NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State softball team (17-15, 3-3 MVC) will play its final non-conference game of the season at DePaul, Tuesday at 4 p.m., in Chicago.
Scouting the Blue Demons
The Blue Demons enter Wednesday’s contest against the Redbirds winners of seven straight, making them 23-13 overall and 10-1 in the BIG EAST Conference. A potent offense has keyed the streak, as the Blue Demons have scored 60 runs over their past four games, all run-rule victories. DePaul hits .307 as a team, led by junior shortstop Allie Braden’s.368 mark from the leadoff spot. Sophomore Mary Connollyleads the Blue Demons with 10 home runs and 23 RBI.
Junior Kristen Verdun, a 2012 NFCA Second Team All-American, has continued to be a dual-threat for DePaul. She is hitting .363 with five home runs and 26 RBI, while also leading the Blue Demons from the circle, posting a 15-7 mark with a 2.35 ERA, to go along with 148 strike outs in 143.0 innings pitched.
Legendary head coach Eugene Lentileads DePaul in his 32nd season at the helm. Lenti has accumulated a career record of 1,161-562-6, while taking the Blue Demons to the NCAA Tournament 15 of the last 16 seasons, including four Women’s College World Series appearances since 1999.
The Redbirds and Blue Demons have met 33 times, with each squad winning 16 and playing to one tie. They met twice last season, with DePaul beating ISU, 6-1, at Marian Kneer Stadium, before the Redbirds eliminated the Blue Demons from the NCAA Tournament with a 3-0 victory at the Columbia, Mo., regional.
Illinois State swept the weekly Missouri Valley Conference awards for the first time since 2010, as senior catcher/infielder Elizabeth Kay won her fourth Player of the Week of the season, while junior Taylor Baxter earned her first-career Pitcher of the Week recognition.
Senior catcher/infielder Elizabeth Kay leads the Missouri Valley Conference in batting average (.429), on-base percentage (.541) and RBI (33). The Bartlett, Ill., native is three RBI away from breaking Heather Stella’s all-time MVC best of 157.
The Redbirds offense averages 5.59 runs per game, the best in the Missouri Valley Conference.
After recording her 900th-career win last season, Illinois State head coach MelindaFischer is approaching another milestone. She is two wins shy of recording her 900th-career win at Illinois State, as she enters Wednesday’s game with an 898-606-4 mark as Redbird head coach. She is the all-time winningest coach in ISU athletics history.
Illinois State is one of the most experienced teams in the Missouri Valley Conference, as 232 of 306 starts this season have been made by seniors or juniors. Junior Laura Canopy, redshirt junior Nichelle Harrison and seniors Jhavon Hamilton, Elizabeth Kay and Lauren Kellar have started every game this season.
The high-scoring Redbird offense is fueled by a Missouri Valley Conference-best .393 on-base percentage. ISU is first in the conference with 4.28 walks per game, while Jhavon Hamilton’s 30 and Elizabeth Kay’s 23 rank them first and second in the MVC.
The Redbirds have played 10 games against top-25 foes, winning three of them.
Kay, Baxter Sweep Weekly MVC Softball Awards
Following a 3-1 week, Illinois State swept the weekly Missouri Valley Conference awards, as Elizabeth Kay was named Player of the Week for the fourth time, while Taylor Baxter earned her first-career Pitcher of the Week recognition.
In 15 plate appearances spanning four games, Kay was retired just twice, as she hit .800/.867/1.800 with two home runs, six RBI, four runs, two triples, five walks and three stolen bases to repeat as award-winner.
Baxter started three of ISU’s four games last week, all Redbird victories, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.75 ERA.
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 is tied for the Missouri Valley Conference lead with a career-high 33 RBI, while also hitting .340 with a career-high six home runs.
Senior catcher/infielder Elizabeth Kayleads the Valley with a .429 batting average and has slugged a team-best eight home runs from the cleanup spot. She is tied with Canopy for the league-lead with 33 RBI.
In the Redbirds last seven games, Canopy and Kay have combined to go 22-for-39 with six home runs, 19 RBI, 18 runs scored and 11 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 three RBI away from breaking Heather Stella’s all-time MVC record of 157. She also ranks top-15 all-time in five other major offensive categories: home runs (third with 41), slugging percentage (sixth at .557), runs (seventh with 113), hits (9th with 178) and doubles (14th with 29).
Kay has also started all 197 games in her career, 26 shy of Kara Nelson’s record 223, with 21 scheduled games remaining.
Hamilton’s top-15 rankings include runs scored (second with 138), RBI (fifth with 105), hits (fifth with 188), home runs (sixth with 24), slugging percentage (9th at .517) and starts (14th with 189), while Kellar’s 110 runs, 181 starts and 160 hits rank her 11th, 17th 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 939-632-4 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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