Although the Illinois State women’s softball team fell in its doubleheader to the Missouri State Bears (with the third game being cancelled due to weather conditions), the Redbirds welcomed back some familiar faces at Marian Kneer Stadium Saturday.
In honor of its 50-year championship-run reunion, the 1969 Runner-Up Women’s College World Series Team visited this weekend.
As only one of the few teams to play in the first and finish in second place at the inaugural Women’s College World Series, the alumni were honored with a ceremony between the two games.
“Seeing all the growth from everyone is just amazing,” former infielder Karen Roppa said. “But coming back and seeing everyone is like we never left.”
Many members of the team had not seen each other in over 50 years, but to them, it seemed like it was just yesterday.
Just to see everyone together again, and finally all be altogether, is the most special feeling,” former first baseman Tudy Schmeid added.
Schmied also noticed the changes she’s seen, mentioning the nice field the Redbirds currently play on that they never had. The team played on a bumpy field across from what is now the State Farm Hall of Business with small bleachers on each side.
The alum team also found it interesting that both of the teams were chanting at each other. Karen Roppa explained that they were always more focused on the game and didn’t pay attention to making up chants.
Despite some changes to the game, there was one thing that never changed for these women—their pride to be a Redbird. Some members of the team went on to coach their own softball team and many of them have daughters who play softball, as well. Roppa, who currently coaches softball, says that being a Redbird has helped make her into the coach she is today.
“[ISU] taught us to have a lot of pride, have commitment and to take whatever we learned here and to transfer it to someone else,” she said.
Assistant head coach of the 1969 team, Jill Hutchison, always wanted to remind the team of this and remembers how it didn’t take much to motivate her team. “This was a group that didn’t need to be motivated,” Hutchison said. “Back in the day, when they were playing, they didn’t have many opportunities to compete, so to just have the opportunity was motivation enough for this group. They just thrived in that kind of environment.”
Game One | MSU 9, ISU 5
The Bears started the first inning off with a pair of runs, to which the Redbirds responded with two of their own.
The third inning was huge for the Bears as they put up another five runs, making it 7-3 and prompting Ali Domkuski to come in for relief.
Mustering a comeback in the fifth, the ’Birds efforts were halted in the seventh as the Bears scratched two more runs to defeat ISU 9-5.
Game Two | MSU 6, ISU 2
Illinois State was hitting the ball well, finishing with eleven hits, but after a quiet third and fourth inning, Missouri State took the lead by adding a pair of runs in the fifth, and four in the sixth to take game two 6-2.
Senior pitcher Morgan Day finished the game with five strikeouts in only 1.2 innings. The Redbirds had 21 hits in their dual-loss effort Saturday.