Softball Gives First Game to Saint Louis, Rebounds to Tie SIU
Sept. 24, 2006
KIRKWOOD, Mo. - Led by a pair of homeruns from veteran Redbirds Tiffany Prager and Amber Smith, the Illinois State softball team ended in a 5-5 tie with Southern Illinois its the second and final game of the Reverse Exposure Tournament in Kirkwood, Mo. Dropping their first game of the fall season, the Redbirds lost to host Saint Louis, 1-0, in the `Birds' opening game of the tournament on Sunday morning.
Illinois State improves to 5-1-2 on the fall season, with one double-header left to play.
Errors proved costly for the `Birds on the day as the tie and loss were both credited to ISU mistakes. Against Southern Illinois, the Redbirds had a 3-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh, but four defensive mistakes allowed three runs to score, as the game resulted in a tie due to the time-limit imposed on all tournament games.
Illinois State head coach Melinda Fischer felt the team's lack of experience could have partly led to the errors.
"The errors that we made are certainly correctable," said Fischer. "We needed to make plays in big situations and that comes with experience. I looked around the infield in that second game and we had one junior. The rest were sophomores, with the exception of Stacy, in the circle. That is a really young infield and they don't have much experience with the type of game we like to play. It is time we make a decision as to what we want to do with the infield and to really solidify those positions. Again, that is what the fall season is for."
Stacy Birk pitched for Illinois State against Southern Illinois, giving up eight hits for five runs, though only three were earned. Birk struck out five, while recording a trio of walks in seven innings pitched.
Kara Nelson, who went one-for-two on the day, was the first to score for the `Birds in the nightcap. Nelson was plated in the first after Birk, who hit one-for-three in the game, was called out on a fielder's choice.
ISU wouldn't score again until the top of fourth inning when Prager hit a solo shot over the right field fence, her first career home run. Prager's run tied the game at two, as the junior co-captain went two-for-two in the second game.
Smith then jacked a three-run homer in the sixth inning to score Prager and Diciembre Vaca, who reached on a single, for a three-run Redbird lead. This was Smith's second homerun of the fall season, as the sophomore first baseman went two-for-three in the game.
Kelsey Warning also had a base hit, going one-for-two in the tie.
In the morning session, an error in the first inning proved costly for the Redbird defense, as it led to the winning run by Saint Louis. Shannon Nicholson opened the game in the circle for the `Birds, as SLU's leadoff batter hit a routine infield grounder. Smith, ISU's first baseman, didn't handle the throw to first, as it hit off her glove and the runner advanced to second. The Billikens then sacrificed the runner to third and used a squeeze play to plate their only run of the game.
Nicholson allowed just one unearned run, on three hits. She walked two and recorded six strikeouts in the seven-inning game.
At the plate, Nicholson went one-for-two. Unfortunately, Illinois State could not string together hits, as the `Birds had single hits recorded by Prager (1-3), Smith (1-3), Birk (1-2) and Casey Gorell (1-3), all in various innings.
Fischer believes the loss highlighted areas her team needs to improve upon before the start of the competitive spring season.
"We learned a lot we didn't know about our team in the first game, finding things we need to work on," said Fischer. "And that's what the fall season is all about. We just started the game really slow defensively and that's not our style. We were also really flat at the plate and the team didn't get key hits in key situations. We have to correct that before the regular-season starts.
"I thought Tiffany played very well at second base in both games," Fischer continued. "She made quite a few nice plays. There was one that sticks in my mind where she picked up a hard hit ball off Shannon and relayed the ball to first for the out. Shannon also pitched well for us after that first inning. She was able to pick herself up and hit locations and got herself out of some counts that weren't going her way.
The Redbirds will host Lakeland Community College Sat., Sept. 30 in a doubleheader at Redbird Softball Complex, starting at 11 a.m., in the final competitive games of the 2006 fall season. Illinois State will host its annual alumni game the following day, at 1 p.m., also at their home field.