Softball hosts Bradley this weekend

WANTED: Passionate Sycamore Fanatics. That You?

Register NOW to join our community of die-hard Sycamore fans.

SycEm

The Sycamore Level
The Bradley Braves come to Price Field for a 3 game conference series this weekend. Games are scheduled for a 12 noon DH on Saturday and a 12 noon single game on Sunday. Bradley comes in at 2-3 in MVC play and 10-9 overall - but they have wins over top 10 nationally ranked Northwestern and receiving votes Mizzou. They took 2 out of 3 in Wichita the first weekend of conference play and were then swept at home in a DH with Creighton last weekend. The 3rd game of the Creighton series was cancelled due to weather. They have a very good #1 pitcher in Jr. Ashley Birdsong - she will pitch at least Games 1 and 3 and probably come in to relieve in Game 2. No admission for softball - so get over to Price Field if you can make it this weekend.
 

ISUCC

The Odum Level
Moderator
Syc'em, I see ISU split today vs Bradley, it seems this team has been on the verge of being a good team the past few seasons, but can't get over the hump, what seems to be the limiting factors??

looks like rain will cancel the Sunday game too.
 

SycEm

The Sycamore Level
Syc'em, I see ISU split today vs Bradley, it seems this team has been on the verge of being a good team the past few seasons, but can't get over the hump, what seems to be the limiting factors??

Short answer - the offense has not been productive enough to consistently win in a very difficult league. Depth is also an issue, but that gets more into the long answer.

Long answer - when Coldren took the softball job before the 2003 season, we were clearly the worst program in the MVC and arguably one of the 20 or so worst D1 programs in the country (out of more than 275). We would have been routinely beaten by teams like SMWC, Rose-Hulman, DePauw, etc. had we played them at that time. Softball had no commitment from ISU in terms of budget, etc. A combination of the product on the field and the lack of support made recruiting a challenge - nobody of much ability was interested in playing for the Sycamores - particularly Indiana kids. HS and Travel ball coaches avoided our program at all costs due to the poor quality and the lack of support. For the most part, the kids that wanted to come to ISU had no business being on a D1 softball field. If you look at the players Coldren originally recruited, they were almost all out-of-state. My guess would be that those were real sale jobs to get them. Those kids were far better than what was on our existing roster at the time, but they still weren't as talented or athletic as what we have now. Slowly, she started to get some Indiana kids to start coming - and getting Darcy Wood was a huge step in that effort. Now the roster is primarily Indiana kids with some others sprinkled in. That was reversed 2-3 years ago. We are drastically better than we were 5-10 years ago. The administrative support has improved, but it still lags behind our conference competition. Our field was upgraded, but it has no amenities. SIU, Evansville, and Wichita have true softball stadiums with chairback seating, player's lounges, etc. We have portable bleachers and a press box. We have no lights on our field - only Bradley can also say the same, and they play at a city park. We are the only team in the league that cannot even bid to host the conference tournament at our home site due to not meeting the conference requirements at the site. Our travel budget still appears to pale compared to others, as we were the last team to play a game this year in the MVC. Most teams (including 6 in our league) started 2 weeks before ISU played a contest. The other 3 MVC teams all played 1 week before ISU played. If you look at our pre-conference schedules over the last couple of years, it looks like the softball team takes 1 plane trip every 2-3 years. Illinois State took 4 this season alone prior to conference play. Clearly there are some budget differences. On the head coaching salary, the last time I saw a comparison we were in 8th or 9th in the league I think - and our 1 full-time assistant (most programs have 2) was at the bottom. Those things make it difficult - but not impossible - to compete.

Throw into that the quality of play in the MVC, and it gets more demanding. Since the NCAA expanded the softball playoffs to 64 teams, the MVC has had 3 teams make the field every year. To give you an idea - looking at the most current RPI figures, the MVC has 2 baseball teams in the top 100; softball currently has 7 in the top 82. The worst baseball RPI in our league right now is 283; the worst softball is 184. Softball RPIs are about a week behind baseball - which is updated immediately. ISU had the worst softball RPI as of 3/23, but splitting with Bradley (50) will improve that mark. Clearly it is a demanding league.

We used to be considered a "gimme" contest with almost anyone on our schedule. That is no longer the case. 2 seasons ago, ISU won 6 of their 9 conference series. Last year, ISU played 8 teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament, and the Sycamores had wins over 5 of those teams - including 4 wins over teams in the Top 25 national polls. After winning their opening game at conference tourney last year, ISU lost their 2nd game at the conference tournament 1-0 on a walk-off homerun - so clearly they were competitive in the league. They split with the league and tournament champ Creighton last year. We are far better than we used to be. Our lack of depth means Coldren is often playing the "non-regulars" in the MidWeek non-conference match-ups and that has led to some losses you wouldn't expect after some of the wins. My guess is that is to try and build experience for future seasons when they will still lack depth. Last time I saw the conference "comparison" sheet, we were funded the worst of all 10 teams in scholarships - which explains the lack of depth. I think that situation has improved under RP, but they are still nowhere near what would be considered "fully-funded" by the NCAA limit.

This season, the biggest issue with ISU seems to be the ability to score runs. Pitching has done well, but the defense has made some timely errors to lead to unearned runs. Wood appears to not be 100% healthy, as she has been very limited with her innings. She was on pace to be the MVC all-time strike out leader coming into this season, and she became the ISU all-time strike out leader as a sophomore. Even without her, McCurdy (Sophomore) and Armour (Junior) have pitched well enough for ISU to be in games. I think they have a chance to win quite a few conference games with what is left on their schedule.

I hope that somewhat answers your question.
 
Last edited:

ISUCC

The Odum Level
Moderator
thanks for that explanation Syc'em! I didn't realize ISU SB was that bad in the past. Hopefully things will continue to get better!
 
Top