Mike Stalowy

It is said that April showers bring May flowers, but in the world of intercollegiate athletics May also has its share of championships. The Redbirds are nearing the end of the 2009 championship season after already competing for conference titles in softball and track and field, and with the Valley baseball tournament scheduled for this week.

The Illinois State baseball team will continue championship play after earning a berth to the 2009 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament; it’s first since the 2001 season. The Redbirds, under the guidance of head coach Jim Brownlee who is retiring at the end of the season, finished the regular season with a 23-21 overall record, including an 11-11 mark in the Valley.

The league’s baseball tournament has changed since the last time Illinois State played in the event. Instead of a double-elimination playoff bracket, the six qualifying teams are divided into two pods with three teams apiece. Each team will play the two other teams in its pod and one team from the other pod. The team with the best composite record in each pod will meet in a single championship game.

The ISU baseball team is looking for its first conference tournament title since the 1994 season and will try to add to the conference hardware total for this season. The Redbirds will enter the baseball championship as the No. 6 seed and will have to face the top three seeds in pool play. The league title will be decided in Wichita, Kan., at Tyler Field at Eck Stadium, which has served as the conference tournament host in 20 of the last 27 seasons.

The Redbirds track and field team added three individual titles last weekend as Leigh Petranoff (javelin), Samantha Springer (discus) and Michelle Brunk (800-meters) each brought home league crowns from the 2009 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Track and Field Championships.

Petranoff not only won the league title, but also set a school record with a throw of 150 feet, 11 inches in the javelin, which topped the second-place finisher by 12 feet. Springer’s toss of 172 feet, four inches was the second-best discus throw in Illinois State history. Her career-best toss also ranks as the 16th-best distance in the nation this season.

Brunk, who was the league’s runner-up in the outdoor 800-meter run last season, broke the eight-year old facility record to win the conference title with a time of 2:10.44.

Spread the Red in Rockford: Illinois State head football coach Brock Spack will return to his hometown and be the featured guest as the Redbird Athletics Department will host its third Spread the Red Caravan event Wednesday, June 17, at the Olympic Tavern (2327 N. Main Street) in Rockford. The free event will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and limited appetizers will be provided. Please RSVP for the event by contacting Tracie Brown at (309) 438-3636 or tjbrown3@ilstu.edu.