NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State softball team (22-17, 7-5 Missouri Valley Conference) begins a stretch of seven-straight road games this weekend, traveling to Wichita State for a three-game set Saturday-Sunday, before taking on Creighton in a doubleheader, Monday.
Saturday's doubleheader against the Shockers begins at noon, as does Sunday's single game. The doubleheader against Creighton, which was originally scheduled for March 23 before being postponed due to weather, also begins at noon.
Scouting the Shockers
Through 37 games, the Shockers have already matched their overall win total from last season, and are one win shy from tying their MVC victory count. WSU enters the weekend 15-22 overall and 6-7 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Solid pitching has offset an offense that ranks ninth in the conference in runs per game (3.30) and batting average (.242). Junior Erin Carneyleads the squad with a .293 batting average, including a .419 mark in conference play. The Shockers' pitching staff has combined to post a 3.41 ERA, led by senior Katie Armagost's2.97 mark. Armagost, however, is just 4-14, while junior lefthander Sloan Andersonis 11-7 with a 3.44 ERA.
Illinois State leads the all-time series over the Shockers, 61-17. The Redbirds have won four-straight, and eight of the past nine, over WSU, including a sweep at Marian Kneer Stadium last season.
Scouting the Bluejays
The Bluejays have won five-straight games and eight of their last ten, entering the weekend at 24-11 overall and a league-best 10-2 in the MVC. Senior Amy Baker carries CU offensively, leading the squad in seven major offensive categories. She is hitting .416 with a league-best 15 home runs and 37 RBI, while slugging .931. Creighton has dominated in the circle, posting a 2.11 team-ERA that is more than one point clear of the second-best MVC mark. Junior Becca Changstromis 17-6 with a 1.48 ERA, and has struck out 185 batters in 146.1 innings. Junior Alexis Cantuhas been solid as well, going 6-4 with a 2.37 ERA while also hitting .247 with four home runs and 14 RBI.
The two meetings will be numbers 70 and 71 all-time, as the Redbirds lead the series 36-32-1. ISU has won five-straight, including a home sweep of the Bluejays last year.
Senior catcher/infielder Elizabeth Kayleads the Missouri Valley Conference in batting average (.432), which is also top-35 nationally, and on-base percentage (.550). The Bartlett, Ill., native broke Heather Stella's all-time program best of 157 with an RBI single against Drake April 14. She has 159 in her career.
The Redbird offense averages 5.62 runs per game, the best in the Missouri Valley Conference and top-50 nationally.
The high-scoring Redbird offense is fueled by a MVC-best .398 on-base percentage. A .393 mark posted by the 1996 Redbirds is the best in program-history.
With the doubleheader sweep of Bradley April 11, head coach Melinda Fischerearned her 900th and 901st wins at ISU. Fischer, the all-time winningest coach in Illinois State athletics and MVC softball history, has won 943 games in her career.
ISU is tied for first in the conference with 169 walks, while Jhavon Hamilton's 36 and Elizabeth Kay's29 rank them first and second in the MVC. Hamilton ranks top-10 nationally, while Kay is top-50.
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 seven times in the 2013 season.
Sophomore Sophia Perezset a single-season ISU record with her fifth save of the campaign in Wednesday's 12-4 win against Indiana State. She has not allowed a run since March 30, throwing 7.1-straight scoreless innings spanning four appearances.
Jhavon Hamiltonhas reached base in 18-straight games, a stretch that dates back to March 9.
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 40 RBI, while also hitting .364 with a career-high eight home runs.
Senior catcher/infielder Elizabeth Kayleads the Valley with a .432 batting average and has slugged 10 home runs while also adding 37 RBI from the cleanup spot.
In the Redbirds' last 16 games, Canopy and Kay have combined to hit .538 with 10 home runs, 34 RBI, 36 runs scored and 25 walks.
Hamilton, Kay and Kellar have seen regular playing time in all four seasons, with each starting every game thus far in 2013.
With two RBI against Drake (April 14), Kay surpassed Heather Stella to become the program's all-time leader, with 159. She also ranks top-10 all-time in four other major offensive categories: home runs (third with 43), runs (fourth with 121), slugging percentage (sixth at .565) and hits (seventh with 187).
Kay has also started all 204 games in her career, 19 shy of Kara Nelson's record 223, with 14 scheduled games remaining.
Hamilton's top-15 rankings include runs scored (second with 143), RBI (fifth with 111), hits (fifth with 195), home runs (fifth with 26), slugging percentage (10th at .526), starts (11th with 196), on-base percentage (13th at .401) and batting average (14th at .320), while Kellar's 116 runs, 188 starts and 172 hits rank her seventh, 14th and 12th, respectively.
The trio, combined with fellow senior Shelby Music, is the only class in program history to make three NCAA Tournament appearances.
Nothing but the Best
Illinois State continued its tradition of playing a challenging non-conference schedule in 2013, with 15 games scheduled against teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
The Redbirds are 3-7 this season against teams ranked in the top 25, the most victories over ranked teams since picking up nine in 2007. ISU knocked off No. 22/24 Baylor, 8-0, on Feb. 8, No. 14/17 South Florida, 7-0, on Feb. 24, and No. 13/13 Louisiana-Lafayette, 4-3, on March 3. The victories mark the seventh season in the past nine that ISU has defeated a team ranked in the top 25.
Seven Redbird foes are in this week's top-25 polls: No. 3/2 Arizona State, No. 8/8 Louisville, No. 9/9 Michigan, No. 13/13 Texas A&M, No. 16/19 Baylor, No. 24/24 South Florida and RV/No. 25 Louisiana-Lafayette.
ISU has been in the "Receiving Votes" category in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 poll twice this season.
The Legend Continues
Head coach Melinda Fischeris in her 28th season at the helm of the Redbirds, and 30th overall, with a 944-631-4 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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