Monday, May 21, 2012
Sports News

ISU softball advances to NCAA regional final

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[May 21, 2012]  COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Senior Jordan Birch tossed 16 shutout innings to lead the Illinois State softball team to a pair of NCAA regional wins Saturday evening at University Field in Columbia, Mo. The Redbirds advanced to Sunday's regional final by defeating Massachusetts 1-0 in nine innings, before topping DePaul 3-0 in the nightcap.

Birch notched both wins for ISU (37-22) inside the circle to improve to 25-13 on the season, as she outdueled UMass (38-13) starter Sara Plourde in the opener and DePaul's (36-22) Kirsten Verdun in the second game of the evening. The Monroe, Wash., native lowered her ERA to 1.56 and has now recorded 233 strikeouts in 233 innings around just 41 walks, as she did not issue a free pass in her 16 innings of work Saturday night.

In the opener, the Minutewomen stranded five runners on the base paths through the first three innings, including three in scoring position. All five runners reached on singles, before Birch settled in and allowed just four base runners throughout the rest of the ballgame.

Illinois State left nine runners on base through the first seven innings, despite not getting its first hit until the bottom of the eighth. The Redbirds coaxed six walks and were hit by three pitches before sophomore Laura Canopy provided ISU with its first hit, a one-out single, in the eighth.

Illinois State scored the only run of the contest in the bottom of the ninth, when freshman Lindsey Greene scampered home on a wild pitch. Greene drew a one-out walk to set up the game-winning run and advanced to third on a double by junior Jhavon Hamilton to left center. With junior Lauren Kellar at the plate, Plourde fired a pitch by her catcher and to the backstop that allowed Green to score from third and sent the Redbirds into their second elimination game of the evening.

ISU wasted no time getting on the board against the Blue Demons, as it took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on an RBI triple off the bat of junior Elizabeth Kay. Hamilton drilled the first pitch of the game to the gap in left center for a double, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Kellar and scored on Kay's two-out triple.

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The Redbirds doubled their lead in the top of the fifth on a solo home run by freshman Kolby Hoffman and advanced to 3-0 in their half of the sixth on a bases-loaded walk to Hamilton. Senior Caiti Kopp and redshirt sophomore Nichelle Harrison started the sixth with back-to-back singles and Hoffman reached on an error to load the bases. Two batters later, Hamilton walked on five pitches to bring home Kopp for the game's final tally.

Birch allowed only one hit to the Blue Demons, a one-out single to Verdun in the bottom of the fourth. Birch fanned four DePaul batters and allowed just one other base runner, on a hit-by-pitch, to earn her second victory of the night.

With the pair of wins, Illinois State advanced to the Columbia regional final Sunday afternoon, to once again face host and No. 9 overall seed Missouri. The Redbirds would need to defeat the Tigers twice on Sunday to advance to the super regional next weekend.

[Text from news release received from John Twork, graduate assistant, athletics communications, Illinois State University]

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