With only one conference series left, UNI has clinched the regular-season title and the No. 1 Seed for the 2012 State Farm MVC Softball Championship. It's a big weekend for all the teams as Wichita State, Indiana State and Evansville are all fighting for the last spot in the Championship while the other six Valley schools are playing to determine their seeds.
Leading The Charge
Senior Julie Sherman has scored a team-best 28 runs and is looking to become the first player since Molly Bergeson (2005 & 2006) to lead the team in runs in back-to-back seasons. Sherman’s 28 runs are the most by a Bradley player since Bergeson scored 30 runs in 2005 and she needs two runs to post the most in a season since Laura Harms totaled 43 runs in 2004.
Creighton owns a pair of freshmen who have started every game this season, as Allie Mathewson and Liz Dike have both started all 49 contests. Fellow newcomer Alexis Cantu, a sophomore transfer from Texas-Arlington, also has started every game.
Mathewson leads all Valley freshmen with 55 hits and 41 runs. Dike is second among all Valley freshmen with eight two-out RBI in league play. Cantu leads all Valley newcomers with 14 homers, 39 RBI, a .748 slugging percentage and a .537 on-base percentage.
In a Pinch
Sophomore Nicole Randel (Alpine, Calif.) has delivered in pinch hitting situations this season. The California native is 7-for-23 (.304) this season when called from the bench. She leads the MVC in pinch hits and pinch hit attempts.
The April 24 9-0 run-rule victory over Southern Illinois marked the first time that the Aces have posted a win over the Salukis via mercy rule since an 8-0 win in the 2003 MVC Tournament.
Illinois State won its 30th game of the season with a 3-1 win over Creighton in the series opener Saturday afternoon, marking the third-straight season the Redbirds have won 30 or more games. It is the seventh time in the last 10 seasons that ILS has reached the 30-win mark and 17th time that Illinois State has accomplished the feat under current head coach Melinda Fischer.
The Indiana State softball team has been successful this season when they have out-hit their opponents. The Sycamores have hold a 16-2 record when they have accomplished the this season. They also have a perfect 10-0 record on the season when they have eight or more hits in a game.
With the doubleheader sweep on Saturday, Missouri State had reeled off 11-straight wins against the Sycamores.
The Long Ball
Whitney Plein continues to climb up the home run list. Connecting for her 9th on the season Sunday afternoon, the senior from Burlington, Iowa has risen to a tie for 3rd in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Salukis Against The OVC
The Salukis have gone 5-1 against Ohio Valley Conference opponents this season. Wins including Austin Peay, Jacksonville State, SIU Edwardsville, Eastern Illinois, and SEMO. The Dawgs dropped a single game to OVC leader UT-Martin at Charlotte West on Apr. 10. They have their final matchup with an OVC opponent Tuesday when they welcome Murray State in the first meeting of the two programs.
Rachel Milnark of Wichita State has reached base in a team-high 17 consecutive games.
State Farm MVC Player of the Week
Lizzie Andrews, Senior, Algonquin, Ill. - Illinois State
Lizzie Andrews led Illinois State by going 6-for-11 at the plate with three doubles, six RBI and five runs scored. The Algonquin, Ill., native extended her on-base streak to 11 games with a hit in all four contests this week, including a 2-for-3 effort with three RBI in an 8-3 win over Creighton Saturday afternoon. The senior outfielder started the week by driving in a pair of runs in the Redbirds’ win over Indiana State Tuesday night. Over the last six games, Andrews has raised her batting average 39 points and is now hitting a team-best .342 and leads the team with 11 doubles and 24 walks.
State Farm MVC Pitcher of the Week
Jamie Fisher, Sophomore, Conrad, Iowa - Northern Iowa
Sophomore Jamie Fisher put together another impressive week in the circle posting a 3-0 record and a .028 ERA after her 4 starts. After picking up a win from Bradley on Wednesday, Fisher completed her week with a pair of wins over Southern Illinois this weekend. Fisher tossed a complete 25 innings, allowing just 10 hits, 1 run, and striking out 21 batters while walking just 6. Fisher silenced bats throughout the weekend, and has currently tossed 15 consecutive innings not allowing an opponent past second base.
Other notable performances:
Madeline Lynch-Crumrine, Bradley
Lynch-Crumrine had a hit in all four games last week, extending her hit streak to a season-high six games. She hit .438 for the week (7-for-16) with five runs scored, two RBI, a double, triple and home run. In addition to her offensive exploits, Lynch-Crumrine picked up both of BU’s wins in the circle during the week. She went 2-0 in four appearances with a 3.11 ERA in 18 innings of work. Lynch-Crumrine collected both of BU’s hits in a midweek loss at regular-season MVC champ UNI, going 2-for-3 with a double and run scored in addition to pitching 3.2 innings of scoreless relief. In the series opener at Wichita State, she was 1-for-5 with a triple and two runs scores while picking up the win in a complete game effort. She capped Saturday’s action with 1-for-3 effort at the plate and gave up one earned run in 2.1 innings in relief.
