Redbirds Set to Play Missouri State in MVC Semifinals
May 8, 2008
It took four games over one full day of play, but the Illinois State softball team finally knows who it will play in the semifinal round of the 2008 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Second-seeded Illinois State (28-19 overall, 17-7/2nd MVC) is set to play No. 7 seed Missouri State (26-21, 11-13/7th MVC) at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Southern Illinois' Charlotte West Stadium in Carbondale, Ill.
The winner of Friday's game will advance to Saturday's championship game, where it will take on the winner of No. 1 Creighton versus No. 4 Drake. The 2008 State Farm MVC Tournament championship game is slated for 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Illinois State is making its record 26th-straight appearance in the State Farm MVC Tournament and is the only team in conference history to qualify for all 26 conference tournaments. The Redbirds are 52-39 all-time in the MVC Tournament, but they have lost three-straight games, dating back to 2006.
Illinois State is 13-12 all-time in MVC Tournament-opening games. The Redbirds have dropped five of their last six Valley Tournament-opening games, including a 3-0 loss to then-No. 22 Southern Illinois last season in The Valley's first year of using a single-elimination tournament format. ISU owns a 2-0 advantage all-time over Missouri State in MVC Tournament-opening games.
The Redbirds are 50-26 all-time against Missouri State, which includes two losses earlier this season to the Bears. In the State Farm MVC Tournament, ISU is just 5-7 all-time against the Bears, having last played MSU in 2006, when the Redbirds lost, 4-0.
Missouri State reached Friday's semifinal matchup with Illinois State after defeating No. 6 Evansville, 8-6, Thursday afternoon, before blanking tournament host and third-seeded Southern Illinois, 5-0, Thursday night. The Bears are making their first appearance in the semifinal round of the State Farm MVC Tournament since 2006, when they won the conference tournament and were an NCAA Regional participant.
MSU hit .243 as a team in the regular season, third-worst in the conference. Missouri State batters have been hampered by a .337 slugging percentage on the year, as the Bears produced just 19 home runs in 46 games regular-season games.
The Bears' top hitter (and only .300-or-better hitter) is Jessie Smith, who owns a .316 batting average with 22 runs scored, 42 hits and 24 RBI. Michelle Armentrout is MSU's best power hitter, as she claims a .298 average with six home runs and 28 RBI.
In the circle, MSU pitchers have put together a stellar season, as they rank tied for second in the conference in ERA (2.68), while they have held opposing batters to a .238 batting average and have struck out 313 batters this season, third-best in The Valley.
Leading that charge is first-team All-MVC honoree Melissa Porche, who is 16-15 this season with a Valley fourth- best 1.93 ERA. Porche rackedu up an impressive 265 strikeouts in 214.0 innings pitched in the regular season (1.23 strikeouts per inning) against just 68 walks. Twenty-five of Porche's strikeouts on the year came against Illinois State earlier this season, as she twice defeated the Redbirds (3-2 March 21 and 6-0 March 22) in a 2-1 series win for the Bears.