NORMAL, Ill. - Winners of four-straight and six of their past seven, the Illinois State softball team (20-15, 5-3 MVC) travels to Des Moines, Iowa, this weekend for a three-game series against the Drake Bulldogs (21-15, 7-3 MVC), who are second in the Missouri Valley Conference. Saturday’s doubleheader begins at noon, with Sunday’s first pitch also at noon.
Scouting the Bulldogs
The Bulldogs enter this weekend’s series at 21-15 overall and 7-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference, taking two-of-three from Indiana State last weekend before dropping a 6-5 mid-week decision to Iowa State. The Bulldogs are second in the MVC standings and are hitting .353 as a team in league-play. Junior Amy Piercehas managed the leadoff spot for the Bulldogs, hitting .366 with a team-best 18 stolen bases in 19 attempts. She is also tied for the team lead with seven home runs. Sophomore Hayley Nyboalso has seven long balls, in addition to a team-high 31 RBI.
From the circle, Drake has utilized at least one of junior Jordan Gronewoldand sophomore Rebekah Schmidtin every game this season. Gronewold has been the primary starter, going 12-7 with a 3.07 ERA in 35 appearances and 33 starts, while Schmidt has made 29 relief appearances compared to just three starts. Schmidt is 9-8 with a 2.76 ERA, with an MVC-best five saves.
Drake head coach Rich Calvertis an ISU alum, and was an assistant with the Redbirds in the early 90s.
The Redbirds hold a 56-22 all-time record against Drake. ISU took two-of-three from the Bulldogs last year at Marian Kneer Stadium, and also knocked them off in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
With the doubleheader sweep of Bradley Thursday, head coach Melinda Fischerearned her 900th and 901st victories at Illinois State. Fischer, the all-time winningest coach in Illinois State athletics and MVC softball history, has won 942 games in her career.
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 (.425) and on-base percentage (.541). The Bartlett, Ill., native is two RBI away from breaking former Redbird Heather Stella’s all-time MVC best of 157.
The Redbirds offense averages 5.63 runs per game, the best in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The high-scoring Redbird offense is fueled by a Missouri Valley Conference-best .395 on-base percentage. ISU is first in the conference with 149 walks, while Jhavon Hamilton’s 33 and Elizabeth Kay’s 26 rank them first and second in the MVC.
Illinois State is one of the most experienced teams in the Missouri Valley Conference, as 265 of 333 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 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.
Over her last four starts, junior Taylor Baxteris 4-0 with a 0.79. She’s tossed three complete games and two shutouts in the stretch.
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 leads the Missouri Valley Conference lead with a career-high 36 RBI, while also hitting .367 with a career-high eight home runs.
Senior catcher/infielder Elizabeth Kayleads the Valley with a .425 batting average and has slugged eight home runs while adding 34 RBI from the cleanup spot.
In the Redbirds last ten games, Canopy and Kay have combined to hit .554 with eight home runs, 23 RBI, 24 runs scored and 14 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 two RBI away from breaking former Redbird 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 (seventh at .555), runs (sixth with 116), hits (8th with 181) and doubles (14th with 29).
Kay has also started all 200 games in her career, 23 shy of Kara Nelson’s record 223, with 18 scheduled games remaining.
Hamilton’s top-15 rankings include runs scored (second with 140), RBI (fifth with 111), hits (fifth with 191), home runs (fifth with 26), slugging percentage (10th at .527) and starts (11th with 192), while Kellar’s 112 runs, 184 starts and 162 hits rank her 7th, 14th and 17th, 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 942-631-4 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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