NORMAL, Ill. — In one year, Illinois State has gone from a sixth place team in the Missouri Valley to conference co-champs and an N-C-A-A Regional team.
“All the players are the same, it’s just a matter of putting your mind to it. It’s a mentality thing,“ said ISU pitcher Brent Headrick. “From beginning to end I think we’ve formed a bond with the new coaches.
ISU is playing Indiana Friday in the NCAA Louisville Regional. The road to this game began in August.
In his first meeting with this new team, head coach Steve Holm told his Redbirds they were going to play in the NCAA Regionals so start believing it.
“He walks in and says ‘Alright. we‘re going to win conference this year. We are going to dog pile on our field this year. And we’re going to head to a regional,“ centerfielder John Rave recalled of the team’s first meeting with Holm. “Guys are looking around thinking he’s a little crazy.“
Nobody thinks he’s crazy now.
“When you come in with that clear of a plan and you’re that confident about it,“ said ISU infielder Joe Aeilts, the MVC player of the year. “He was matter of fact about it. It makes it easy to buy in.“
Holm’s prediction came true. ISU’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament will be its first in nine years.
“It took us 20-25 ballgames. And we started to maybe see some signs of it showing up,“ Holm said. “We’ve been on a good run since the second half of the season.“