NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State softball team (24-18, 9-6 MVC) concludes a seven-game road stretch with a doubleheader at Indiana State, beginning at 1 p.m., CST.
Scouting the Sycamores
The Sycamores enter the doubleheader 14-31 overall and 3-16 in the Missouri Valley Conference after being swept by Northern Iowa last weekend, moving their losing streak to eight games. Shelby Wilson(.370), Megan Stone(.355) and Morgan Allee(.343) all hit above .340, but nobody else on the roster hits above .240. Wilson and Stone have combined for 16 of the team’s 24 home runs, with eight apiece. Allee has swiped 33 bases in 41 attempts, the most in the MVC. As a team, the Sycamores rank 13th nationally with 1.96 stolen bases per game.
Pitching has been a weakness, as INS enters the doubleheader with a league-worst 5.41 ERA. Ashli Scott and Steph Fougeroussehave both departed the team mid-season, leaving freshman Halle Humphreyas the Sycamores’ main option in the circle. Humphrey is 4-13 with a 5.71 ERA in 28 appearances, 16 of them starts.
Todd Boumanis in his second season at the helm, and has a 33-65 mark after combined with last year’s 19-34 campaign. He recorded his 200th-career victory April 3 with a 6-5 win over Illinois.
Illinois State holds a 75-14 all-time mark against the Sycamores in the series that dates back to 1980. The Redbirds have won eight of the past nine contests, falling once last season in Terre Haute. The two squads have played once previously this season, with the Redbirds defeating the Sycamores, 12-4, April 17 at Marian Kneer Stadium. A doubleheader was originally scheduled for that date, before game two was postponed and moved to Terre Haute.
Senior catcher/infielder Elizabeth Kayleads the Missouri Valley Conference in batting average (.438), which is also 22nd nationally, and on-base percentage (.556), which ranks 16th nationally.
Kay also enters the week as the MVC’s all-time career leader with 165 RBI, one clear of Creighton senior Amy Baker.
The Redbird offense averages 5.83 runs per game, the best in the Missouri Valley Conference and 32nd nationally.
The high-scoring Redbird offense is fueled by a MVC-best .292 batting average and .405 on-base percentage. A .393 OBP mark posted by the 1996 Redbirds is the best in program-history.
ISU leads the conference with 188 walks, while Jhavon Hamilton’s 40 and Elizabeth Kay’s 31 rank them first and third in the MVC. Hamilton ranks fifth nationally, while Kay is top-50.
Illinois State is one of the most experienced teams in the Missouri Valley Conference, as 319 of 396 (81%) 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 eight times in the 2013 season.
Sophomore Sophia Perez’s five saves is a new single-season ISU record. Perez is second in the MVC in saves and ranks sixth nationally.
Jhavon Hamilton has reached base in 21-straight games, a stretch that dates back to March 9. She also became the fifth player in program-history to reach toe 200-hit milestone with a game-winning two-run home run at Wichita State April 21.
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 second on the Redbirds with a career-high 41 RBI, while also hitting .369 with a career-best eight home runs.
Senior catcher/infielder Elizabeth Kayleads the Valley with a .438 batting average and has slugged 10 home runs while also adding a MVC-best 43 RBI from the cleanup spot.
In the Redbirds’ 15 conference games, Canopy and Kay have combined to hit .488 with eight home runs, 33 RBI, 32 runs scored and 24 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 currently one RBI ahead of Creighton senior Amy Baker for the most in MVC history, with 165. She also ranks top-10 all-time in four other major offensive categories: home runs (third with 43), runs (fourth with 123), slugging percentage (sixth at .564) and hits (sixth with 192).
Kay has also started all 207 games in her career, 16 shy of Kara Nelson’s record 223, with nine scheduled games remaining.
Hamilton’s top-15 rankings include runs scored (second with 148), RBI (fifth with 115), hits (fifth with 200), home runs (fifth with 27), slugging percentage (10th at .531), starts (10th with 199), on-base percentage (13th at .405) and batting average (14th at .322), while Kellar’s 118 runs, 191 starts and 172 hits rank her sixth, 12th 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. 5/5 Arizona State, No. 7/8 Louisville, No. 9/9 Michigan, No. 14/21 Baylor, No. 18/15 Texas A&M, No. 24/24 South Florida and RV/No. 22 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 946-632-4 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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