Illinois State Softball Team Picked as Pre-season Favorite in MVC


Published on February 1 2018 1:30 pm
Last Updated on February 1 2018 1:30 pm
Written by Millie Lange

ST. LOUIS – The 2017 Missouri Valley Conference regular season co-champions, Illinois State, were picked as the 2018 preseason favorite by league's head coaches announced by the MVC. Returning first-team all-conference selections Shannon Felde, Sarah Finck, Riley Hale and Allison Spence represent the Redbirds on the league’s preseason all-conference team.

"It is exciting to be in this position,” head coach Melinda Fischer said. “We feel we have a good group coming back. This is the first time in the last four years or so that we have an upper class group returning. Coming off what we did last season, we are still hungry and want to finish it in a little better way. The way the votes came in, this is going to be an exciting year. When you have two votes separating first from third and four teams with first-place votes, I am not sure that's ever happened before. When I look at those teams coming back.”

Illinois State earned 88 total points with two first place votes to league the league. Both with three first place votes, Southern Illinois and UNI followed closely behind with 87 and 86 points, respectively, to separate the top three competitors by two points. Drake rounded out the top four with two top votes and 74 points.

“Looking at the teams coming back,” Fischer said, “We have Sarah returning in the circle, Southern has both Savanna Dover and Brianna Jones. UNI has Jaclyn Spencer. They graduated the player of the year while we graduated the player of the year, Jordan de los Reyes. Drake has Nicole Newman returning after sitting out a year. Those top four teams are really led by at least one proven pitcher on the staff. Then you look at Missouri State and Evansville who both have proven pitchers in the league with Kaitlin Beason and Morgan Florey. This is a race. It's going to be a fun, exciting conference year.”

Both Illinois State and Southern Illinois had four athletes selected to the preseason all-conference team to lead the 13 individual honorees.

Felde, a junior from Schaumburg, Illinois, was selected to the preseason all-conference team as a DP/non-pitcher. In 2017, she was a CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree, MVC First-Team All-Conference selection and a MVC Scholar-Athlete First-Team member. She reached base in 23 consecutive games and logged a 21-game hitting streak that ranks the second longest known streak in the ISU record book.

Finck, a senior from East Peoria, Illinois, will anchor the Redbirds’ pitching staff in 2018. She was a MVC First-Team All-Conference selection and was named to the NISC and MVC All-Tournament teams. Finck ranked 28th nationally with 23 wins on the season, holding a 2.54 ERA. During Valley play, she went 14-3 in the Missouri Valley season, tossing 12 complete games and two shutouts.

Hale, a junior from West Burlington, Iowa, returns to the outfield for the Redbirds. The 2017 leadoff batter was an MVC First-Team All-Conference selection and Scholar-Athlete honorable mention. Hale led the team and the Valley with 43 runs scored, while logging a 27-game on-base streak that ranks as the fourth-longest known streak in the ISU record book.

Spence, a 2018 team captain and a junior from Beecher, Illinois, returns to first base for Illinois State’s squad. Spence was named NFCA All-Mideast Region Third-Team selection, MVC First-Team All-Conference selection, and an NISC All-Tournament Team member in 2017. The Illinois State single-season record holder in putouts (527) led the team with 15 doubles and the highest returning slugging percentage of .575.

“Those four are very deserving,” Fischer said. “They were all conference honorees last year so it makes sense to honor them in preseason as well. However, this a new year and this is a new team. They're going to do some of the same things from last season and others will have to step up. It's an honor to be a preseason selection.”

Area members of the Illinois State team include Teutopolis graduates Anni and Kadi Borries.

The Redbirds begin their 2018 campaign on Feb. 8 against USF at 5:30 p.m. in Tampa, Florida at the USF-Wilson DeMarini Tournament.