Sixteen ISU Softball Greats Returning for Annual Alumni Game
Sept. 7, 2012
NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State softball program will welcome back 16 distinguished former players to take on the 2012-13 squad in the Alumni Game, Sunday at 1 p.m., at Marian Kneer Stadium. The alumni team features 12 players that finished their careers in the 2000s, but also former Redbirds from the 1960s, 1970s and 1990s.
"Anytime that you can have a variety of players from a variety of years show up for this game, it's always a fun time," 28th-year head coach Melinda Fischer said. "These are the players who have been the building blocks of our program, especially the ones dating back to the 1960s. Most recently, our current players have set the bar high for the teams in the future to follow."
The alumni team will feature Margie Wright, a Redbird pitcher from 1970-1974 who went on to become the winningest softball coach in NCAA Division I history after six years leading ISU and 27 years at the helm of Fresno State. A Warrensburg, Ill., native, Wright recently retired from coaching with 1,454 victories, the second-highest tally in Division I history in any sport. She is a member of the Illinois State Athletics Percy Family Hall of Fame, having also played basketball and field hockey for ISU.
Karen Wilkening, a catcher with the Redbirds from 1968-1970, will also play for the alumni squad. The team also consists of two more hall of famers, Priscilla Welch-DeLaere and Heather Stella. Welch-DeLaere was an outfielder from 1993-1997 and is second on the program's all-time hits list with 247. She was a third-team All-American in 1997 and was named to the Missouri Valley All-Centennial Softball Team. Stella, an infielder from 1995-1999, hit .445 in her final season as a Redbird, a single-season record. She was Illinois State's first two-time All-American and was the athletic department's Female Athlete of the Year in 1998 and 1999.
Some recent standouts participating for the alumni squad are Jordan Birch and Kara Nelson. Birch, a pitcher for the Redbirds from 2008-2012, was the 2012 squad's MVP after going 25-14 with a 1.59 ERA, with 13 shutouts and 233 strikeouts. Her 37 starts broke an ISU single-season record, while the wins, shutouts and complete games (29) rank her second on the program's single-season list. Nelson patrolled the ISU infield from 2006-2011, earning All-American honors three seasons and the MVC Player of the Year award as a freshman and senior. She holds ISU career records for hits (301), doubles (49), runs scored (189), games started (223), total bases (435) and batting average (.401)
Rounding out the alumni squad are Lizzie Andrews (OF 2010-2012), Jessie Buker (UT, 2005-2009), Chrissy Burton (P, 2007-2011), Michelle Henderson (IF, 2006-2010), Caiti Kopp (C, 2008-2012), Nicole Kurth-Duncheon (P, 1999-2001), Shannon Nicholson (P, 2003-2007), Abby Olson (IF, 2007-2011), Megan Warner (P, 2008-2012) and Jackie Williams-Douglas (OF, 2003-2007).
Highlighting the defending Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champion Redbird squad will be National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Mideast Region First Team selection and All-Valley Second Team honoree Jhavon Hamilton, as well as All-Valley Second Team choices Laura Canopy and Lauren Kellar.
The Redbirds will officially begin their eight-game fall schedule Wednesday, Sept. 12 at home against Heartland Community College at 6 p.m.
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