only time in program history last season, with the Redbirds walking off winners on March 4, 2012, at the Disney Citrus Classic. ISU erased an early 4-0 deficit to defeat the Hoyas, tying the contest on a home run from Lizzie Andrews in the fifth before winning it on a RBI single from Andrews in the bottom of the ninth.

Scouting the Aggies

Hitting .351 and boasting a 0.78 ERA entering the weekend, the Aggies have dominated opponents on their way to a program-best 18-0 start. Senior pitcher Mel Dumezich is the reigning SEC Player of the Week, after recording two no-hitters and hitting .500 at the Texas A&M Invitational last weekend. On the season, Dumezich is 11-0 with a 0.43 ERA and two saves, while hitting .304 with three homers and 14 RBI. Four Aggies enter the weekend hitting over .400, while Nicole Morgan leads the squad with seven home runs and 21 RBI. Texas A&M went 41-18 last season, being eliminated in the NCAA Regionals by LSU.

The Redbirds and Aggies will meet for the 30th time on March 2, but first since March 1, 2002. The two squads met at least once every since from 1987 through 1998, but only once since. The Aggies, ranked 23rd at the time, beat the Redbirds, 2-1, in their last meeting. A&M holds a 22-7 series lead.

Scouting the Dukes

The Dukes are off to a 7-3 start in their first year under head coach Mickey Dean, after going 3-2 last weekend at the NFCA Leadoff Classic. Freshman Erica Field has begun her collegiate career by hitting .485 through the first 10 games, with 10 RBI. Four different pitchers have started contests for the Dukes, with five seeing action overall. Another freshman,
Jailyn Ford, leads the pitching staff, going 3-0 with a 0.94 ERA. The squad was picked to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association, after going 30-26 overall and 15-5 in the league.

Illinois State and James Madison will meet for the first time on March 2. The Dukes are the Redbirds' only 2013 opponent that they have not met previously.

Scouting the Ragin' Cajuns

Coming off a 53-6 2012 season and NCAA Super Regional Appearance, the Ragin' Cajuns are off to an 8-1 start in 2013. 2013 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List selection Nerissa Myers led the nation with 83 runs last season, and is hitting .366 with 18 runs through 15 games. ULL enters the tournament hitting .339 as a team, with three players hitting .400 or better. Senior Brianna Cherry leads the squad with six home runs. Sophomore Jordan Wallace is 8-1 with a 1.32 ERA in nine starts, and holds a 35-3 career record.

March 3 will mark the second and final meeting in 2013 between the Ragin' Cajuns and Redbirds. ULL defeated ISU, 8-5, at the NFCA Leadoff Classic on Feb. 23, giving them an all-time 7-1 series lead over the Redbirds.

Canopy Named MVP of NFCA Leadoff Classic

  • Junior first baseman Laura Canopy was named the Most Valuable Player of the 14-team NFCA Leadoff Classic last weekend in Clearwater, Fla., after driving home 11 runs in six games.
  • Canopy had two, four-RBI performances, hitting a grand slam vs. No. 12 Louisiana-Lafayette and driving in four runs in the win over No. 14 South Florida.
  • Canopy now leads the Redbirds with 13 RBI on the season.

All Aboard!

  • The Redbirds' offense has been largely fueled by big innings this season. Out of the 35 innings ISU has scored in, 19 of them have featured more than one run.
  • Timely hitting has been a main factor in putting up the crooked numbers. ISU is first in the Missouri Valley Conference in batting average with runners in scoring position (.315) and second with runners on base (.296), bases loaded (.462) and number of two-out RBI (34).
  • All of senior Lauren Kellar's nine RBI have come with two outs, ranking her second in the conference, while junior first baseman Laura Canopy is tied for third with eight.
  • Conversely, the ISU is hitting .227 with the bases empty, ranking seventh in the league.

Walk This Way

  • The Illinois State coaching staff preaches a patient approach at the plate, and it shows through the season's first three weeks.
  • ISU is tied for first in the Missouri Valley Conference with 59 walks, and is second with 13 hit by pitches.
  • Senior outfielder Jhavon Hamilton's 16 walks lead the Valley, with the next closest person having 10.

Who's on First? What's on Second?

  • Through its first 16 games, ISU has used seven different starting infield combinations.
  • Senior Elizabeth Kay and redshirt junior Sara Bradley fuel the versatility. Kay has started both at catcher and third base, while Bradley plays both third base and second base.
  • Conversely, the Redbirds have started the same outfield in every contest thus far: senior Jhavon Hamilton in left, senior Lauren Kellar in center and redshirt junior Nichelle Harrison in right.

Nothing but the Best

  • Illinois State continues its tradition of playing a challenging non-conference schedule in 2013, with 15 games scheduled against teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
  • Six Redbird foes are in this week's top-25 polls: No. 3/3 Arizona State, No. 5/9 Texas A&M, No. 13/13 Louisiana-Lafayette, No. 14/14 Michigan, No. 15/16 Louisville and No. 20/22 Baylor.
  • ISU is "Receiving Votes" in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 poll for the second time this season.
  • The Redbirds knocked off No. 22/24 Baylor, 8-0, on Feb. 8 and No. 14/17 South Florida, 7-0, on Feb. 24. The victories mark the seventh season in the past nine that ISU has defeated a team ranked in the top-25, and second straight season with two top 25 wins.

Expectations to Soar High

  • The Redbirds opened 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 Regional, 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).

The Legend Continues

  • Head coach Melinda Fischer is in her 28th season at the helm of the Redbirds, and 30th overall, with a 930-624-4 career-record.
  • A 2010 National Fastpitch 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.

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