Redbird coach Melinda Fischer (Photo courtesy of GoRebirds.com)
By WJBC staff
TEMPE, Ariz – Poor defense and home runs were the two main factors that resulted in the Illinois State softball team (4-5) dropping a pair of games at the Littlewood Classic, 3-2 to Michigan State and 7-1 to No. 3 Arizona State, Saturday at Farrington Stadium. Two errors fueled a three-run sixth inning for the Spartans in game one, while five of ASU’s seven runs in the night cap scored via home runs.
The Redbirds mustered just five hits in each game, their second-lowest total of the season. Stephanie Gallant hit two solo home runs in the loss to MSU, the first two of her career, while Jhavon Hamilton went 3-for-3 with a run scored against the Sun Devils. Brittny Drish went hitless in each contest, snapping her season-opening hitting streak at seven, while Elizabeth Kay extended her hitting streak to seven games with a single in each contest.
Michigan State 3, Illinois State 2
In ISU’s first game of the day, Gallantput the first run on the board for either team with a solo home run to right field in the top of the fifth inning. However, after the Redbirds came back from a one-run deficit with a three-run sixth inning against Minnesota on Friday, their role reversed against the Spartans (4-4), with Michigan State pushing across three in the sixth to grab the lead.
With one out, MSU’s Ellie Stoffer reached on an error by the shortstop Drishto start the rally. Taylor Baxter (LP, 2-2), got the next batter to fly out, before the Spartans recorded four-straight singles to chase Baxter and get on top.
Dani Goranson started the rally with a single to left, with Alyssa McBride replacing her as a pinch-runner. McKinzie Freimuth followed with a hit up the middle to drive home Stoffer and tie the game. Jenny Ramsaier hit an infield single to the right side, before Kara Repp threw the ball away, allowing McBride to come home and give MSU a 2-1 lead. Kylene Hopkins’ single plated Freimuth and made it 3-1, before Erin Rodriguez relieved Baxter to end the inning.
Gallant led off the top of the seventh with her second solo home run of the game, with this one flying over the fence in left-center field to cut the ISU deficit in half. Nichelle Harrison reached on an error with two outs to keep the Redbirds alive, but Lauren Kellar popped up to short for the final out of the game.
Baxter stranded runners in four of her first five innings, before surrendering the three unearned runs in the sixth. She went 5.2 innings, allowing eight hits while striking out two. Gallant was the only Redbird to record multiple hits in the contest.
No. 3 Arizona State 7, Illinois State 1
The third-ranked Sun Devils (11-0) slugged three home runs en route to handing the Redbirds their most lopsided loss of the season. After allowing just one hit in the first inning, ISU starter Regan Romshek (LP, 2-3) gave up five runs in the second. Nikki Girard singled and Haley Steele doubled to lead off the frame, before an error by Drish at short allowed Girard to come home and open the scoring. Steele crossed the plate on a RBI groundout by Sam Parlich, before All-American Alix Johnson hit a three-run homer two batters later, putting ASU on top 5-0.
Sophia Perez (ND) relieved Romshek to retire the final out of the second, before the Redbirds scored their lone run of the game in the top of the third. With two outs and nobody on base, Hamilton and Canopy hit back-to-back singles, with Hamilton advancing to third. A wild pitch from the arm of Dallas Escobedo (WP, 7-0) allowed Hamilton to scamper home to bring the Redbirds within four, at 5-1.
Perez got the first out of the third inning before giving up back-to-back home runs to Steele and Bethany Kemp, making it a 7-1 deficit for ISU. Freshman Erin Rodriguez took over for Perez and held the Sun Devils scoreless for the remaining 3.2 innings, allowing three hits and striking out one in the best outing of her young career. The Corona, Calif., native retired eight-straight at one point, but the Redbird offense could not climb back in the game.
Escobedo fanned 14 Redbirds in the win, the most strike outs for ISU in a seven-inning game since March 14, 2010 against Missouri. The junior lowered her ERA to 0.86 with seven innings of one-run ball.
ISU concludes play at the Littlewood Classic against Illinois-Chicago, Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m., CST.