Redbird softball coach Melinda Fischer (Photo courtesy of GoRedbirds.com)
By WJBC staff
NORMAL, Ill. – Taylor Baxter tossed a shutout in game one, while home runs from Laura Canopy and Elizabeth Kay weren’t enough in game two, as the Illinois State softball team split a doubleheader with Missouri State, Saturday afternoon at Marian Kneer Stadium. ISU won game one, 1-0, before MSU rebounded with a 7-4 win in game two.
Baxter (WP, 9-5) worked around a career-high seven walks to record her first seven-inning shutout of the season in ISU’s (16-15, 2-3 MVC) game one victory. Regan Romshek (LP, 5-8) was charged with the loss in game two, allowing seven runs in 3.1 innings. Sophia Perez (ND) tossed 3.2 innings of scoreless relief in the second game.
Sara Bradley picked up the only RBI in game one with a two-out single in the fifth inning, before Canopy and Kay continued their hot hitting in game two. Canopy hit a two-run homer, increasing her MVC-leading RBI total to 33, while Kay hit her team-best eighth home run of the season. Kay is hitting .739 over ISU’s last nine games, increasing her batting average to a league-best .411.
Game One - Illinois State 1, Missouri State 0
Baxter retired MSU (15-19, 6-4 MVC) in order just two times, but was able to strand 10 base runners throughout the contest.
The Bears’ first good opportunity came when they loaded the bases with one out in the top of the second, after back-to-back singles followed by a sacrifice bunt and walk. ISU got out of trouble thanks to a double play that started with a line out to Lauren Kellar in center field and ended with an 8-3-2-4-3 putout at home. MSU would threaten again in the top of the third with runners on second and third, but a strikeout by Baxter ended the inning.
The Redbirds had their own chance to be the first to put a run on the scoreboard, as they had bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the third. However, ISU was unable to score after a strikeout and over-the-shoulder catch by MSU shortstop Kristin Cutter.
The top of the fourth brought another scoring opportunity for the Bears, as they had bases loaded with two outs, but another big strikeout by Baxter kept the game scoreless.
ISU broke the scoring drought with a run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Canopy reached on an error and advanced to third on back-to-back ground outs. With two outs and Canopy on third, Bradley delivered with an RBI single to right center, giving the Redbirds a one-run advantage heading into the top of the sixth that they would not relinquish.
Game Two – Missouri State 7, Illinois State 4
After being shutout in game one, the Bears opened game two’s scoring in the top of the first with a two-run home run from Heather Duckworth. Canopy answered back in the bottom of the first for the Redbirds, delivering her own two-run blast off MSU starter Rachel Brisker (ND) to left-center that tied the game up, 2-2.
MSU took its second lead of the game with a squeeze play in the top of the third. The Redbirds responded in the bottom half of the frame with Kay’s solo home run, which came on the 10th pitch of her at bat
A four-run fourth inning for the Bears gave them the lead for good. Lauren Eisenreich and Caitlin Chapin reached base on back-to-back singles before advancing to third and second, respectively, on a sacrifice bunt. Eisenreich scored on a fielder’s choice, before a double by Kristin Cutter drove in Chapin. Two batters later, a single by Duckworth increased the Bears’ lead to four, 7-3.
Jhavon Hamiltonled off the fourth for the Redbirds with a walk, and advanced to second on a ground out. She would then score from second base on an infield single by Kay, cutting the MSU lead to three, 7-4.
Chelsea Jones (WP, 9-11) relieved Brisker in the fourth and tossed 4.0 shutout innings to earn the win. The game one starter combined to throw 10.0 innings without allowing an earned run.
ISU and MSU will meet in the rubber match of the series, Sunday at noon.