Redbirds Set to Begin Fall Season Against Heartland
Sept. 2, 2007
NORMAL, Ill. - Less than four months after completing one of the most successful seasons in team history, the Illinois State softball team begins its trek toward the 2008 season Monday with its first competition of the fall tournament season, hosting Heartland Community College in a scrimmage at 1 p.m. at Redbird Softball Complex. The `Birds, who made their second-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2007, will feature 12 returnees, plus 11 newcomers.
Head coach Melinda Fischer views Monday's scrimmage as a perfect opportunity to instruct her players during live game situations, while still being in a controlled environment.
"To me, this is strictly a scrimmage," said Fischer. "We're going to take some time and stop and instruct to correct some situations that we might see. I'm looking at it as more of an opportunity to see what we need to do to make some corrections when we can on the field and to get an observation of everybody in a game situation."
While 11 players on the field will be making their Illinois State softball debut Monday, the entire Heartland team will be making its intercollegiate athletics debut during the scrimmage. Prior to this fall, Heartland had never fielded a collegiate softball team, nor had it had any collegiate sport on campus. The Hawks are in their first year of competition in the Mid-West Athletic Conference of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), fielding teams in men's and women's soccer, baseball and softball.
Heartland is coached by Shae Wesley, a former ISU All-American catcher. Wesley, a member of the Missouri Valley Conference Softball All-Centennial Team, played for the `Birds during the 2001 and 2002 seasons and helped ISU win two-straight Valley regular-season crowns. She was also instrumental in ISU earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2001 after the Redbirds won the MVC Tournament that season.
The Hawks will field a team of 16 players, with all but one hailing from the state of Illinois. Pitcher Amber May and infielder Tressa Wasson are the lone Heartland players from Bloomington-Normal.
Boasting one of the most potent offenses in the nation last season, the Redbirds will look to keep that momentum going into the fall season as they begin their nine-month charge toward the State Farm MVC Tournament on the campus of Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Ill., next May. ISU hit a team single-season record 83 home runs last season, a mark of 1.34 per game, ranking it sixth in the nation. The `Birds also set single-season marks in runs (329), hits (489) and slugging percentage (.509), while hitting .298 as a team, fourth-best all-time.
For Fischer, the first competition of the fall tournament season serves as a time to evaluate players, as well as giving her team the opportunity to use its competition as a stepping stone into the spring season.
"We'll definitely build off this game," said Fischer. "I feel that we've gotten some things accomplished on the field in our practices so far, but you never know until you see the competitive nature of the players come out. We'll utilize this as a building block, not only with our newcomers, but with our returning players, as well."
Monday's scrimmage against Heartland is free and open to the public.