Softball Bears Drop 5-4 Heartbreaker to Evansville in Series Opener
EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- Amy Gaertner’s two-out double in the bottom of the seventh capped Evansville’s come-from-behind, 5-4 victory over the Missouri State softball team Friday evening in the first game of a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series at Cooper Stadium. The Purple Aces two-run rally in the seventh completed a comeback from a 4-1 deficit over the final three innings and dropped the Bears to 6-17 overall and 1-3 in MVC play.
After freshman Caitlin Chapin’s three-run, pinch-homer in the top of the second inning staked the Bears to a 3-1 lead, Missouri State appeared to be in control of the contest. The Bears added an insurance run in the third on Jenna Schwark’s second homer of the season, and senior right-hander Lauren Supak limited the Purple Aces to just one run on one hit through the first four innings.
But Evansville would erupt for seven hits over the final three innings, scoring four two-out runs to overcome the Bears’ advantage. UE plated single runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to pull to within 4-3, then got back-to-back doubles from Allison Aguilera and Gaertner to score the tying and go-ahead runs in the decisive inning.
Evansville started its comeback in the fifth when Jennifer Stahlhut doubled home a run off Natalie Rose, who relieved Supak earlier in the inning. After Rose retired the first two hitters in the sixth, Maggie Little pulled the Aces to within a run by blasting a solo shot over the left-field fence.
Rose nearly closed out the victory in the seventh, getting Alicia Betancur on a pop-up to second for out number two after Stahlhut had singled with one out. But Aguilera came through with an RBI double to center, and Gaertner followed with a two-base hit of her own to chase Aguilera home with the winning run.
With the win, Evansville improved to 7-12 on the year and 2-3 in Valley play. Elizabeth Grover earned her first collegiate win after tossing three shutout innings of relief for UE, while Rose took the loss to fall to 1-7 for the Bears.
The loss for the Bears did come with a few bright spots. Chapin’s third home run as a Bear could not have come at a more opportune time, as the Bears failed to capitalize on a prime scoring chance in the first and nearly missed another in the second. Christa Gammon and Tyler Porter reached base via hits to start the contest, a UE throwing error move both runners into scoring position before a single out was recorded. Evansville starting pitcher Kendall Kautz was able to work out of the jam, getting Schwark to hit into a fielder’s choice for the first out. Schwark was then thrown out at second attempting to steal, and Alaina Burkhart fouled out to first to squander the early scoring opportunity.
The Bears almost missed another chance to score in the second after the Purple Aces grabbed a 1-0 lead on a Betancur sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first.
Ashley Knehans was hit by a Kautz offering to start the frame, and moved over to second on Raeven Replogle’s sacrifice bunt. Kautz recorded the second out of the inning on a Madison Hargrove roller to shortstop, but Bubba Weiss kept the inning going by drawing a two-out walk. Chapin then delivered the biggest blow of the contest, belting a pinch-hit homer over the left-field wall to put MSU on top, 3-1.
Supak turned in her second standout performance of the week in the circle, allowing a total of two runs on two hits in 4.0 innings of work.
Gammon led the Bears with a season-high three hits in four at-bats, while Stahlhut and Krista Price each recorded a pair of hits for the Purple Aces.
The Bears will wrap up their series with the Purple Aces Saturday when the two teams square off in a noon doubleheader.