NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State softball team (15-14, 1-2 MVC) will conclude its seven-game homestand when it hosts Missouri State for a three-game set, April 6-7, at Marian Kneer Stadium. The two squads will play a doubleheader Saturday, beginning at noon, followed by a noon game on Sunday.
Scouting the Lady Bears
The Lady Bears have ridden one of the conference's best offenses to a 14-18 overall mark, while beginning Missouri Valley Conference play at 5-3. Six starters hit over .300, while MSU hits .301 as a team, the best in the conference. Freshman Mary Stephensleads the Lady Bears with a .365 average, also chipping in a home run and 18 RBI. Senior Stevie Piercedoes most of the power damage, as she leads the team with seven home runs and 29 RBI, while also batting .310.
While the offense has excelled, the MSU pitching staff has combined for a 4.57 ERA and a league-worst .306 opponent batting average. The Lady Bears lost All-Valley performer Natalie Roseto graduation, and have relied heavily on sophomore Chelsea Jonesto pick up the slack. Jones is 8-10 with a 4.35 ERA in a team-high 18 starts. Freshman Jessie Van Es has served as the second starter, going 4-8 with a 5.01 ERA in 16 appearances and 12 starts. Emerging as of late is junior Rachel Brisker, who is 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA in four MVC appearances and two starts.
The Redbirds hold an all-time mark of 58-31 against the Lady Bears. ISU took two of three in Springfield, Mo., last season, including head coach Melinda Fischer 900th-career victory.
Kay Named MVC Player of the Week for Third Time
Catcher/infielder Elizabeth Kaydid not let ISU's 19-day layoff affect her hot bat, as she hit .625/.750/.1.125 with one home run, three RBI, four walks and four runs scored in the Redbirds' series against Southern Illinois en route to her third Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week award this season.
Kay now leads the league's highest scoring offense in batting average (.402), home runs (7), on-base percentage (.505) and slugging percentage (.696).
She also ranks among the league-leaders in numerous MVC categories, including average (first), on-base percentage (second), slugging percentage (second), RBI (second with 30) and home runs (third with seven).
The senior from Bartlett, Ill., is in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak, after going 3-for-4 with a home run, triple, three RBI Wednesday in ISU's 7-3 victory over Northern Illinois.
Six of the seven games during the hit streak have been multi-hit performances. Kay leads the Redbirds with 11 multi-hit games overall.
Getting On and Moving Along
The Redbirds feature the MVC's top offense, and the 41st-best nationally, averaging 5.69 runs per game.
Getting on base and timely hitting have keyed the offensive attack, as ISU ranks in the middle of the MVC pack when it comes to power categories.
ISU's .390 on-base percentage is the best in the league, while three Redbirds - Elizabeth Kay(second at .505), Laura Canopy(fifth at .464) and Jhavon Hamilton(eighth at .453) - rank in the OBP top-10 individually.
Once the runners are on base, ISU has excelled in moving them around the bases and keeping innings alive. The Redbirds lead the league in batting average with runners in scoring position (.331), runners on base (.322), two outs (.294) and two-out RBI (73).
The Beating Heart
As is the case with most good offenses, the heart of the Illinois State batting order leads the Redbirds' potent attack.
Junior first baseman Laura Canopymaintains the third spot in the order. She leads the Missouri Valley Conference with a career-high 31 RBI, while also hitting .359 with a career-high five home runs.
Senior catcher/infielder Elizabeth Kayleads the Valley with a .402 batting average and has slugged a team-best seven home runs from the cleanup spot.
Settling in to the five-hole is senior Shelby Music, who is taking advantage of the first regular playing time of her career to the tune of a .271 average and a career-high 15 RBI.
In the Redbirds last four games, Canopy and Kay have combined to go 16-for-25 with four home runs, 14 RBI, 13 runs scored and six walks.
Hamilton, Kay and Kellar have seen regular playing time in all four seasons, with each starting every game thus far in 2013.
Kay is six RBI away from breaking Heather Stella'sall-time record of 157. She also ranks top-15 all-time in five other major offensive categories: home runs (third with 40), slugging percentage (sixth at .546), runs (seventh with 111), hits (11th with 173) and doubles (14th with 29).
Kay has also started all 193 games in her career, 29 shy of Kara Nelson'srecord 223, with 24 scheduled games remaining.
Hamilton's top-15 rankings include runs scored (second with 134), RBI (fifth with 105), hits (sixth with 182), slugging percentage (10th at .508) and starts (16th with 186), while Kellar's 108 runs and 178 starts rank her 11th and 18th, respectively.
The trio, combined with fellow senior Shelby Music, is the only class in program history to make three NCAA Tournament appearances.
The Legend Continues
Head coach Melinda Fischeris in her 28th season at the helm of the Redbirds, and 30th overall, with a 937-630-4 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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