Softball Bears Drop a Pair to Open Conference Play
March 16, 2012
The Missouri State softball team (9-8, 0-2) dropped a pair of games to Illinois State (15-12, 2-0) to open conference play at Killian Stadium on Friday afternoon. The Bears fall to 16-13 in conference openers since 1984 with the 4-0 setback in game one and dropped game two 11-2 in five innings.
"When you play a team of Illinois State's caliber, you have a chance to get better and I think we did that today," said head coach Holly Hesse. "We got some better at-bats in game two and I was proud of the way Chelsea (Jones) battled after that tough inning. You have to give ISU credit, they are a good hitting team and they proved that today."
Game 1 (Illinois State 4, Missouri State 0)
Two-time Valley Pitcher of the Week, Natalie Rose, put forth a strong performance in the circle for the Bears. She struck out five ISU hitters and allowed just a single base on balls in her sixth complete game outing of the year. Rose has walked just six batters all season in 63.1 innings pitched.
The Redbirds got rallies going in the top of the first and in the second inning, but Rose kept ISU off the board. Cutter got the Bears first hit in the bottom of the second inning, a two-out single to left field. A groundout ended a potential MSU threat.
ISU broke through in the third inning. A pair of unearned runs crossed the plate back-to-back hits by Liz Andrews and Laura Canopy. The Redbirds added a run in the fourth on the rare sac fly to second base as Ashley Brentz made an over-the-shoulder catch going away from the infield.
McPherson led off the fifth inning with a single to right field. She couldn't advance as the Bears lined out, popped out and fouled out to end the inning.
ISU got a solo homer in the seventh inning to complete the 4-0 shutout.
Game 2 (Illinois State 11, Missouri State 2 [5 innings])
ISU grabbed an early 3-0 lead in the top of the first after four-straight singles. A leadoff single in the bottom of the first inning by Cutter looked promising. But a sharp ground ball to the second baseman erased the MSU runner and ended the threat.
In the second inning, the Bears would rally. McPherson and Heather Duckworth had one-singles to put two aboard for freshman catcher Erin Duewel. Duewel laced a single to left that scored the first Bears run. The next batter, pitcher Chelsea Jones, doubled to the left center gap to plate the second run and draw MSU within a run.
But Illinois State erupted for six runs in the top of the third inning, highlighted by Jhavon Hamilton's grand slam. The Redbirds added a run in the fourth and another in the fifth to put the game out of reach.
Missouri State got at least one hit in every inning of game two. Cutter had a single in the third. Jones smacked her second double of the game in the fourth and Brentz singled in the fifth. But all three hitters were left stranded.
MSU and the Redbirds will complete the series with a single game at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday. Missouri State will host Kansas in a 3:00 p.m. doubleheader to wrap up the home stand on Tuesday, March 20.