Illinois State University softballl coach Melinda Fischer (Photo courtesy of GoRedbirds.com)
By WJBC staff
NORMAL, Ill. – Taylor Baxter, Regan Romshek and Sophia Perez combined to allow just one run in two games, as the Illinois State softball team extended its season-best winning streak to six with a doubleheader sweep of Northern Iowa, Saturday afternoon at Marian Kneer Stadium. ISU took game one, 4-1, before winning game two, 1-0.
Baxter got the start in game one for the Redbirds (28-18, 13-6 Missouri Valley Conference), going 6.2 innings before allowing a run. Perez relieved Baxter with the tying run at the plate, before inducing a strike out for her seventh save of the season. In game two, Romshek held the Panthers (21-24, 11-8 MVC) scoreless for 4.0 innings before turning it over to Perez, who allowed just one hit in 3.0 innings to pick up the victory.
The high-scoring Redbird offense did enough against reigning MVC Pitcher of the Year Jamie Fisher to pick up two victories. ISU combined for just 10 hits on the day, with Jhavon Hamilton and Lauren Kellar each recording a two-hit performance.
Game One – Illinois State 4, Northern Iowa 1
The Redbirds jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning to provide Baxter and Perez all the run support they would need. ISU loaded the bases with one out before Nichelle Harrison walked to score Kellar. Two batters later, Sara Bradley hit a grounder to the second baseman that was misplayed, allowing Canopy and Kay to score and make it 3-0 Redbirds.
Both teams were held scoreless until the sixth inning, when ISU added an insurance tally. Harrison singled with one out, advanced to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a ground out and scored on a two-out single by Bradley to make it 4-0 ISU.
Baxter (WP, 15-6) was in control throughout, as the Panthers put two runners on base just once before the seventh inning. Julia Hunter got the Panthers on the board with a two-out RBI single, before Perez (SV, 7) came in to face Nicole Fisher with runners on first and third. Perez struck out Fisher swinging to end the contest.
Game Two – Illinois State 1, Northern Iowa 0
The first good scoring chance for either team in game two came in the third, when the Panthers put runners on second and third with two outs. Gina Brown drove one deep into left center field, but Kellar made the catch on the run before slamming into the wall, keeping the game scoreless.
ISU finally broke through against Fisher (LP, 17-13) with a single tally in the fifth. Brittny Drish, Kolby Hoffman and Hamilton all singled to load the bases with one out. After a strikeout by Kellar, Laura Canopy was hit by a pitch to score pinch runner Kaitlyn Knary and give the Redbirds a 1-0 lead.
Romshek (ND) was relieved by Perez (WP, 2-2) after giving up a leadoff single in the fifth inning. Perez allowed just a leadoff single in the sixth, shutting down UNI for her first win since March 1.
Illinois State goes for the sweep in game three, Sunday at noon. The four Redbird seniors – Hamilton, Elizabeth Kay, Kellar and Shelby Music – will be recognized after the game with Senior Day festivities.