Elizabeth Kay is batting .418 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI for Illinois State in 2013. (Photo courtesy GoRedbirds.com)
By WJBC Staff
OMAHA, Neb. – Illinois State softball senior catcher Elizabeth Kay is the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, as announced at the annual awards banquet Wednesday night in Omaha, Neb.
Additionally, Kay, first baseman Laura Canopy and outfielder Jhavon Hamilton are All-MVC First Team selections, while pitcher Taylor Baxter and outfielders Nichelle Harrison and Lauren Kellar are All-MVC Second Team choices.
Kay becomes the first Redbird since Kara Nelson in 2011 to win the award, and eighth ISU player overall. The Bartlett, Ill., native is hitting .418/.534/.695 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI. Kay ranks top-40 nationally in OBP (19th), walks (34th) and batting average (38th), while also leading the MVC in batting average, OBP and RBI. The four-time MVC Player of the Week has 17 multi-hit and 13 multi-RBI performances this season. Kay is the all-time program leader with 166-career RBI, one shy of the all-time MVC mark. The All-MVC First Team selection is the third of her career.
After earning All-MVC Second Team honors as a sophomore in 2012, Canopy earned first team recognition this year by batting .362/.492/.681 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI. The junior from Hopedale, Ill., ranks top-150 nationally in hit by pitches (25th), runs (49th), OBP (69th), RBI (72nd), slugging percentage (110th) and home runs (150th), while ranking top-five in the MVC in RBI (first), runs (second), home runs (third), OBP (third) and slugging percentage (fourth).
With her All-MVC First Team selection this season, Hamilton has been an All-Valley performer all four years at ISU. The senior from Joliet, Ill., native is batting .315/.476/.548 with six home runs, 24 RBI, 41 walks and eight stolen bases. Hamilton ranks top-150 nationally in walks (ninth), triples (38th), runs (70th) and OBP (107th), and leads Missouri Valley Conference in walks and triples. She reached base safely in 23-straight games from March 9-April 25, including the game at Wichita State April 21, during which she became the fifth player in program-history to record 200-career hits with a game-winning home run.
This is Kellar’s second-straight All-MVC Second Team recognition, while Baxter and Harrison pick up their first All-Valley honors. Kellar, a senior from Colfax, Ill., is batting .301, while also playing a stellar center field after playing left last season. She tied single-game program records with five hits and seven RBI in the win over Illinois-Chicago (Feb. 17).
Baxter, a junior from Hannibal, Mo., has provided stability to a pitching staff that lost two seniors from last year’s team by going 15-7 with a 3.27 ERA in 28 starts. She has tossed nine complete games, two of them coming against ranked foes, including a one-hit shutout of No. 22 Baylor (Feb. 8).
After entering the season with a career .265 batting average, Harrison, a redshirt-junior from Bloomington, Ill., is hitting .340 on the year. She has also played a perfect right field, committing no errors while recording four assists.
The third-seeded Redbirds will look to defend their Missouri Valley Conference Softball Championship title beginning with Thursday’s quarterfinal game against either No. 6-seed Missouri State or No. 7-seed Evansville at 6:35 p.m.