Redbirds Open MVC Tournament Play Friday
May 10, 2012
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Illinois State softball team will be looking for its first win at the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Softball Championship since 2006, when it opens tournament play against the winner of Thursday night's Drake/Missouri State contest Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Charlotte West Stadium in Carbondale, Ill. The Redbirds are the No. 2 seed and received a double bye for the tournament, after finishing the regular season 33-21 overall and 18-8 in the Valley.
ISU closed the regular season last weekend by splitting a doubleheader with Valley regular-season champion Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Senior Jordan Birch tossed her 10th shutout of the season, holding the Panthers to just two hits and recording 10 strikeouts in a 1-0 win in the opener. Junior Jhavon Hamilton provided the game's only run with a solo homer to right center. In the nightcap, UNI rebounded with a 3-0 win, behind a shutout performance from senior pitcher Jaye Hutcheson.
Senior Liz Andrews leads the Redbird offense with a .331 batting average and 11 doubles, and ranks second on the team with a .522 slugging percentage and a .424 on-base percentage. Hamilton is hitting .310 with a team-best 11 home runs, 32 RBI and a .569 slugging percentage. Sophomore Laura Canopy sports a .310 batting average with six doubles and a team-high .435 on-base percentage. Canopy leads the team with a .368 batting average in Valley games. Junior Lauren Kellar owns a .302 batting average and has reached base safely in 21 of her last 23 games. Kellar leads the Valley with three triples and has stolen a team-best 12 bases.
Illinois State placed five players on the All-MVC First or Second Team Wednesday night at the annual awards banquet. Andrews and Birch earned first-team accolades, while Canopy, Hamilton and Kellar were named to the second team. The Redbirds will be looking to end an eight-game losing skid in the State Farm MVC Softball Championship. ISU's last win at the conference tournament came in 2006, when it defeated Drake, 4-2.
Illinois State holds an all-time record of 52-44 since the State Farm MVC Softball Championship began in 1983, which was known as the Gateway Conference until 1992. The Redbirds last won the conference tournament in 2001 and are 6-15 in State Farm MVC Softball Championship play since, with four of the six victories coming in 2002.
The Redbirds took two out of three games in the regular season from Missouri State to open league play earlier this season in Springfield, Mo. Against Drake, ISU won both games of a Saturday doubleheader, before dropping the series finale at Marian Kneer Stadium.
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