Illinois State University’s softball team opens its season looking to improve on an average Missouri Valley Conference slate from a season ago.
ISU head coach Melinda Fischer is confident in this year’s squad.
“Lots of energy. I think we have a great desire right now to get outside and see what we can do. We have had one good day on the turf,” Fischer said.
“We are very anxious to get going down in Tampa.”
The Redbirds finished in the middle of the pack with an 11-10 Valley finish. Along the way the Redbirds ranked first in batting, but fifth in pitching and dead last in fielding percentage.
ISU looks to improve these areas despite losing key players from a season ago.
“We have a different type of team this year, a little more speed. We lost some offensive production and a pretty consistent pitcher in Ali Domsuski,” Fischer said. “We have been focusing on our offense, looking for consistency for those returning and our new freshman.” 
Opening tournament
The Redbirds look to open their season on a high note when they travel to Tampa, Florida, opening with a 5:30 p.m. showing against Southern Florida.
After facing off with the Bulls, the Redbirds take on No. 17/14 Michigan State, No. 7/9 Florida, Fresno State and Georgia State over the course of the weekend.
Last season the Redbirds lost all five games of the tournament. Also last season, ISU lost to USF, MSU, FU, Arizona and North Carolina State.
Key players
Morgan Day comes into the season looking to maintain her claim as the Redbirds’ ace.
Last season Day led ISU in most categories. The junior led the Redbirds in wins (10), earned run average (3.26), strike outs (156) and innings pitched (154.2).
Day’s track record earned her a nod on the Preseason All-MVC team.
Senior outfielder Alyssa Wiebel looks to be a key part of the Redbirds’ lineup and outfield. Wiebel’s end of season statline read .260/.440/.298 along with six home runs while appearing in all 51 games.
Wiebel earned a second team All-MVC selection last season along with an MVC Scholar Honorable Mention.
Emme Olson comes in with the highest returning batting average from a year ago.  After starting 51 games as a freshman, Olson looks to improve on her 2019 slashline of .275/.486/.392.
Olson impressed last season, ranking fourth on the Redbirds with 27 runners batted in.
Games to watch out for
ISU opens the season competing in tournaments across the country, taking on high-level programs such as Louisiana State, Kentucky and Arizona State.
The Redbirds begin single-game action when they travel to Southern University March 9, before traveling to Southern Illinois to start MVC play on
March 14 and 15. 
ISU plays at home for the first time on March 17 when Bowling Green comes to town.
April 1, in-state rival University of Illinois comes to Normal for a midweek showing. Preseason No. 1 Drake travels to Normal for a three-game set on April 10 and 11.
ISU’s home slate of games wraps up on April 25 and 26 when Valparaiso comes into town. Then the regular season wraps up with the Redbirds opening May with a pair of games at the University of Northern Iowa on May 1 and 2.
To close out the season, the Redbirds will compete in the MVC Tournament. 
One of few
Fischer sits at an exclusive rank among NCAA head coaches. Fischer is just one of 22 current coaches in college to win over 1,000 games while coaching over 10 years. She is also just one of 12 coaches to do it with just one program. Fischer holds 1,092 career wins to her name.

JAKE SERMERSHEIM is a Sports Editor for The Vidette. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter at @JakeSermersheim

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