Illinois State is making its third NCAA Regional appearance and first since 1994. The Redbirds (31-22) captured its first-ever share of the Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship after going 15-6 in conference play. Illinois State was also crowned the 2010 MVC Tournament Champions after going 4-0 last week in Wichita, Kan., including a 17-8 win over top-seeded Wichita State in the championship game for its first conference tournament title since 1994.
Following the regular season, first-year head coach Mark Kingston was tabbed the Valley's Coach of the Year after leading ISU's to its highest win total since 2001.
Individually, Illinois State is led by Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, Kevin Tokarski. Tokarski joined five other Redbirds on the Valley's All-Conference team, including first-team relievers, Kenny Long and Ryan Copeland. ISU third baseman Ryan Court and designated hitter Anthony Ruffolo earned second-team All-Valley honors while catcher Matt Mirabal was named honorable mention.
Tokarski, a redshirt a sophomore, ranks among the nation's leaders in batting average (.429), doubles (25) and on-base percentage (.551) while reaching base safely in 48 of 50 games this season.
Long is among the nation's leaders in ERA, producing a MVC best 1.37 ERA and nine saves in 30 appearances.
As a team, Illinois State is batting .295 collectively while the pitching staff has a team ERA of 5.35 and an opponent batting average of .271.
Today's starter right-hander Corey Maines is 6-3 overall with a 4.45 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 37 walks in 83.0 innings. In Missouri Valley play he was 2-1 with a 6.11 ERA in seven starts with 26 strikeouts and 18 walks in 35.1 innings.
Maines made two starts at the MVC tourney last week, throwing seven innings of five-hit shutout baseball against Bradley in the opener and then started in the championship game against Wichita State on Sunday. He allowed six runs on nine hits in four innings with four strikeouts and a walk.