Ellen Homan, Creighton
Ellen Homan hit 8-for-17 (.471) and scored three times last week, while also handling 12 chances in the field flawlessly. She had a hit in all five games, tying her career-long hit streak of eight. Homan began her week with a 2-for-4 performance vs. Drake, including her first home run of the season, while scoring twice. On Wednesday, Homan had a leadoff double and scored the first run of the game in a 2-1 victory over in-state rival Nebraska.
Though Creighton would be swept at Illinois State, Homan went 5-for-10 in the series (.500), only to be stranded at second base on four different occasions. Homan led off three of the five games with an extra-base hit, and her leadoff homer vs. Drake was CU’s first since 2010.
Nicole Randel, Drake
Randel went 6-for-14 with one run scored and four RBI in six games last week. The sophomore went 3-for-4 with one run scored and one RBI in the final game of the Evansville series. She leads the MVC in pinch hits with seven and pinch attempts (23) this season.
Kayla Fortner, Evansville
Freshman Kayla Fortner hit .400 on the week, tallying two doubles, two walks, seven RBI and only striking out twice in her 15 at bats. Fortner opened the week with a 3-for-3 performance against SIU, notching two doubles and a home run to pick up 5 RBI in the upset win. On the week, Fortner averaged a .500 on base percentage and a .733 slugging percentage
Whitney Plein, UNI
Senior Whitney Plein started all six games for the Panthers this week. Going 6-for-17 at the plate Plein collected 4 RBI off her pair of doubles and a home run. Plein’s performances were a key role to the Panthers 4 wins this week putting together a .421 on base percentage to go along with her defensive skills adding 5 putouts, 11 assists, and just 1 error in the 6 game week.
Taylor Orsburn, Southern Illinois
Taylor Orsburn held a .333 batting average in five games last week (5-for-15) with two RBI and a run scored. Orsburn drew a walk and held a .333 slugging percentage and .375 on-base percentage. She safely hit in four of the Salukis’ five games including a 2-for-2 performance against Evansville.
Sydney Stuever, Wichita State
Sydney Stuever had another incredible week for Wichita State. The freshman from Andale, Kan. hit .545, scored four runs, hit two home runs, stole two bases and collected five RBI. For the week Stuever had a slugging percentage of 1.182 and an on-base percentage of .615.
Rebekah Schmidt, Drake
Schmidt posted a 2-1 record and 1.69 ERA in six games last week. The right-hander went 20.2 innings and struck out 24 batters. In back-to-back wins over Evansville she struck out nine in each game. A freshman, she has tossed 122 innings this season and is eighth in the Valley with 130 strikeouts. Schmidt leads the MVC in saves with 7 and total games finished with 30.
Sarah Patterson, Evansville
Junior Sarah Patterson tossed 28.2 of Evansville’s 41.0 innings this week, posting a 1.71 ERA while picking up 21 strikeouts on the week. Patterson threw all five innings of Tuesday’s 9-0 shutout upset over SIU, allowing just four hits and striking out three as she held the Salukis scoreless.
Jordan Birch, Illinois State
Jordan Birch turned in another stellar week inside the circle, going 3-0, while allowing just two runs in 18.0 innings. Birch opened the week by tossing a two-hitter with seven strikeouts against Indiana State in a 9-1 win. Megan Stone, who recorded all three Sycamore hits off of Birch this year, hit a solo homer to eliminate the shutout. In Saturday’s opener against Creighton, the senior righty scattered nine hits and pitched around five walks to pick up the win. In that contest, Birch notched eight strikeouts to become just the second pitcher in Illinois State history to reach 600 career strikeouts. The Monroe, Wash., native capped the week with an 8-0, five-inning shutout of the Bluejays, allowing just five hits and striking out five more. Birch has now won her last six starts and is the first Redbird pitcher to win 20 games in a season since 2007. She is currently 20-12 on the year with a 1.61 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 191 innings.
Natalie Rose, Missouri State
Rose was dominant in her four complete games this week. She pitched every inning for the Bears and allowed just a single earned run over the four outings. On Saturday, she shut down the Sycamore offense taking a perfect game into the fifth inning of game one and faced just one over the minimum in the game. She scattered seven hits over the doubleheader sweep while striking out 13 and not issuing a walk in a pair of 1-0 MSU wins. This week’s outings give Rose 21 complete games, seven shutouts, 172 strikeouts and a 1.78 ERA for the season, all figures in the top-4 in the MVC.
Alyssa Wunderlich, Southern Illinois
Alyssa Wunderlich was good in relief for the Salukis this week as she came in to pick up both wins over UNI and SEMO. She appeared in all four games for 10.0 innings of work and struck out five while holding her opponents to a .231 batting average. She came in relief in SIU’s 7-1 win over UNI, not allowing a run in her 5.2 innings of work.