Saturday, March 24, 2012
Sports News

ISU softball hosts Shockers in home opener

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[March 24, 2012]  NORMAL -- After 28 straight road games, the Illinois State softball team will be at home for the first time this season when they host Missouri Valley Conference opponent Wichita State for a three-game series Saturday and Sunday at Marian Kneer Stadium. The Redbirds and Shockers will play a noon doubleheader Saturday and wrap up the weekend with a noon contest on Sunday.

HardwareISU (15-13, 2-1 MVC) opened conference play last weekend at Missouri State, taking two of three from the Bears at Killian Stadium in Springfield, Mo. Illinois State took both games of Friday night's doubleheader, giving head coach Melinda Fischer her 900th career win, before falling to MSU in Saturday's series finale. Sophomore Laura Canopy earned MVC Player of the Week honors after leading the Redbirds with six hits in nine at-bats, including a double and four RBIs. Senior Jordan Birch led Illinois State in the circle, tossing a two-hit shutout in the opener. Birch leads the Redbirds and ranks fourth in the Valley with a 2.33 ERA and 85 strikeouts.

"I was happy with the results last weekend," Fischer said. "I thought we played very well on Friday and came out strong on Saturday, but could not continue the scoring throughout the ballgame. I thought (Missouri State starter) Natalie Rose pitched out of some key situations, especially when we had the bases loaded in the seventh inning and could not push runs across."

Offensively, junior Jhavon Hamilton leads ISU with a .341 batting average, a .545 slugging percentage, nine stolen bases and is tied for the team lead with 16 RBIs. Fellow junior Elizabeth Kay belted her team-leading fourth home run of the season last weekend at Missouri State and has also driven in 16 runs.

Wichita State (7-20, 0-3 MVC) was swept by Southern Illinois in its conference-opening series last weekend in Wichita, Kan., and split a midweek doubleheader with St. Louis on Wednesday afternoon. The Shockers ended a 13-game losing skid with a 7-2 win over the Billikens in Wednesday's nightcap. WSU returns 10 letter winners and eight starters from last year's squad that finished 20-37 overall and seventh in the Valley with a 12-15 league mark. Wichita State was tabbed eighth in this season's MVC Preseason Coaches' Poll.

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"Wichita State has a new coach this season, and statistically it looks like they are a team that is looking to steal a lot of bases and do a lot offensively with hit-and-runs and bunt-and-runs," Fischer said. "Like us, they have played a tremendous nonconference schedule. We have always had battles with them, and we have to come out and just play our game against them."

Sydney Stuever leads the Shockers offensively with a .338 average and seven stolen bases. Erin Carney has belted a team-high four home runs and has tallied 10 RBIs. Melanie Jaegers and Hayley Temple are tied with a team-best 12 RBIs and are hitting .227 and .238, respectively. Wichita State has struggled in the circle this season and brings a 5.83 team ERA into this weekend's series. Sloan Anderson has been the primary starter for the Shockers and is 3-13 in the circle with a 5.29 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 80.2 innings.

The beginning of the 2012 season marks the start of free admission to every game played at Marian Kneer Stadium. Saturday will be "Dollar Day" with $1 hot dogs, and on Sunday fans will be encouraged to wear red for a "Red Out." In addition to the "Red Out," fans can bring gently used sporting goods to donate to the Leadership McLean County Sports Drive, and kids will be able to run the bases following the game. Two former Illinois State softball greats will serve as Redbird ambassadors this weekend, as Cutie Taylor will be in attendance at Saturday's game, and Nicole Kurth Duncheon will serve as Sunday's ambassador.

[Text from file received from Illinois State]

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