NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State softball team (18-15, 3-3 MVC) continues its stretch of 21 games in 25 days with a doubleheader against in-state rival Bradley, beginning at 3 p.m., Thursday at Marian Kneer Stadium. The games were originally scheduled for March 16 before being postponed due to poor field conditions.
Scouting the Braves
The Braves enter Wednesday's doubleheader at 20-15 overall and 5-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference, after falling to SIUE, Tuesday, 5-3. Bradley entered the week off to the program's best start since beginning 28-6 in 1994, and has achieved 20 wins earlier than any other year. BU also began MVC play 5-1 for just the second time in program-history, before dropping the final two games of their series at league-leading Creighton last weekend.
BU features one of the better offenses in the Valley, led by junior Bailiegh Basham. The Braves hit .291 as a team, while Basham's batting average is .411. The Mattoon, Ill., native also leads the squad with four home runs, and is second on the team with 17 RBI. Junior Madeline Lynch-Crumrinehas been the Braves' ace this season, going 12-7 with a 2.88 ERA in 24 appearances and 20 starts. Senior Mackenzie Camphas also been solid in the circle, posting an 8-7 record with a 3.54 ERA in 17 appearances and 13 starts.
Fifth-year head coach Amy Hayesled the Braves to their only NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009, as her squad won the Valley Tournament title.
The Redbirds hold a 58-16 mark all-time against Bradley. ISU has defeated the Braves nine-straight times dating back to 2009, 16-of-17 since 2006, and 23-of-25 since 2004. The Redbirds swept a three-game set in Peoria last season, April 21-22.
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 Kayleads the Missouri Valley Conference in batting average (.426), on-base percentage (.540) 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 5.58 runs per game, the best in the Missouri Valley Conference.
After recording her 900th-career win last season, Illinois State head coach Melinda Fischeris approaching another milestone. She is one win shy of recording her 900th-career win at Illinois State, as she enters Thursday's games with an 899-606-4 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 240 of 315 starts this season have been made by seniors or juniors. Junior Laura Canopy, redshirt junior Nichelle Harrisonand seniors Jhavon Hamilton, Elizabeth Kayand Lauren Kellarhave 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 4.3 walks per game, while Jhavon Hamilton's30 and Elizabeth Kay's24 rank them first and second in the MVC.
Illinois State holds an all-time record of 157-61 since Marian Kneer Stadium opened in 1999, including a 133-41 mark in Missouri Valley Conference contests.
The Redbirds have played 10 games against top-25 foes, winning three of them.
After recording just one multi-RBI performance through her first three seasons, senior Shelby Musichas achieved the feat six times in the 2013 season.
Kay, Baxter Sweep Weekly MVC Softball Awards
Following a 3-1 week, Illinois State swept the weekly Missouri Valley Conference awards, as Elizabeth Kaywas named Player of the Week for the fourth time, while Taylor Baxterearned 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 .420 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 eight games, Canopy and Kay have combined to go 24-for-45 with six home runs, 19 RBI, 18 runs scored and 12 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 .556), runs (seventh with 113), hits (8th with 179) and doubles (14th with 29).
Kay has also started all 198 games in her career, 25 shy of Kara Nelson'srecord 223, with 20 scheduled games remaining.
Hamilton's top-15 rankings include runs scored (second with 139), RBI (fifth with 108), hits (fifth with 188), home runs (fifth with 25), slugging percentage (9th at .521) and starts (13th with 190), while Kellar's 110 runs, 182 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 940-631-4 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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