ISU Softball Closes Regular Season at UNI
May 4, 2012
The Illinois State softball team will close its regular-season slate this weekend, when it travels to Cedar Falls, Iowa, for a three-game series with Missouri Valley Conference foe Northern Iowa. The Redbirds and Panthers will open the weekend with a Saturday doubleheader at noon, and wrap up the set Sunday at noon.
ISU (32-20, 17-7 MVC) will be looking to extend its seven-game winning streak and clinch the No. 2 seed for the State Farm MVC Softball Championship, as UNI (37-14, 20-3 MVC) claimed the regular-season title last weekend by winning two of three games at Southern Illinois. Illinois State swept Creighton in a series last weekend at Marian Kneer Stadium to extend its lead over third-place SIU to a game and a half in the Valley standings. Senior Liz Andrews led the Redbird offense over the Bluejays and earned MVC Player of the Week honors by finishing the week 6-or-11 with three doubles and six RBI.
On the season, Andrews leads Illinois State with a .342 batting average and 11 doubles. Sophomore Laura Canopy is hitting .321 with six doubles and a team-best .444 on-bases percentage. Junior Jhavon Hamilton owns a .315 average, ranks second in the league with 10 homers and has driven in a team high 31 RBI. Fellow junior Lauren Kellar boasts a .303 average and has successfully reached base in 19 of her last 21 games. In the circle, senior pitcher Jordan Birch leads the Redbird pitching staff with a 20-12 record and 1.61 ERA. Birch leads the Valley with 199 strikeouts and is second in the conference with a .209 opposing batting average. Fellow senior Megan Warner is 9-7 with a 3.99 ERA.
Northern Iowa has been atop the Valley standings all season, as it opened conference play with 15-straight wins. UNI returns 18 letterwinners from last year's squad and is under the direction of fourth-year head coach Ryan Jacobs. The Panthers are hitting .284 as a team with three starters hitting over .300. Mackenzie Daigh sports a league-best .382 average and leads the team with 17 doubles. Whitney Plein is hitting .331 with a team-best 33 RBI and is tied for third in the MVC with nine homers.
In the circle, the Panthers lead the conference with a 2.04 team ERA. Reigning MVC Pitcher of the Week Jamie Fisher leads the Valley with a 1.35 ERA and an impressive 20-2 record. Fisher is limiting opposing hitters to a .183 batting average and has struck out 195 in 176 innings of work. Jaye Hutcheson owns a 14-10 record and 2.72 ERA with six shutouts in 20 starts.
Illinois State holds a 61-16-1 advantage in the all-time series with Northern Iowa and won two of three games last season in Normal, Ill. The Redbirds have won 13 of the last 16 meetings.
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