Reigning Champs Open Valley Season at Home against Creighton
April 7, 2011
NORMAL, Ill. -
Looking for its best start to a season since 1984, the Illinois State baseball team opens Missouri Valley Conference play against Creighton this weekend at Duffy Bass Field in Normal, Ill. The reigning Valley regular-season and tournament-champion Redbirds (20-7) will play the Bluejays (20-6) Friday at 4:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
"We're going to have to play at our absolute best-level to have success this weekend," ISU head coach Mark Kingston said. "The Bluejays aren't going to beat themselves, their pitchers are going to throw strikes, and they have some really talented hitters."
Illinois State rides a five-game winning streak into Friday's game, after earning victories against Chicago State and Northern Illinois. Creighton saw its four-game winning streak snapped Tuesday at Nebraska. The Bluejays, who were picked to finish fifth in the MVC this season, return 20 players and just four starters from the team that went 27-25 last season. All-Valley honorable mention and all-tournament pick Trever Adams leads Creighton with a .388 batting average, including a league-best seven home runs.
Tyler McNeely tops the Redbird offense with a .410 batting average, which is second-highest in the MVC, and the Normal, Ill., native is slugging .723 with 28 RBI and six home runs. Illinois State leads the league in on-base percentage (.405), runs scored (214), doubles (65) and home runs (25). Redbird pitchers have combined for a 3.22 ERA, which is the lowest in the MVC. The Redbirds were picked to finish first in the conference this season, after going 32-24 (15-6 MVC) en route to a share of the 2010 Valley regular-season title and the tournament championship.
"I think the league is going to be even better than it was last year," Kingston said. "I'm excited for the challenges that await us because it's a lot of fun when you get to play this kind of baseball."
The Redbirds will start Corey Maines (5-0) Friday, Brad Sorkin (4-1) Saturday, and Ryan Camp (3-0) Sunday. The Bluejays will counter with Ty Blach (5-0), Jonas Dufek (4-0) and Greg Hellhake (2-1). Illinois State trails the all-time series against Creighton, 66-36. The Redbirds swept the Bluejays last season, 3-0, in Omaha, Neb.
This weekend's promotions include "Kids Club Day," in which Reggie's Kids Club members receive free admission and a pre-game pizza party with the ISU basketball team on Saturday. Sunday will feature "Bark at the Park," in conjunction with Central Illinois Small Animal Rescue (CISAR), and "Sundae Sunday," in which fans can purchase an ice cream sundae in a Redbird mini helmet. For tickets, call (309) 438-8000.
GoRedbirds.com: Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, Weisbecker Scholarship Fund gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.