Monday, May 21, 2012
Sports News

Redbirds close season with loss to No. 9 Missouri

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[May 21, 2012]  COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The Illinois State softball team saw its season come to an end Sunday afternoon in Columbia, Mo., as the Redbirds fell 2-1 to No. 9 Missouri on the final day of the NCAA regional at University Field. ISU finishes its 2012 campaign with a 37-23 overall record.

Junior Elizabeth Kay finished the afternoon 2 for 3 at the plate and had Illinois State's lone RBI. Senior Caiti Kopp and junior Jhavon Hamilton recorded the other two hits for the Redbirds.

Missouri (46-12) starter Chelsea Thomas earned the win after allowing just one run on four hits and recording 12 strikeouts.

Senior pitcher Jordan Birch suffered the loss in the circle for ISU, as she allowed two runs on eight hits in 5 1-3 innings. Freshman Sophia Perez allowed just one base runner over the final 1 2-3 innings on a walk.

The Tigers threatened in both the first and second innings, as they stranded five runners in their first two at-bats. Birch pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the first and stranded runners on the corners in the top of the second. However, Missouri would plate a run on a pair of two-out hits in the fourth to take a 1-0 lead. Corrin Genovese doubled to the left center, and Ashtin Stephens drove her home with a single to shallow left.

Thomas retired the first 12 Redbirds she faced before Kay led off the bottom of the fifth with a single up the middle. Sophomore Laura Canopy was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second, and junior Lauren Kellar moved them both into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, freshman Kolby Hoffman was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs, but ISU could not capitalize, as Thomas notched a strikeout to end the threat.

Lindsey Muller doubled the Tigers' lead in the sixth with a solo homer to left. Kayla Kingsley followed with a double to the gap in left center before Perez took over in the circle for Birch. Perez retired the next two hitters to keep the Missouri advantage at 2-0.

ISU cut the lead to 2-1 in its half of the sixth on Kay's RBI double to left center. Hamilton led off the inning with a single, and Kay plated her with the two-out hit.

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Perez pitched around an error and a walk in the top of the seventh to keep the margin at one run before Illinois State once again threatened in its final at-bat.

Kopp led off the frame with an infield hit before Thomas retired the next two batters. Freshman Stephanie Gallant was called on to pinch hit and was awarded first base on a catcher's interference call, after what appeared to be the final out of game. The game continued when Hamilton reached on an error to load the bases. Thomas finished the contest and ended Illinois State's season with her 12th and final strikeout of the game, sending Missouri on to the super regional next weekend in Columbia.

Birch ended her career with one of the best single seasons for a pitcher in Illinois State history, as her 37 starts are the most ever by an ISU hurler in a season. Her 25 wins, 13 shutouts and 29 complete games tie her for second on the single-season list; her 238 1-3 innings pitched rank third; and her 233 strikeouts rank fourth. For her career, Birch ranks second on the Redbirds' all-time list with 641 strikeouts and third with 67 wins and 22 career shutouts.

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

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