Illinois State head softball coach Melinda Fischer announced the signing of six players to national letters of intent Wednesday, including Pantagraph area standouts Mackenzie Leonard of Normal Community, Ellie Weltha of Bloomington and Emme Olson of Olympia.
Also signing were Michele Calabrese of Waubonsie Valley and the St. Joseph-Ogden duo of Emmy Graver and Kenzie Pence.
“The 2018 class has a lot of defensive versatility, loaded with left-handed hitting, and a great presence in the circle,” Fischer said. “All are very good students with ambitious academic and athletic goals. This class will elevate Redbird softball and is in a position to make great contributions early in their careers."
Leonard, a pitcher/first baseman, has earned three varsity letters as a pitcher at Normal Community. She is a three-time unananimous Big 12 first-team selection and was named to the ICA all-state team as a junior. She batted .506 and slugged .899 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs as a junior. She also had a 1.13 earned run average as a sophomore.
Olson, signed as a utility player, is the sister of former ISU star Abby Olson. Emme Olson played her first two years at Hartsburg-Emden before transferring to Olympia, where she was a second-team all-state and Corn Belt first-team all-conference selection last season.
Weltha, a catcher/first baseman, is a three-time first-team all-Big 12 pick. She earned all-state honors as a junior and was the co-Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. She has slugged 32 home runs with 94 RBI and batted over .490 in three seasons at BHS. Like Leonard and Olson, she plays for the BNGSA Avanti's Angels in the summer.
Calabrese is a catcher/shortstop, while Graver is a second baseman and Pence an outfielder.
ISU ties GSR record: Statistics for the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) released Wednesday by the NCAA indicated an 88 percent GSR for Illinois State, matching ISU’s all-time high posted last year. The Division I overall national average this year was 87 percent, the highest ever.
The GSR is based on student-athletes who received athletic scholarships and entered Illinois State between 2007-2010. A total of 13-of-15 Redbird teams recorded a GSR equal to or better than the national average in their sports.
Eight of those teams achieved perfect 100 percent GSR rates: men’s golf, men’s tennis, women’s golf, women’s gymnastics, women’s tennis, women’s swimming & diving, women’s soccer and volleyball.