|‘Birds trip up in ‘Strike Out Cancer’ game|
|Written by Tawni Ricketts, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Wednesday, 11 April 2012 20:26|
The Illinois State softball team hosted “Strike Out Cancer” day against DePaul at Marian Kneer Softball Stadium Wednesday, and that is exactly what Redbird senior catcher Caiti Kopp did.
The Normal native endured a hard-fought battle against a form of thyroid cancer before her time as a Redbird, and has been cancer-free for four-and-a-half years.
“Caiti has shared her story with us a little bit throughout her career, but I don’t know that everybody on our team knew it. I thought it was important for us to let her story be known,” ISU head coach Melinda Fischer said.
While Kopp does not pride herself in recognition for her battle, she appreciated the support from her team and the community Wednesday, despite the 6-1 loss to DePaul.
“It meant a lot. It showed how much support I have from my teammates,” Kopp said. “Everyone was behind me, and it was one of those moments where you feel really loved.”
Although the ’Birds fell to the Blue Demons, they took the field in honor of Kopp.
“We were playing for her,” junior outfielder Lauren Kellar said. “I know we didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but I think [it] was important to support her and the cause. She’s a leader out there and everyone looks up to her.”
Senior pitcher Megan Warner started in the circle for the ’Birds, while Kirsten Verdun took to the rubber for the Blue Demons. Verdun, recently selected as the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week in the beginning of April, limited the Redbirds to one run and took home the win for DePaul.
“I thought we did not have quality at-bats, especially to start off the game, and that was unfortunate because we got behind in the first inning,” Fischer said.
The Blue Demons took the early lead in the top of the first inning as they batted through the lineup and put four runs on the board, including one that scored, while Redbird infielders were occupied with a run-down between first and second base.
In the bottom of the inning, Verdun induced three consecutive pop-ups from ISU’s first three batters to hold the Redbirds scoreless after the first inning.
In the second inning, ISU put its first runner on base after Kopp was hit by a pitch. After stealing second base on a passed ball, she was left stranded mid-field as the Redbirds were unable to execute offensively, sustaining DePauls lead 4-0.
The third inning ended similarly for both teams, as both ISU and DePaul saw three-up, three-down in the batter’s box, with no runs, no hits, and no runners on base.
DePaul tacked on one more run in the fourth inning after Ali Warren hit a solo home run on the first pitch of the inning, thus triggering a pitching change for the Redbirds.
Freshman reliever Sophia Perez took to the rubber for ISU for the remainder of the game, allowing just one run on five hits with five strike outs.
“[Perez] did a great job,” Fischer said. “I thought she shut them down pretty well. It was a good mix with Megan — she’s a different style pitcher than [her], and she did what we needed her to do … I’m very proud of her.”
Both teams did not score in the fifth inning, but ISU spoiled Verdun’s no-hitter in the sixth after junior Jhavon Hamilton singled up the middle. Kellar then put ISU on the board with an RBI after she hit a double to center field that allowed Hamilton to score.
The Blue Demons scored again in the seventh inning and Verdun kept the Redbirds’ bats at bay to secure the win for DePaul.
The Redbirds will continue their seven-game homestand on Saturday, as they take on Missouri Valley Conference rival Drake in a three-game series. The first game of Saturday’s double-header is scheduled to start at noon.