Five Redbirds Earn All-Region Honors
May 19, 2011
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Five Illinois State softball players were named to the Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Mideast Region team Thursday afternoon. Sophomore catcher Elizabeth Kay earned first-team accolades, while senior Kara Nelson, juniors Liz Andrews and Jordan Birch and sophomore Jhavon Hamilton were selected to the second team.
Kay, who earned a spot on the All-Mideast Region Second Team last season, led Illinois State with 43 RBI this season and tied for the team lead with 14 home runs. The Bartlett, Ill., native is hitting .276, slugging .592 and has thrown out five runners from behind the plate this season.
Nelson, the MVC Player of the Year, finds herself on the All-Mideast Region team for the fourth time. The senior second baseman leads the Valley with a .407 batting average and 74 hits. Nelson also leads the Redbirds with a .455 on-base percentage and 10 doubles. The Moline, Ill., native is the only Illinois State softball player to record 50 or more hits in four-straight seasons and is ISU's career leader for hits (295), doubles (48), starts (220) and batting average (.399).
Andrews made an immediate impact in her first season as a Redbird, hitting .338 with six doubles, eight home runs and 30 RBI. The junior outfielder led Illinois State with seven outfield assists and ranked second on the team with a .600 slugging percentage and four triples. The Algonquin, Ill., native was named to the All-MVC First Team last week.
Birch, an All-Valley Second-Team selection, finished 17-6 in the circle this season and posted a 2.89 ERA. The junior righty led ISU with 163 strikeouts and four shutouts in her 148.0 innings of work. The Monroe, Wash., native limited opposing hitters to a .232 batting average and posted three double-digit strikeout performances this season. Birch struck out 110 batters, posted a 2.08 ERA and went 11-4 in 15 conference starts this season.
Hamilton, a first-time all-region honoree and All-MVC First-Team selection, finished second on the team with a .358 batting average and hit a league-best .462 in Valley contests. The sophomore outfielder hit all seven of her home runs in MVC games and slugged .592 this season. The Joliet, Ill., native notched three triples, scored 29 runs and drove in 28 during her sophomore campaign.
The all-region teams were chosen by NFCA member coaches from each region, and all the honorees will now be eligible for selection to the Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-America first, second or third teams. In addition, conference pitchers and players of the year not selected to the regional teams were added for All-America consideration.
Illinois State will open NCAA Regional play Friday evening at 6:30 p.m., when it takes on host and No. 5 overall seed Missouri at University Field in Columbia, Mo.
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