The Redbirds (21-15) managed just five hits but manufactured a
run on a double by junior Lauren Kellar and a sacrifice fly by
fellow junior Elizabeth Kay in the top of the sixth for the game's
lone run. Birch allowed just two hits in the victory and struck out
six without issuing a walk, as she outdueled Fighting Illini (16-15)
starter Pepper Gay, who gave up an unearned run and fanned nine ISU
hitters around a pair of walks.
After both teams were retired in order in the first, Kay drew a
leadoff walk to start the second, and senior Liz Andrews followed
with an infield single. However, Gay responded by retiring the next
three hitters in order to keep Illinois State off the board.
Illinois' best chance came in its half of the second, as Jessica
Davis led off the frame with a single, stole second and advanced to
third on a Jess Perkins groundout. Birch stranded Davis at third by
getting Jenna Mychko and Stephanie Cuevas to pop out for the final
The Redbirds had a chance to add to their lead in the third after
freshman Lindsey Greene singled up the middle and advanced into
scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by junior Jhavon Hamilton. For
the second time in as many innings, Gay was able to strand an ISU
runner in scoring position by recording back-to-back strikeouts to
end the threat.
Illinois State finally broke through in the sixth to take a 1-0
lead. Kellar doubled down the right-field line and moved to third on
a one-out passed ball. On the very next pitch, Kay was able to lift
a ball to left that was deep enough to allow Kellar to tag and
[to top of second column]
After the single by Davis in the second, Birch retired the next
14 Illini hitters and did not allow a base runner until Alex
Booker's two-out single in the sixth. In the seventh, Birch got
Meredith Hackett to fly out to right and Davis to pop out to
second before facing Perkins for the third time on the evening.
Perkins drilled a ball to deep left, but a strong field kept the
ball in the park and Kellar was able to make the catch with her
back to the wall to secure the win for Illinois State.
The victory improved Birch to 13-9 in the circle, as Gay fell to
11-7 for the Illini. Birch has been dominant in her last five
starts, going 4-1 with a 0.41 ERA in 34.0 innings. The Monroe,
Wash., native has allowed just two earned runs with 33
strikeouts and just one walk in that span.
The Redbirds will begin a seven-game homestand Friday against
Missouri Valley Conference opponent Evansville at Marian Kneer
Stadium. ISU and UE will play a single game Friday at 5 p.m.,
before wrapping up the three-game set with a doubleheader on
Saturday, beginning at noon.
news release received from Dustin Hall, Illinois State